Obama Lays Wreath at Warsaw Memorial

Source: JTA, 5-31-11

President Obama participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Poland’s capital city.obama warsaw ghetto

Obama was joined at the May 27 wreath-laying ceremony by members of the local Jewish community and Holocaust survivors. In the 1943 uprising, lightly armed Jewish fighters battled German forces trying to liquidate the ghetto for nearly a month.

Politico reported that a woman attending the ceremony raised the issue of Israel with Obama, telling him, “It’s the only Jewish state we have, and we trust you,” to which the president responded, “I will always be there for Israel,” an exchange picked up by a microphone.

Obama visited the ghetto uprising memorial an hour after arriving in Warsaw and shortly after participating in a wreath laying at Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His two-day visit to Poland marked the final stop on his European tour.

G8 Summit Statement on Israel

G8 DECLARATION
RENEWED COMMITMENT FOR FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY

G8 Summit of Deauville – May 26-27, 2011
PREAMBLE

1. We, the Leaders of the Group of Eight, met in Deauville on 26 and 27 May 2011. In this period of change, we reaffirmed our profound commitment to the values of freedom and democracy, and their universality.

2. In light of the recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, we renewed our commitment to support democratic reform around the world and to respond to the aspirations for freedom, including freedom of religion, and empowerment, particularly for women and youth. Democracy lays the best path to peace, stability, prosperity, shared growth and development. We met with the Prime Ministers of Egypt and Tunisia, and decided to launch an enduring partnership with those countries engaging in a transition to democracy and tolerant societies. Our common goal is to develop the rule of law and citizen engagement as well as foster economic and social reforms to meet the aspirations of the people. We have adopted a declaration on the Arab spring.

3. In Deauville, we have renewed a strong partnership with Africa, building on commitments made for over a decade. We have emphasized our mutual responsibilities and decided to be even more accountable regarding our respective commitments to development, peace and security. We reaffirmed our commitment to transparency and governance — critical drivers of progress. We welcomed the new dynamism of our African partners and the spread of democracy, and committed to stand even more strongly side-by-side with the people of the African continent. We welcomed the democratically elected Presidents of Côte-d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger. For the first time, we have adopted a joint declaration together with African Leaders.

4. In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, we expressed our heartfelt sympathy for the victims and solidarity with the people and government of Japan, and paid tribute to the courage and dignity which they have shown in the face of the disaster. We are fully confident in the ability of the Japanese authorities to respond to the challenge and build a speedy and lasting recovery, and we stand ready to assist as needed.

5. We discussed new issues such as the Internet which are essential to our societies, economies and growth. For citizens, the Internet is a unique information and education tool, and thus helps to promote freedom, democracy and human rights. The Internet facilitates new forms of business and promotes efficiency, competitiveness, and economic growth. Governments, the private sector, users, and other stakeholders all have a role to play in creating an environment in which the Internet can flourish in a balanced manner. In Deauville in 2011, for the first time at Leaders’ level, we agreed, in the presence of some leaders of the Internet economy, on a number of key principles, including freedom, respect for privacy and intellectual property, multi-stakeholder governance, cyber-security, and protection from crime, that underpin a strong and flourishing Internet. The “e-G8” event held in Paris on 24 and 25 May was a useful contribution to these debates.

6. Our advanced and closely integrated economies face common challenges and opportunities. Recovery is strengthening. Our priority remains to promote job creations for our citizens. We pledged to continue our efforts to generate strong, sustainable, and balanced growth and will work with our partners in the G20 to this end.

7. New growth drivers are required. We committed to prioritizing growth-enhancing policies such as research, education and innovation, which are crucial to our knowledge economies. We will foster green growth as it is essential to fight global warming, represents a promising source of jobs for our societies, and reflects a shared aspiration for more sustainable development.

8. Building on our experience, we marked our determination to draw all the lessons from the nuclear accident in Japan, including the necessity to promote the highest levels of safety, consistent with the principles of the Convention on Nuclear Safety. We noted the necessity to consider strengthening the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, as well as upgrading norms and standards of nuclear safety. Meanwhile, we noted with great satisfaction that this year, which marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, the international community was able to pledge substantial financial resources for the completion of the international effort to convert the Chernobyl site into a stable and environmentally safe condition.

9. We will continue to act in support of peace and international security.

10. We demand the immediate cessation of the use of force against civilians by the Libyan regime forces and support a political solution that reflects the will of the Libyan people. We call on the Syrian leadership to stop using force and intimidation against the Syrian people and to engage in dialogue and fundamental reforms in response to the legitimate expression of the demands of the Syrian people. We are convinced that the historic changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestine conflict through negotiations more important, not less. We urge both parties to engage without delay in substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues.

11. We renew our commitment to implement all our obligations under the NPT and to support and promote the global non-proliferation architecture in all its aspects. We are committed to stemming the severe proliferation challenges, particularly in Iran and DPRK, which represent a threat to global stability. We ask our experts to explore ways of ensuring fair and responsible access to the benefits of the peaceful uses of technologies. We will consolidate progress in the fight against violent extremism, international terrorism and drug trafficking and will continue our common efforts to tackle these scourges. We renew our commitment in favour of a stable, peaceful and sovereign Afghanistan and of stability and cooperation throughout the region.

12. We will meet next year under the presidency of the United States of America.
* * *

I. SOLIDARITY WITH JAPAN

1. On 11 March, an earthquake and tsunami of unprecedented magnitude struck Japan, taking more than fifteen thousand lives and causing massive destruction and disruption including at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. More than a hundred thousand people still remain displaced and living in temporary evacuation shelters. We expressed to the Prime Minister of Japan our condolences for the victims of this tragedy and our most heartfelt sympathy for their families and the people affected by the disaster. The courage and dignity shown by the people of Japan stirred admiration and respect in our people. The support and solidarity extended by people around the world in turn brought warmth, strength and hope to the people of Japan. The Prime Minister of Japan expressed his deep gratitude for the generous support and friendship extended by G8 members and by the entire international community. He expressed his firm determination to overcome the challenges including the nuclear accident and remain fully engaged with and committed to contributing to the rest of the world.

2. We also expressed our confidence in the resilience of the Japanese economy and our readiness to continue to provide assistance and cooperation. The Prime Minister of Japan explained that his country would make every effort to minimize the uncertainty that the disaster might add to the global economy, including as a result of the nuclear accident. In particular, he committed to provide all relevant information regarding the nuclear emergency in a timely manner, and he ensured that products exported from Japan are safe. We stressed that measures on goods and travel should be based on scientific evidence.

3. We are fully confident in the ability of Japan to swiftly recover from this crisis and come back stronger, and we are determined to draw all necessary lessons from this calamity, including the necessity to promote the highest levels of nuclear safety worldwide.
II. INTERNET

4. All over the world, the Internet has become essential to our societies, economies and their growth.

5. For citizens, the Internet is a unique information and education resource and thus can be a helpful tool to promote freedom, democracy and human rights.

6. For business, the Internet has become an essential and irreplaceable tool for the conduct of commerce and development of relations with consumers. The Internet is a driver of innovation, improves efficiency, and thus contributes to growth and employment.

7. For governments, the Internet is a tool for a more efficient administration, for the provision of services to the public and businesses, and for enhancing their relations with citizens and ensuring respect for and promotion of human rights.

8. The Internet has become a major driver for the global economy, its growth and innovation.

9. The openness, transparency and freedom of the Internet have been key to its development and success. These principles, together with those of non-discrimination and fair competition, must continue to be an essential force behind its development.

10. Their implementation must be included in a broader framework: that of respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, the protection of intellectual property rights, which inspire life in every democratic society for the benefit of all citizens. We strongly believe that freedom and security, transparency and respect for confidentiality, as well as the exercise of individual rights and responsibility have to be achieved simultaneously. Both the framework and principles must receive the same protection, with the same guarantees, on the Internet as everywhere else.

11. The Internet has become the public arena for our time, a lever of economic development and an instrument for political liberty and emancipation. Freedom of opinion, expression, information, assembly and association must be safeguarded on the Internet as elsewhere. Arbitrary or indiscriminate censorship or restrictions on access to the Internet are inconsistent with States’ international obligations and are clearly unacceptable. Furthermore, they impede economic and social growth.

12. The Internet and its future development, fostered by private sector initiatives and investments, require a favourable, transparent, stable and predictable environment, based on the framework and principles referred to above. In this respect, action from all governments is needed through national policies, but also through the promotion of international cooperation.

13. We commit to encourage the use of the Internet as a tool to advance human rights and democratic participation throughout the world.

14. The global digital economy has served as a powerful economic driver and engine of growth and innovation. Broadband Internet access is an essential infrastructure for participation in today’s economy. In order for our countries to benefit fully from the digital economy, we need to seize emerging opportunities, such as cloud computing, social networking and citizen publications, which are driving innovation and enabling growth in our societies. As we adopt more innovative Internet-based services, we face challenges in promoting interoperability and convergence among our public policies on issues such as the protection of personal data, net neutrality, transborder data flow, ICT security, and intellectual property.

15. With regard to the protection of intellectual property, in particular copyright, trademarks, trade secrets and patents, we recognize the need to have national laws and frameworks for improved enforcement. We are thus renewing our commitment to ensuring effective action against violations of intellectual property rights in the digital arena, including action that addresses present and future infringements. We recognize that the effective implementation of intellectual property rules requires suitable international cooperation of relevant stakeholders, including with the private sector. We are committed to identifying ways of facilitating greater access and openness to knowledge, education and culture, including by encouraging continued innovation in legal on line trade in goods and content, that are respectful of intellectual property rights.

16. The effective protection of personal data and individual privacy on the Internet is essential to earn users’ trust. It is a matter for all stakeholders: the users who need to be better aware of their responsibility when placing personal data on the Internet, the service providers who store and process this data, and governments and regulators who must ensure the effectiveness of this protection. We encourage the development of common approaches taking into account national legal frameworks, based on fundamental rights and that protect personal data, whilst allowing the legal transfer of data.

17. The security of networks and services on the Internet is a multi-stakeholder issue. It requires coordination between governments, regional and international organizations, the private sector, civil society and the G8’s own work in the Roma-Lyon group, to prevent, deter and punish the use of ICTs for terrorist and criminal purposes. Special attention must be paid to all forms of attacks against the integrity of infrastructure, networks and services, including attacks caused by the proliferation of malware and the activities of botnets through the Internet. In this regard, we recognize that promoting users’ awareness is of crucial importance and that enhanced international cooperation is needed in order to protect critical resources, ICTs and other related infrastructure. The fact that the Internet can potentially be used for purposes that are inconsistent with the objectives of peace and security, and may adversely affect the integrity of critical systems, remains a matter of concern. Governments have a role to play, informed by a full range of stakeholders, in helping to develop norms of behaviour and common approaches in the use of cyberspace. On all these issues, we are determined to provide the appropriate follow-up in all relevant fora.

18. We call upon all stakeholders to combat the use of Internet for trafficking in children and for their sexual exploitation. We will also work towards developing an environment in which children can safely use the Internet by improving children’s Internet literacy including risk awareness, and encouraging adequate parental controls consistent with the freedom of expression.

19. We recognize the importance of enhanced access to the Internet for developing countries. Important progress has been achieved since the Okinawa Summit and we pay tribute to the efforts made by developing countries in this regard as well as the various stakeholders, governments, the private sector and NGOs, which provide resources, expertise and innovation. We encourage initiatives, in partnership with the private sector, on the use of the Internet with a development purpose, particularly for education and healthcare.

20. As we support the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance, we call upon all stakeholders to contribute to enhanced cooperation within and between all international fora dealing with the governance of the Internet. In this regard, flexibility and transparency have to be maintained in order to adapt to the fast pace of technological and business developments and uses. Governments have a key role to play in this model.

21. We welcome the meeting of the e-G8 Forum which took place in Paris on 24 and 25 May, on the eve of our Summit and reaffirm our commitment to the kinds of multi-stakeholder efforts that have been essential to the evolution of the Internet economy to date. The innovative format of the e-G8 Forum allowed participation of a number of stakeholders of the Internet in a discussion on fundamental goals and issues for citizens, business, and governments. Its free and fruitful debate is a contribution for all relevant fora on current and future challenges.

22. We look forward to the forthcoming opportunities to strengthen international cooperation in all these areas, including the Internet Governance Forum scheduled next September in Nairobi and other relevant UN events, the OECD High Level Meeting on “The Internet Economy: Generating Innovation and Growth” scheduled next June in Paris, the London International Cyber Conference scheduled next November, and the Avignon Conference on Copyright scheduled next November, as positive steps in taking this important issue forward.
III. GLOBAL ECONOMY

23. The global recovery is gaining strength and is becoming more self-sustained. However, downside risks remain, and internal and external imbalances are still a concern. The sharp increase in commodity prices and their excessive volatility pose a significant headwind to the recovery. In this context, we agreed to remain focused on the action required to enhance the sustainability of public finances, to strengthen the recovery and foster employment, to reduce risks and ensure strong, sustainable and balanced growth, including through structural reforms.

Europe has adopted a broad package of measures to deal with the sovereign debt crisis faced by a few countries, and it will continue to address the situation with determination and to pursue rigorous fiscal consolidation alongside structural reforms to support growth. The United States will put in place a clear and credible medium-term fiscal consolidation framework, consistent with considerations of job creation and economic growth. In Japan, while providing resources for the reconstruction after the disaster, the authorities will also address the issue of sustainability of public finances.

We are determined to take the necessary actions collectively and individually to face current challenges. We will also ensure that our macroeconomic policies promote sound economic growth, aiming, together with our employment and social policies, at reducing unemployment and enabling a quick re-entry into the labour market.

24. We expressed our commitment to the ongoing processes in the G20 to expand policy dialogue and cooperation, particularly on our agenda for financial sector reform, mitigating commodity prices volatility, the strengthening of the international monetary system and the in-depth assessments of the causes of persistently large external imbalances and the full range of policies to foster strong, sustainable and balanced growth under the Mutual Assessment Process.

TRADE

25. As part of its continued efforts to support the recovery of the global economy, the G8 reaffirms its longstanding commitment to free and open markets. The WTO plays a critical role in preventing protectionism and constitutes a fundamental part of the global multilateral system. In this regard, G8 members of the WTO note with great concern the unsatisfactory progress in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations. We reiterate our commitment to advance the process of trade liberalization and rule-making to strengthen the multilateral system, and are ready to explore all negotiating options to bring the Doha round to a conclusion including with regard to the priorities of least developed countries (LDCs) in line with the Doha mandate. Russia’s partners in the G8 welcome the considerable progress made by Russia to complete its accession to WTO, and reaffirm their commitments to working closely with Russia, with the intention to finalise this process in 2011.

INNOVATION AND KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY

26. Innovation is crucial for growth, prosperity and jobs in the knowledge economy and plays a central role in addressing many of the key global challenges of our times, ranging from climate change, poverty eradication and public health, to demographic changes and recovery from the recent global economic and financial crisis through employment-generation. We acknowledge that the nature, source and speed of innovation and the method and extent to which it drives growth have changed at a greater pace in the past decades than ever in our history. It has moved from closed to open innovation, and its geographical source has broadened. In meeting future global challenges, innovation, green growth and the Internet will all be crucial and their effective development will help support future economic growth. These changes call for focused policy consideration, notably in the private sector, building on previous work by the G8.

27. Drawing on experiences across countries, we underline that a holistic approach to innovation and growth is needed, which would include both technological and non-technological innovation as well as innovation in social and public services. This requires the broad engagement of our societies and the elaboration of a framework of principles and best practices, guiding collective action towards shared goals, such as market integration and limiting market barriers, while reducing potential frictions resulting from national approaches. We look forward to the results of the work at the OECD on collecting good practices on policy from around the world. In order to enhance policy efficiency and effectiveness, we also invite the OECD to develop in a fully inclusive, open and accountable way in cooperation with relevant international organizations measurements of innovation performance, focussing on concrete impacts on growth and jobs rather than inputs and investigating the systemic relationship between indicators. All G8 countries will participate.

28. We stress the importance of cooperation between various actors, both public and private, large and small; and we strongly believe that Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) represent an important leverage point to spread innovation in a sustainable innovation eco-system. We commit to prioritize growth-enhancing policies such as research, education and innovation. We invite the OECD in cooperation with other relevant international institutions to develop a comprehensive analysis on how SME integration into global value chains can be facilitated with a special focus on incentives for private funding including on cross-border venture capital markets for technology transfer and start-up phase, and identifying impediments to their growth.

29. We agree on the necessity of a level playing field in the innovation area, including a strong and robust intellectual property system as an incentive to innovation and a catalyst for growth. We acknowledge the important role of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in developing a broad approach to intellectual property in support of business friendly, robust and efficient national intellectual property systems. Renewing our support to the principles of the patent system, we attach great importance to its promotion and development. We encourage increased international action to strengthen patent quality, and call for improved diffusion of patent information, particularly critical for SMEs and research centres. We support transparency in technology markets and call for the improvement of market places for trading rights. We invite WIPO, in close cooperation with Member States and other relevant entities, to intensify its work in these three areas. In addition we note the importance of enforcement in order to incentivise innovation and protect innovation once developed.

30. We highlight the importance of international cooperation in research, leveraging resources and talents to find solutions to common challenges. We welcome the ongoing work of the OECD for improving global research cooperation and look forward to its recommendations.

GREEN GROWTH

31. We firmly believe that green growth is an essential element to ensuring sustainable global growth, notably to promote resource efficiency and sound water management, fight climate change and conserve biodiversity, and that it contributes to sustainable development. Green growth represents a promising source of job creation for our societies and offers significant prospects for innovators and exporters of all economies. Green growth dynamic needs to be shared: sustainable development is a reachable objective if efforts are made by all economies. We are committed to continuing to play a major role in this field. We will work within all relevant fora and agencies to promote green growth.

32. We look forward to the outcomes of the ongoing work of the OECD on a green growth strategy, following the Ministerial Council meeting of 25 and 26 May. We call for the implementation of ambitious and pragmatic policies by all stakeholders, which envisage different national circumstances and the broadest range of technologies. We call on the private sector to seek opportunities from green growth. We will further support strategies for green growth that mainstream adapted policy mixes at all economic and social levels, supporting both public and private initiatives.

33. To this end and with a view to encouraging long-term investment, we are deploying a broad set of policies including market-based, regulatory and voluntary measures, and promoting R&D for clean technologies and energy efficiency.

34. Recognising the importance of establishing green growth measurement schemes, we will work with relevant international fora, including the UNEP, the OECD and the IEA, to identify an appropriate set of possible indicators.

35. Since employment remains a central concern, we will support carefully designed labour market measures supportive of the creation of green jobs as well as of the greening of traditional jobs and of the development of skills policies, in order to facilitate the transition towards national and local sustained green activities.

36. We strongly support international cooperation on green growth and will intensify our efforts to contribute to progress for the next steps, notably looking toward the June 2012 UN Conference in Rio on sustainable development and various international events planned, including the Bonn Conference on Water, Energy and Food Security in November, the Durban Conference on Climate Change in December, the Marseille World Water Forum in March 2012 and the Conference on Biological Diversity in October 2012 in New Delhi. In this regard, we encourage UNEP and OECD efforts, and welcome complementary messages by these two organisations for the Rio+20 Conference.

37. We believe that it is also crucial to employ a range of measures to encourage efficient and sustainable resource use, including renewable energy, by national and other actors. We will keep on supporting international initiatives launched by the G8, notably the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC), which has successfully been extended to other stakeholders, the IEA International Low Carbon Energy Technology Platform, the Global Bio Energy Partnership (GBEP), The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). We reaffirm our support to the Kobe 3R (“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”) Action Plan and welcome the OECD report on its implementation on resource productivity, and invite the OECD to continue to work on this issue.
IV. NUCLEAR SAFETY

38. The events in Japan underline the vital importance of nuclear safety which should be addressed as a top priority on the G8 agenda. We commended Japan’s sharing of relevant information and welcomed its presentation of Fukushima events.

39. We acknowledge that those countries having chosen to rely on nuclear energy already pay due attention to the safe operation of their nuclear installations. We recognise that countries may have different approaches regarding the use and contribution of nuclear energy to their energy mix, including the phasing-in or the phasing-out.

40. The events in Japan confirm that there is a continuing need to re-evaluate safety and we recognise the importance of learning from the Fukushima accident and its aftermath. We welcome the initiative taken by many countries to carry out comprehensive risk and safety assessments of their existing nuclear installations, and invite all other countries operating nuclear power plants to launch similar assessments as soon as possible. Such assessments should include accident prevention, emergency preparedness, crisis management and mitigation, and post-accident management. All together these measures will contribute to strengthen the safety infrastructure worldwide.

41. We urge countries to complete periodic review of safety assessments and to carry out assessments at every stage of a nuclear installation’s lifetime, building on experience, and we reaffirm the high priority that we place on safety in the siting and design of new reactors, and the necessity of continuous improvement, learning from incidents and accidents everywhere.

42. We underscore the importance of international cooperation on nuclear safety, including cooperation among governments, industry, research institutions and regulatory bodies. This cooperation will strengthen safety culture worldwide and improve transparency.

43. We recognise the important role of the IAEA for the enhancement of nuclear safety worldwide, and we encourage countries to make use of the relevant IAEA capabilities to help enhance the safety of their nuclear installations. We also urge countries that have not yet done so to ratify the relevant international conventions adopted under the auspices of the IAEA (Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, Convention on Nuclear Safety, Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management), which are crucial to the international safety regime.

44. Regarding the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the cornerstone of the international safety regime, we welcome the extraordinary meeting of contracting parties to take place in August 2012 to review measures that could strengthen the Convention, notably regarding safety objectives, the responsibility of governments for timely and sufficient measures on accident prevention and management, including the adjustment of procedures for coordination and interaction between the government, the operator and the safety authority, as well as an effective peer review mechanism.

45. We also recommend that countries embarking on or expanding nuclear programmes should establish the relevant infrastructure, with sufficient and qualified human resources, in accordance with IAEA recommendations. We also call on the IAEA to consider the relevant IAEA standards to identify issues that may warrant examination and revision in light of the Fukushima accident, and, in particular, to consider developing or improving additional standards for the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in seismically hazardous areas, as well as in areas that might be otherwise exposed to other external events, taking into account their integrated impact.

46. We will also consider a possible strengthening of the other relevant conventions. Regarding the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, efficiency and substance of notifications on the nuclear accident should be further improved, and the Convention could be amended if necessary.

47. We are committed to promoting the highest levels of safety worldwide consistent with the principles of the Convention on Nuclear Safety, through strengthening of international cooperation on safety practices, crisis management, and transparency. Improvements in nuclear safety will gain from the work already being undertaken by safety authorities and operators in fora such as the Multinational Design Evaluation Programme (MDEP), the Western European Nuclear Safety Regulators’ Association (WENRA), the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), as well as by the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC). We welcome the announcement made by the IAEA to convene an international ministerial conference on nuclear safety in Vienna on 20-24 June 2011. We also welcome the initiative of the Presidency to gather the regulatory bodies, as well as ministers, of interested countries, to examine ways to further improve nuclear safety worldwide through contributions to the 20-24 June conference. We expect that discussions to be held in the framework of the IAEA for promoting the highest levels of nuclear safety worldwide will bear a fruitful outcome. We ask the Nuclear Safety and Security Group to include these issues in their future work.

48. As we are now engaged in a renewed effort to strengthening nuclear safety worldwide, we must at the same time bring to a conclusion our past commitments, in this year which marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. We note with great satisfaction that the international community came together to bring closure to this legacy. Donors, together with the EBRD, were able to pledge substantial additional financial resources for the completion of the ongoing international effort to convert the Chernobyl site into a stable and environmentally safe condition, and we expect countries that have not yet pledged to do so rapidly. We call upon all parties involved in the Chernobyl projects to redouble efforts to implement them on schedule and within budget, and we urge the Ukrainian government to make the adequate institutional and financial provisions to ensure an efficient and successful implementation of the programme within budget.
V. CLIMATE CHANGE AND BIODIVERSITY

49. Tackling climate change is a global priority. We, members of the G8, have undertaken ambitious measures, and are committed to long-term efforts, with a view to doing our part to limit effectively the increase in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, consistent with science. We express our determination to act as part of a larger global effort to address this threat as well as our solidarity with developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.

50. We reaffirm our willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognising that this implies that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible and decline thereafter. We are cooperating to that end. As part of this effort, we also support a goal of developed countries reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050, compared to 1990 or more recent years. Consistent with this ambitious long-term objective, we will undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions, taking into account that baselines may vary and that efforts need to be comparable. Similarly, major emerging economies need to undertake quantifiable actions to reduce emissions significantly below business-as-usual by a specified year.

51. We are determined to do our part to reach those objectives and move rapidly towards a low-carbon economy that will generate significant benefits for the protection of the environment and health, for energy savings and energy security, while also delivering job opportunities and growth.

52. We welcome the outcome of the Cancun Conference, which marked a successful effort of the international community building on the Copenhagen Accord. We welcome the positive spirit in which the Cancun Conference took place and progress made under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We support the provisions adopted including those related to transparency, mitigation, finance (in particular the creation of the Green Climate Fund), adaptation, technology and the fight against deforestation and forest degradation — REDD+.

53. The Durban Conference at the end of the year (COP 17) will be another important step forward, for working towards a comprehensive, ambitious, fair, effective and binding agreement involving all countries, and including the respective responsibilities of all major economies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to operationalise the Cancun Agreements and deal with unresolved issues. We are determined to deliver on our commitments as listed in Copenhagen, and confirmed in Cancun, and call on all countries, including all major economies, to deliver on their listed commitments as well. We strongly support South Africa as the incoming Presidency of the Durban Conference and offer our cooperation to make this Conference the success that the world needs in order to successfully combat global climate change.

54. As with climate change, we recognize that the current rate of loss of biological diversity is unacceptable, since biologically diverse and resilient ecosystems are critical to human wellbeing, sustainable development and poverty eradication as well as food security. We are therefore committed to intensifying our efforts to slow the loss of biodiversity. We also recognise that ecosystems play a key role in the global carbon cycle, through carbon storage and adaptation to climate change.

55. In this context, the outcomes of the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya are a significant step forward, in particular the adoption of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, the decision on the Strategy for Resource Mobilisation and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). We welcome the study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which was initiated by the G8 in 2007, the operationalisation of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and look forward to timely decisions regarding the Nagoya Protocol on ABS as soon as possible.
VI. ACCOUNTABILITY ON DEVELOPMENT

56. Development is a common challenge. While leadership by developing countries is a key condition for development, the responsibility for aid effectiveness is shared between donor and partner country. We fully support mutual accountability, with a strong focus on results. There is a need for a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to aid effectiveness among all donors and stakeholders, including new donors, under the leadership of State and local authorities, in close partnership with civil society, and based on political will, evidence-based assessment and transparency. We welcome the accountability process undertaken by African partners.

57. We remain strongly committed to meeting our commitments and to tracking their implementation in a fully transparent and consistent manner. We endorse the Deauville Accountability Report: “G8 Commitments on Health and Food Security: State of Delivery and Results” which documents G8 action on health and food security, and mobilisation of financial resources including 85% of all commitments to the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, 78% of the overall resources of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, 44% of funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and $1.8 billion to the GAVI Alliance through direct contributions and innovative financing mechanisms. We will continue to improve the rigour of G8 accounting for progress in meeting its non-financial commitments and will follow-up on the report’s recommendations.

58. We welcome the outcome document on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) “Keeping the Promise” and we reaffirm the commitments that we have made during the High-level Plenary Meeting on the MDGs, stressing the importance of democratic governance as a central element for achieving these goals. While we recognise the magnitude of the challenges, the actions of both developing countries and donor partners have already contributed to positive results. We will continue to support developing countries to work towards achieving and sustaining the MDGs by 2015 and encourage all stakeholders to do the same, focusing on the protection and empowerment of individuals and communities to improve human security. In this context, we welcome the MDGs follow-up meeting to be held at ministerial level in Tokyo in June of this year as an opportunity to maintain political momentum towards the MDGs. We will redouble our efforts to promote transparency and accountability.

59. In 2005, the OECD estimated that official development assistance (ODA) from the G8 and other donors to developing countries would increase by around USD 50 billion by 2010 compared to 2004. There is a gap of USD 19 billion in constant dollars or USD 1.27 billion in current dollars, relative to OECD estimates for 2010. . Despite the worldwide economic crisis, the G8’s ODA increased from USD 82.55 to 89.25 billion in current dollars between 2009 and 2010. This represents 70% of global ODA, which reached USD 128.73 billion in 2010, representing a 7.27% increase in current dollars compared to 2009. While all commitments have not been met in full, we will strive to maintain our efforts, together with other donors. ODA is a significant element of financing for development, among other resources, particularly domestic resources, innovative financing, remittances, market instruments used by development banks and private sector flows.

60. The G8 has catalysed significant action on health and food security and we are ready to further work with other stakeholders. In this regard:

a. We will continue to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. We welcome the commitment of the Global Fund Board to implement a reform agenda to improve oversight, accountability and effectiveness in using its resources. Based on these reforms, traditional donors will be enabled to meet their respective pledges to the Global Fund. We encourage non-traditional donors and the private sector to provide resources to the Global Fund.

b. We reaffirm our commitment to improving maternal health and reducing child mortality, most notably through the Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health launched in 2010. We are delivering our Muskoka commitments. We will continue to monitor their implementation in coordination with all partners, including stakeholders in the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. We support the recommendations of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health established by the WHO at the request of the UN Secretary General. We will implement them, and urge others to do so.

c. We recognise the impact of the GAVI Alliance and strongly welcome its efforts to expand access to new and under-used life-saving vaccines in the poorest countries including through tiered pricing and innovative mechanisms such as the International Finance Facility for Immunisation. We call for a successful completion of the first pledging conference of GAVI in June in London, involving all relevant actors. We also welcome the development of the Advanced Market Commitments and notably the pilot project on pneumococcal vaccines.

d. We stress our continuing commitment to the eradication of polio which is a reachable objective. Our past support has contributed to the 99% decrease of polio cases in the developing countries. We flag the need for a special focus on this issue and renewed momentum. To this end, we will continue to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

e. We will work, together with major bilateral donors, global health programmes and country coordination initiatives, to improve these funds’ implementation of aid effectiveness.

f. We welcome the Patent Pool Initiative launched by UNITAID in order to facilitate the production of affordable generic medicines well-adapted for use in resource-poor settings, and we encourage the voluntary participation of patent owners, private and public, in the project.

g. We encourage a strong and comprehensive multilateral and bilateral response to improve food security. Launched in 2009, the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI) brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to address the challenges of food insecurity. Since the L’Aquila Summit, 22% of the AFSI pledges have been disbursed, and an additional 26% are formally in the process of being disbursed for specific purposes. We will disburse or allocate our commitments in full by the end of our respective pledging periods. We reaffirm our support to country-led and regional processes and stress the need to improve coordination among development partners, ensuring a strong focus on results and impact, as well as bilateral support based on the value-chain approach to improve food security. We will intensify our efforts to foster sustainable agricultural production and productivity with an emphasis on smallholder’s farmers, including through public-private partnerships, and research and innovation.

61. In the perspective of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness to be held in Busan, South Korea later this year, we welcome progress made in aid delivery since the endorsement of the Rome and Paris Declarations and the Accra Agenda for Action. We call for a review of the Aid Effectiveness Agenda in Busan which recognises the shift towards broader issues of development outcomes and impacts.

62. We will improve transparency of our aid information. In particular, we will make further efforts on publishing information on allocations, expenditure and results. Information will be provided in accessible formats that deliver on the needs of partner countries and citizens. In this respect, it is important that partner countries also improve transparency. We recognise that individual countries will proceed at their own pace but we will lead by example through increasing transparency in this area and work with others in advance of the Fourth High Level Forum in Korea in November 2011. We will continue to support transparency in other areas including through the full implementation of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), which we all support, We call on all countries, notably resource-rich countries, and extractive companies to join or support this initiative. We also welcome the complementary efforts to increase revenue transparency, and commit to setting in place transparency laws and regulations or to promoting voluntary standards that require or encourage oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose the payments they make to governments.

63. We will continue to work with the OECD and in other fora to foster accountability processes and call on all donors to engage in similar exercises.
VII. PEACE AND SECURITY

64. We demand the immediate cessation of the use of force against civilians by the Libyan regime forces as well as the cessation of all incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population. In that regard, we take note of actions undertaken by UN Member States to implement fully UNSCRs 1970 and 1973. We stress the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks on civilians. These criminal actions will not go unpunished. We welcome the work of the International Criminal Court in investigating crimes in Libya and note the Chief Prosecutor’s request on 16 May for three arrest warrants. Qadhafi and the Libyan government have failed to fulfil their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go.

65. We are committed to supporting a political transition that reflects the will of the Libyan people. We recall our strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya. We stress the central role of the Secretary-General’s Envoy to Libya, Mr Al-Khatib, in facilitating an inclusive and lasting political solution, based on the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and taking into account the role of regional organisations, the League of Arab States and the African Union. We recognise the initiatives undertaken by the members of the Contact Group on Libya. We welcome the Interim National Council’s “Road Map on Libya” as an important contribution to the transition process which has to be Libyan-led. We reiterate the central role of the UNSC in accordance with the UN Charter.

66. We are appalled by the deaths of many peaceful protesters as a result of the sweeping use of violence in Syria as well as by repeated and serious violations of human rights. We call on the Syrian leadership to immediately stop using force and intimidation against the Syrian people and to respond to their legitimate demands for freedom of expression and universal rights and aspirations. We also call for the release of all political prisoners in Syria. Only the path of dialogue and fundamental reforms will lead to democracy, and thus to long-term security and prosperity in Syria. Should the Syrian authorities not heed this call, we will consider further measures. We are convinced that only by implementing meaningful reforms will a democratic Syria be able to play a positive role in the region.

67. We are convinced that the historic changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations more important, not less. Aspirations of the peoples in the region need to be heeded including that of the Palestinians for a viable and sovereign State and that of Israelis for security and regional integration. The time to resume the Peace Process is now.

a. Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict. The framework for these negotiations is well known. We urge both parties to return to substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues. To that effect, we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011.

b. We appreciate the efforts and the progress made by the Palestinian Authority and the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad as they are building a viable State as recently commended by the IMF, the World Bank and the ad hoc liaison Committee.

c. We look forward to the prospect of the second donors’ conference for Palestine in Paris, also in view of the resumption of negotiations.

d. We call on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to abide by existing co-operation agreements and to abstain from unilateral measures that could hamper progress and further reforms. We call for the easing of the situation in Gaza.

e. We demand the unconditional release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit without delay.

68. We are increasingly concerned about the situation in Yemen and the crisis which has shaken the country for too long. We condemn the use of violence in response to peaceful protest throughout Yemen. We commend the efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council and appreciate the constructive response from the opposition. We remain supportive of an inclusive process that should bring about political and social reform in Yemen and lead to a peaceful and orderly transition. We urge President Saleh to immediately follow through on his commitments and ensure that the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people are addressed.

69. We remain seriously concerned about the ongoing suppression of democratic rights in Iran, especially given that Iran has repeatedly professed support for freedom and democratic behaviour elsewhere in the region. At the same time, we deplore violence which has led to the loss of lives of Iranian civilians, and we deplore interference with media, unjustified detentions and arrests. We call on the Iranian authorities to stop repression against their people and respect their international commitments, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We also call on the Iranian authorities to lift restrictions on freedom of movement and communication of Iranian opposition leaders. Iran should play a constructive and responsible role in the region.

70. We reiterate our strong concern about severe proliferation challenges and the major threat they represent for international peace and security. We will spare no effort in fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. We reiterate our commitment to working to resolve them through diplomatic means. We recall our commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in accordance with the goals of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), in a way that promotes international stability based on the principles of undiminished security for all.

71. We are determined to strengthen the global non-proliferation architecture by supporting all relevant multilateral treaties and arrangements and by promoting their implementation and universalization. In this respect, we are committed to maintaining and strengthening the global nuclear non-proliferation regime based on the NPT and its three pillars of non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including by taking the actions in the plan adopted by consensus at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. We also call upon all States still not Parties to the NPT, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) to accede without delay.

72. Iran’s persistent failure to comply with its obligations under six UNSC resolutions and to meet the requirements of ten IAEA Board of Governors resolutions is a cause of utmost concern. We note with deep concern the recent report by the IAEA which underlines that Iran is not implementing a number of its obligations, that areas of concern remain regarding possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme and that the Agency is therefore unable to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. We recognise Iran’s right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy under the NPT, but this right also comes with obligations that all States parties to the NPT, including Iran, have to respect. We regret that while Iran finally met twice with China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative, following their intensive diplomatic efforts and the adoption of measures in UNSCR 1929, it was not possible to reach any substantive result, Iran having not yet entered into a genuine dialogue without preconditions. Depending on Iran’s actions, we will determine the need for additional measures in line with the dual-track approach.

73. We condemn the DPRK’s provocative behaviour with regard to the Armistice Agreement and numerous Inter-Korean agreements, its continued development of nuclear and missile programmes and its uranium enrichment programme and light water reactor construction activities in violation of UNSC Resolutions 1718 and 1874. We reiterate our commitment to implementing fully the UNSC Resolutions and call upon all UN Member States to do the same. We urge the DPRK to comply with its international obligations, including the complete, verifiable and irreversible abandonment of all its nuclear programmes and ballistic missile programmes and promptly to address international humanitarian concerns, such as the issue of abduction. While taking note of relevant parties’ willingness to resolve problems through the Six Party Talks, we urge the DPRK to take concrete actions to create an environment conducive to the resumption of the Six Party Talks and express support for the current efforts by the Republic of Korea to this end.

74. We note with deep concern the lack of cooperation by Syria reflected in the most recent IAEA report. We urge Syria to fulfil its obligations and fully cooperate with the Agency and respond to the IAEA Director-General’s requests for access and information in order to clarify all outstanding issues. We look forward to the IAEA Board of Governors addressing the seriousness of the issue.

75. We express our grave concern at the continued proliferation of WMD delivery systems and at the acquisition of key technologies and development of certain ballistic missile programmes usable for weapons of mass destruction. In particular, the Iranian and DPRK’s programmes are a serious cause for concern. We recognise the need to step up our efforts to combat the threat of proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of delivering WMD to international peace and security, including by promoting multilateral arrangements and instruments, such as the Hague Code Of Conduct and the Missile Technology Control Regime.

76. We fully support the paramount role played by the United Nations Security Council in addressing proliferation issues as well as the key role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in assuring the exclusively peaceful nature of nuclear activities. We call on all States that have yet to do so to sign and ratify a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement together with an Additional Protocol and to bring these agreements into force as their combination is meant to constitute the universally accepted international verification standard.

77. We welcome the ratification by the United States and the Russian Federation of the New START Treaty and its subsequent entry into force as significant progress on the disarmament agenda. We call on all States participating in the Conference on Disarmament to start substantive negotiations on a Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices (FMCT), building on the CD/1864 programme of work. We express our support for the moratorium on the production of such material announced by the G8 nuclear-weapon States and call on the other States concerned to follow suit. We will continue our efforts for the permanent and legally binding cessation of all nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosion through the swift entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and we call upon all States to join our efforts in this regard as well as to uphold the moratorium on testing pending the entry into force of the CTBT.

78. We welcome the concrete achievements and measurable results of the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction launched in Kananaskis in 2002 for a 10-year period. We remain committed to completing priority projects in Russia. Our assessment of the Partnership recognises the significant progress the 23 Partners have achieved on the full range of WMD non-proliferation activities worldwide. The assessment also provides directions for the future. As such, we agree to extend the Partnership beyond 2012, based on the areas of focus enunciated at Muskoka (nuclear and radiological security, bio-security, scientist engagement, and facilitation of the implementation of UNSCR 1540). We will work with all Partners in discussing assistance needs and coordinating possible projects in the above-mentioned areas, and we will expand membership of the Partnership. Partners will decide on funding of such projects on a national, joint, or multilateral basis.

79. While proliferation must be fought, we ask our experts to explore ways of ensuring fair and responsible access to the benefits of the peaceful uses of technologies and to report back by the next Summit. We support the exchange, in conformity with the obligations of the NPT, of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, in particular for developing countries. We will consider the enlargement of the suppliers’ groups to responsible stakeholders in a manner consistent with the groups’ procedures and objectives. We reiterate our commitment as in paragraph 8 of the L’Aquila Statement on Non-Proliferation.

80. We remain committed to holding a conference in 2012 on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, as endorsed by the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, with a view to creating a peaceful environment in the region.

81. Fighting terrorism and addressing the conditions conducive to its spread remains one of our priorities. While the death of Usama Bin Laden represents a significant step in the fight against international terrorism, we remain concerned about the continuing threat from terrorist groups, as well as their increased presence in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and across the Sahel. We reiterate our absolute condemnation of terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations, including the upsurge in hostage-taking, and our commitment to work together to eradicate this threat in full compliance with international law. All acts of terrorism are criminal, inhumane, and unjustifiable irrespective of motivation. We express our deepest condolences for lives lost and disrupted by these senseless acts, and we reaffirm our strong commitment to help victims of terrorist acts, and support their powerful message against violence.

82. We emphasize a continued need to pay attention to global efforts to counter the phenomenon of radicalisation leading to violence and violent extremism in all of its manifestations. We recognise that such efforts to counter violent extremism are strengthened when states engage all relevant stakeholders. We also note the resilience and unity of communities and countries in the face of terrorism, which underscores the capacity of societies to absorb tragedy and emerge with renewed strength. We reaffirm that an effective counter-terrorism strategy must be based both on a comprehensive approach that includes security and development-oriented initiatives and on full respect for human rights, including the right to practice religious faith in safety and security, without fear of violence and repression, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. We take note of the status report prepared by the G8 Roma/Lyon group, detailing the measures undertaken to implement the priorities we set out in our Statement on Counter-Terrorism adopted last year during the Muskoka Summit. We welcome the prospect of further such reports.

83. We look forward to working with partners from all regions within the soon-to-be launched Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF). This Forum will be aimed at strengthening the international consensus in the fight against terrorism, creating new opportunities of cooperation and furthering the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. We underscore the central role that the UN must continue to play in global counterterrorism efforts and commit to ensuring that effective UN tools, such as the 1267 al-Qaeda and Taliban sanction regime, remain relevant in the future.

84. We welcome the outcome of the Ministerial Meeting on Transatlantic Cocaine Trafficking held on 10 May. We endorse the Political Declaration and Action Plan adopted by the Ministers and aimed at strengthening international and regional cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking. Emphasizing the global nature of illicit drug trafficking, we also welcome the outcome of the Transatlantic Symposium on Dismantling transnational Illicit Networks and express our support to the incoming Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact.

85. We reaffirm our commitment to a stable, peaceful and sovereign Afghanistan, free of terrorism, extremist violence, and illicit drug production and trafficking, with full ownership of its own security, governance and development, based on the principle of non-intervention in Afghanistan internal affairs and mutual non-interference. We welcome the announcement by President Karzai of the first areas to begin the process of transition to Afghan-led security in the coming months. We will continue to support the transition process endorsed by Afghanistan and the international community at the London and Kabul Conferences as well as at the NATO Lisbon Summit.

86. We welcome the work of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its High Peace Council to take forward a political process of reconciliation and reintegration for Afghans who meet its end-state conditions of renouncing violence, breaking ties with al Qaeda and abiding by the Afghan Constitution, including its protection for all Afghan women and men. A political process, culminating in an inclusive and sustainable settlement is required. We support this process, which has to be Afghan-led.

87. We welcome the opportunity to address these issues and discuss long-term engagement of the international community in support of Afghanistan at the International Conference of Foreign Ministers to be held in Bonn on 5 December 2011.

88. We strongly condemn the attack against the United Nations office in Mazar-e-Sharif on 1 April, which resulted in the death of United Nations staff. We reaffirm our support for the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), conducted in partnership with the Afghan Government, for strengthening peace and democracy in the country.

89. We stress the importance of political and economic regional cooperation and developing the rule of law for stability, peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and the wider region. In this respect, we welcome the prospect of increased transborder cooperation on transport, including rail, as well as on water, energy and human resources.

90. We are committed to supporting Pakistan and re-emphasize the importance of Pakistan itself tackling its political, economic and social challenges by undertaking the urgently needed reforms supported by the international community. We acknowledge the crucial importance of education for the economic and social development of Pakistan. Our cooperation programmes will make getting more children into better schools a priority.

91. We express our deep concern regarding the recent rise of political tension and the culture of impunity in Zimbabwe. We call for the end of all forms of violence and intimidation. We encourage the SADC to continue their facilitation efforts on the basis of the Livingstone Communiqué of the Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security of 31 March 2011 to assist Zimbabwe in completing the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). We encourage the SADC Facilitation to renew its efforts to assist Zimbabwe in completing the implementation of the GPA and to secure agreement and implementation by all parties to the GPA of a roadmap to organise free, peaceful and transparent elections within a new constitutional framework approved by referendum.

92. We welcome the work on strengthening capacity building for peace and security, in compliance with the Sea Island (2004) and subsequent commitments. We acknowledge the positive results achieved by the relevant training facilities in G8 Countries and recall that national ownership and mutual accountability are key elements for the success of these capacity-building actions, as well as the establishment of adequate training programmes close to the needs.

93. We stress the necessity to avoid duplications in our peacekeeping/peacebuilding actions and to pool our efforts and encourage to that end the implementation of an enhanced capacity-building coordination mechanism in partnership with the United Nations. We support the development of initiatives on the reinforcement of international civilian capacities in post-conflict situations and commit to enhance the recruitment, training and deployment of experts in this regard.
ANNEXES
1. Chair’s Summary of the Meeting of the G8 Ministers of Foreign Affairs (14-15 March 2011, Paris)

2. Statement on the 7th Review Conference for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention adopted by the G8 Ministers of Foreign Affairs (14-15 March 2011, Paris)

3. Political Declaration and Action Plan adopted by the Ministers responsible for the Fight against Illicit Drug Trafficking (10 May 2011, Paris)

4. Deauville Accountability Report: G8 Commitments on Health and Food Security, State of Delivery and Results

5. Declaration on Non Proliferation and Disarmament

6. Report on the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction

7. G8 Global Partnership – Assessment and Options for Future Programming

8. Report of the G8 Nuclear Safety and Security Group (NSSG)

Canadian PM Stephen Harper Lone Support for Israel at G8 — Prevents Reference to 1967 Borders in G8 Statement

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes statements during a closing news briefing at the G8 summit in Deauville, northern France May 27, 2011.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes statements during a closing news briefing at the G8 summit in Deauville, northern France May 27, 2011.

Photograph by: Jean-Paul Pelissierr, Reuters

IN FOCUS

  • G8 Summit Statement on Israel: G8 DECLARATION RENEWED COMMITMENT FOR FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY G8 Summit of Deauville – May 26-27, 2011 – G8 Summit 2011

THE HEADLINES….

  • Harper blocks mention of 1967 border in G8 Mideast statement: Stephen Harper blocked G8 leaders from declaring in their summit statement that Middle East peace talks should be based on returning to Israel’s pre-war 1967 borders, plus negotiated land swaps.
    U.S. President Barack Obama had made that stand a key part of his campaign to re-launch peace talks, making the call for talks based on 1967 borders in a May 19 speech that was endorsed by most leaders of the Group of Eight countries gathered here.
    Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers reporters’ questions following the first day of the G8 Summit in Deauville, France. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
    But it’s a position that has been rejected by Israel, which regards returning to its smaller 1967 borders as unacceptable because they did not include East Jerusalem, which the Israeli government views as part of its capital, and key strategic territory for its security.
    G8 leaders meeting in Deauville, France had sought to include the reference to 1967 borders as a way to prod talks by signalling concessions must be made – they argued embracing the Arab Spring of pro-democracy movements should be combined with an urgent press for Mideast peace. But Mr. Harper judged that the draft other G8 leaders wanted wasn’t balanced, and didn’t refer to key Palestinian concessions that Mr. Obama also outlined in his speech…. – Globe & Mail, 5-27-11
  • G8 leaders omit mention of 1967 borders in Middle East statement: Diplomats say that Canada objected to a specific mention of the 1967 borders in statement issued by world leaders calling for resumption of Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
    Group of Eight leaders had to soften a statement urging Israel and the Palestinians to return to negotiations because Canada objected to a specific mention of 1967 borders, diplomats said on Friday.
    Canada’s right-leaning Conservative government has adopted a staunchly pro-Israel position in international negotiations since coming to power in 2006, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying Canada will back Israel whatever the cost.
    Diplomats involved in Middle East discussions at the G8 summit said Canada had insisted that no mention of Israel’s pre-1967 borders be made in the leaders’ final communique, even though most of the other leaders wanted a mention.
    “The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week,” one European diplomat said…. – Haaretz, 5-27-11
  • Harper’s role in Middle East peace efforts causes stir at G8: Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised a G8 resolution on the Middle East peace process Friday that, according to a media report, was watered down at his request to avoid a reference that has infuriated Israel.
    The stir at the summit over Harper’s role arose as the G8 leaders emerged with a $40-billion U.S. plan to help Egypt and Tunisia transform from dictatorships to democracies.
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy said $20 billion would come from multilateral institutions, such as the African Development Bank, $10 billion from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, and $10 billion in direct bilateral aid from G8 countries — including $1 billion from France.
    But Canada refused to commit to any country-to-country aid, saying it has given sufficient funding since 2009 to multilateral institutions tasked to help the region.
    Reuters cited diplomatic sources saying that Harper insisted there be no reference to Israel’s borders before 1967, when it seized the West Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt, respectively, during the Six Day War…. – Montreal Gazette, 5-27-11
  • Obama statement on Israeli borders should be looked at in totality: Harper says: Focus over a return to 1967 borders as a condition for peace between Israel and Palestine misses some of the other points the U.S. is trying to make in how to achieve an end to that historic conflict, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday.
    Talks on unrest in the Middle East and North Africa have dominated the G8 summit in France. While the discussions have largely been about the economic and political impact of recent uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, addressing the older conflict in the region was revived ahead of the talks, thanks to a landmark address this month by U.S. President Barack Obama.
    In it, Obama urged that a Palestinian state be based on 1967 borders _ before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. It marked a significant shift in the U.S. position and infuriated Israel.
    Obama’s remarks were called “courageous” by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a news conference Thursday, but Harper didn’t go that far in his first public comments on the speech.
    Obama’s speech needs to be looked at as a whole, Harper said. “President Obama emphasized that in a two-state solution, one of those states has to be a Jewish state and conceded to be a Jewish state, another is that the Palestinian state must be a demilitarized state,” Harper told a small news conference after the final working session of the G8 meetings on Thursday.
    “So I think these and other messages are important messages to deliver and I say I think if you look at the statement in its totality it was very balanced and it is certainly something that Canada can support.” The Canadian Press, 5-27-11
  • 1967 Lines Reference Pulled from G8 Statement: A reference to the 1967 lines as the basis for a future border was reportedly removed at Canada’s request from a G8 summit statement calling for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.g8 summit
    Reuters cited unnamed diplomatic sources who said that the language was stricken at Canada’s insistence. The G8 summit, which is taking place this year in Deauville, France, brings together leaders of eight of the world’s leading economic powers.
    “The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week,” a European diplomat told Reuters.
    Obama’s call has been praised by some of the leaders of G8 member states, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
    Canada’s leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is known for his strongly pro-Israel views. Reuters obtained a copy of the final G8 statement, which expresses “strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-27-11
  • 1967 lines reference pulled from G8 statement at Canada’s request: A reference to the 1967 lines as the basis for a future border was reportedly removed at Canada’s request from a G8 summit statement calling for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
    Reuters cited unnamed diplomatic sources who said that the language was stricken at Canada’s insistence. The G8 summit, which is taking place this year in Deauville, France, brings together leaders of eight of the world’s leading economic powers.
    “The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week,” a European diplomat told Reuters.
    In his May 19 Middle East policy speech, President Obama called for the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps to be the basis for a future border between Israel and a Palestinian state. This formulation drew objections from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the 1967 lines “indefensible” for Israel.
    Obama’s call has been praised by some of the leaders of G8 member states, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
    Canada’s leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is known for his strongly pro-Israel views.
    Reuters obtained a copy of the final G8 statement, which expresses “strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama.” JTA, 5-27-11
  • Canada takes pro-Israeli stand at G8 summit: G8 Summit gives in to Canada’s stand against mentioning a specific stand of the 1967 borders at which called for re-commencement of Israel-Palestinian peace talks on Friday.
    Group of eight leaders (G8) had to change the statement which urged Israelis and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
    Canada’s right wing Conservative government adopted a pro-Israel position in the international negotiations since coming to power in 2006.
    Diplomats who were involved in Middle East discussions at the G8 summit said, Canada was insistent that there should not be a mention of Israel’s pre-1967 borders in the communication even though most of the other country leaders wanted to talk about the subject.
    “The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week,” a European diplomat said, reported Reuters.
    A spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said there would be no comment on the line Canada had taken, saying only that the final communication will only make the positions clear.
    In the final communication, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, the leaders called for the immediate resumption of peace talks without mentioning the 1967 borders issue.
    “Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict,” the spokesperson said.
    “The framework for these negotiations is well known. We urge both parties to return to substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues. “To that effect, we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011.”
    “When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand,” Harper had said earlier. – IBTimes, 5-27-11
  • Avigdor Lieberman thanks Canada PM for objection to 1967 borders at G8: The foreign minister tells Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper ‘Canada is a true friend of Israel,’ after Harper insisted that no mention of Israel’s pre-1967 borders be made in the leaders’ final communiqué.
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday to thank him for objecting to a specific mention of 1967 borders in a statement on the Middle East released by leaders of the Group of Eight.
    Diplomats involved in Middle East discussions at the G8 summit on Friday said Canada had insisted that no mention of Israel’s pre-1967 borders be made in the leaders’ final communiqué, even though most of the other leaders wanted a mention.
    “Canada is true friend of Israel,” Lieberman said, adding that they “understand that the 1967 lines are inconsistent with Israel’s security needs.”
    Lieberman and Harper also spoke about taking a stand against Hamas integration into a newly unified Palestinian government. The foreign minister also invited Harper to visit Israel…. – Haaretz, 5-27-11

QUOTES

  • Excerpts: G8 Statement on Israel: In the final communiqué of the G8, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, the leaders call for the immediate resumption of peace talks but do not mention 1967, the year Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt during the Six-Day War.
    “Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict,” the communiqué said.
    “The framework for these negotiations is well known. We urge both parties to return to substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues.
    “To that effect, we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011.”
  • Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Remarks at G8 Summit on Israel: “You can’t cherry pick elements of that speech. In terms of being balanced and even-handed and tying to resolve the Middle East peace conference, all of the elements of that speech have to be looked at as a totality, and I think that’s the basis on which we have to approach the situation.”
    “I think if you’re going to get into other elements, obviously I would like to see reference to elements that were also in President Obama’s speech. Such as, for instance, the fact that one of the states must be a Jewish state. The fact that the Palestinian state must be de-militarized. I think it’s important that any statement on this be balanced, as was President Obama’s.”
  • B’nai Brith Canada: Prime Minster Harper’s strong G8 stance on Mideast welcomed: B’nai Brith Canada has welcomed the efforts of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ensure that the call of the G8 leaders for renewed peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is not tied to any precondition relating to the 1967 borders.
    “We welcome the fact that the G8 communiqué will reportedly not impose preconditions that could a priori prejudice the negotiating framework and thereby undermine at the outset crucial Israeli security needs,” stated Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “Preconditions of this nature can only hamper negotiations and cannot ensure lasting peace between the parties.”
    “We are proud not just that our Prime Minster has taken such a principled position on the world stage, but that he evidently commands the respect of the G8 leaders who have accepted his recommendations on this issue.” – Canada Free Press, 5-27-11

Derek Penslar: Oxford University appoints Israel studies professor with £3m donation

Source: Guardian UK, 5-26-11

Derek Penslar will take up post as a fellow of St Anne’s college next year to study the country’s history ‘within a global context’

Students outside an Oxford University building

Students pass an Oxford University library. A new professor has been appointed by the institution to research Israel’s history. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Oxford University has appointed its first chair of Israel studies to research the economics, society and politics of the Jewish state, following a £3m benefaction by a charitable foundation.

Derek Penslar, professor of Jewish history at Toronto university, will take up the post next year as a fellow of St Anne’s College. He said he regarded himself as under an obligation to “strive for political neutrality” and would study Israel “within a global context”. “One cannot understand Zionism without studying the history of nationalism, both within Europe and as a reaction against European colonialism.

“One cannot understand Israeli politics, or the relationship between the Israeli state and its military, outside of the framework of Arab-Israeli relations and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Penslar told the Guardian in an email. “Israel’s economy is, particularly in recent years, very much a product of trends towards globalization.”

Commenting on the question of neutrality, he said: “I do believe that when people study a part of the world closely, and as they develop a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of its history, politics and culture, they develop empathy for even mutually-opposed parties, which tends to moderate extreme, rigid political orthodoxies. But it does not overthrow long-held political convictions, nor should it.”

Penslar will be the first Stanley Lewis professor of Israel studies, a chair created with a £3m benefaction from the Stanley and Zea Lewis family foundation.

He is jointly appointed by the school of interdisciplinary area studies, and the department of politics and international relations.

Professor Roger Goodman, head of the social sciences division at Oxford, said: “Israel plays a key part in the debate about the Middle East, and Professor Derek Penslar is a foremost scholar of its history and politics. This chair and his appointment give Oxford a fantastic opportunity to expand its research into this important area of the world and to become a major global centre for the study of contemporary Israel.”…READ MORE

Rebecca Kobrin, Nils Roemer: Reviews — Bialystock, Worms Cities of Jewish Success, Crushed

Cities of Jewish Success, Crushed

Source: The Forward, 5-25-11 — Published May 25, 2011, issue of June 03, 2011.

Books

Unemployed Workers: Alter Kacyzne,
the Forward’s renowned photographer,
captioned this image from Bialystok
circa 1920, ‘Standing on the corner, looking
for a little work.’

Forward association / Yivo
Unemployed Workers: Alter Kacyzne, the Forward’s renowned photographer, captioned this image from Bialystok circa 1920, ‘Standing on the corner, looking for a little work.’

JEWISH BIALYSTOK AND ITS DIASPORA
By Rebecca Kobrin
Indiana University Press, 380 pages, $24.95
GERMAN CITY, JEWISH MEMORY: THE STORY OF WORMS
By Nils Roemer
Brandeis University Press, 328 pages, $35

A vast, heartbreaking and, to English readers, inaccessible Yiddish and Hebrew library — of some 1,000 volumes, studded with unique memoirs and rare photographs — known as yizker-bikher, or memorial books, is devoted to eternalizing the legacies of the myriad cities and towns of Jewish Eastern Europe destroyed by the Holocaust. These books were collaboratively produced, mostly in the late 1950s through the early ’70s, by the survivors of those Jewish communities. But with the exception of a half-dozen or so, they are not the product of critical historical scholarship, and only three have been fully translated into English.

Thankfully, new scholarly English books that focus on particular European Jewish communities have recently been appearing at a steady pace. Still, not entirely unlike the memorial books, the varied approaches taken by today’s historians have produced uneven results, as exemplified by two new studies — of the cities of Bialystok, Poland, and Worms, Germany.

“The Jews of Bialystok and Its Diaspora” by Rebecca Kobrin is the more problematic of the two, as it fails to provide anything approaching an adequate history of one of the most remarkable Jewish communities to emerge in the modern era in Eastern Europe. A cursory — largely demographic and economic — overview, documenting the rapid expansion and productivity of Bialystok Jewry, provides little more than bare-bones statistical information.

To be sure, these raw statistics are most impressive, testifying to a Jewish population that burgeoned to almost 50,000 by 1900 from 4,000 in 1808, at which point Bialystok was more than three-quarters Jewish. The astonishing economic successes of these newly arrived Jews are evidenced by their rapid domination of Bialystok’s main industry: textile manufacturing. By 1898, more than 80% of the city’s weaving mills were owned by Jewish industrialists. As for the inner, religious and intellectual life of this Jewish boomtown, however, Kobrin imparts no information, beyond simplistically dividing Jews into two political camps: Zionists and socialists.

Kobrin situates her study within the emerging discipline of Diaspora studies, and after this short introduction about Jews in Bialystok proper, she focuses almost entirely on the ways in which those who had left Bialystok labored to preserve the memory and legacy of their beloved hometown, even to establish a “Bialystok empire” in the New World. In doing so, Kobrin repeatedly contrasts their “real” homeland — Bialystok, where, despite their majority and prosperity, or perhaps on account of them, Jews were victims of particularly brutal violence during the wave of 1905 pogroms that spread across Russia — with their “imagined” religious one. This deep identification with the Land of Israel is something that Kobrin discounts too readily and too completely. One of the reasons for this, as I note below, is her disregard for the enduring religious elements of modern Eastern European Jewish societies….

Worms’s long and exceedingly complex historical legacy is deftly recovered and expertly analyzed by Niels Roemer in his erudite new book, “German City, Jewish Memory: The Story of Worms.” The oldest of the three great medieval communities (Speier, Worms and Mainz are fondly referred to by the acronym “SHU’M” — literally meaning “garlic”) is the repository of the richest history, literature and geographical artifacts. After wonderfully summarizing the medieval days of devotion to Torah, pietism and unprecedented acts of martyrdom during the First Crusade of 1096, Roemer turns his attention to the long and shifting history of how the community of Worms became a central, if largely symbolic, element in German-Jewish collective memory.

Roemer’s book is the most original work I have yet to read on German-Jewish intellectual history. It is especially enlightening in exploring how the memory of Worms and its physical remnants waned and then were revived. Holy relics, such as the ancient cemetery, the synagogue, the legendary chair of Rashi (who studied in Worms) and the tombs of her many scholars, such as Eleazar ben Judah — a founder of the medieval pietistic movement known as Hasidut Ashkenaz — regained currency first with the advent of printing, which produced popular accounts of Worms’s heroic martyrs, then with the advent of Reform Judaism and finally by the modern era of tourism, during which Worms became a major pilgrimage site for both Christians and Jews.

A wonderfully sensitive thinker and gracious writer, Roemer has produced an utterly original study in the uses, and misuses, less of history than of memory; for beyond his thorough assessment of earlier historians’ treatments of Jewish Worms, he examines a wide array of less conventional sources….READ MORE

Canada’s PM Stephen Harper Lone Israel Supporter at G8 Summit

On Israel, Harper stands alone at G8 summit

Source: Globe & Mail, 5-25-11

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Deauville, France on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 to attend the G8 Summit. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Deauville, France on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 to attend the G8 Summit. | Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Gil Troy: Dueling diplomacy: Bibi’s boo-boo triggered Barack’s backlash

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 5-24-11

In the latest diplomatic slap down pitting the President of the United States against the Prime Minister of Israel, Israel lost – as did both leaders. Barack Obama looked like an amateurish bungler, roiling a region which needs calm while once again pouring cement onto three Palestinian positions which need softening– the 1967 borders, the “right” of return and the continuing refusal to negotiate. Binyamin Netanyahu may have looked less foolish – and looked less petulant in their dueling White House soliloquies – but he did more harm. This debacle was avoidable, but Bibi’s boo-boo triggered Barack’s backlash.

Watching Obama’s State Department speech was like reading a bad undergraduate paper. The first part, regarding the Arab spring, was too vague. The second part, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was too specific. Obama seemed unprepared. He did not sound ready to articulate an Obama Doctrine that can guide American action as the Arab world changes. Beyond endorsing democracy and peace, Obama neither explained his previous reactions nor offered clear guidelines for future actions. Meanwhile Obama’s Dictate for Israeli-Palestinian progress felt rushed, not properly previewed to prevent squabbles, struggles, then backpedals. The brouhaha over his endorsing 1967 borders with swaps, and the fear he fed the Palestinian delusion that the “right” of return is achievable, were both avoidable. But, like a harried undergraduate producing a pointless paper just to be on time, Obama had his own deadline. He hurried to pre-empt Netanyahu’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress.

The Republican Speaker of the House must be delighted with the trap he sprang on the Democratic president – using Bibi as bait. John Boehner drew the President into this mess, which probably alienated more Democratic donors, forced Obama to massage his Thursday remarks on Sunday, and sparked a distracting firestorm which can only damage the President.

When Republican leaders invited him to address Congress, Netanyahu probably considered this a great coup. Bibi would have one of the world’s greatest stage sets to show off his oratorical talents, while outmaneuvering Obama and fellow Israel-skeptics before pro-Israel Republicans.

But Netanyahu overlooked the defining rule of gravity in Israel-America relations – in any confrontation between the President and the Prime Minister, Israel loses. With the United States the superpower and Israel the lonely little guy, Israel’s dependence on American friendship is too great. An Israeli Prime Minster may succeed in tweaking a particular policy, but only by draining the reservoir of presidential goodwill. So when, as happened Thursday, an Israeli Prime Minister yells at the American Secretary of State, just before a major presidential address, Israel loses. When the Prime Minister denounces presidential proposals before visiting the President, Israel loses. When the President stews as the Prime Minister lectures him, albeit eloquently and indirectly, Israel loses. And when the President sits at a joint press appearance, with his hand placed protectively over his body and under his chin, telegraphing mistrust of the Prime Minister, Israel loses.

Once Obama said what he said, Bibi had to say what he said. But Obama said what he said because Bibi was going to say what he wanted to say to Congress. With a president like Obama, who instinctively blames Israel as the obstacle to peace, the less attention he pays to the region, the better. Netanyahu made his ritualistic visit to AIPAC a big deal by accepting the Congressional invitation. Predictably, the New York Times headline “OBAMA PRESSES ISRAEL TO MAKE ‘HARD CHOICES’,” resulted.

Not all exchanges hurt Israel. Obama disapproved of delegitimizing Israel and said the Palestinians must explain how to work for peace while working with Hamas, whose charter advocates Israel’s destruction. And there is value in the vigorous debate that erupted about what peace can look like, and how to use history as a helpful guideline, not an incendiary device.

Barack Obama believes that to support Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, he must free Israelis from today’s status quo prison, reinforced by comfortable complacency and existential fears. That goal explains why he focuses on the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control, yearning for real statehood and full civil liberties. But as America’s most pro-Palestinian president since Jimmy Carter, Obama also must free the Palestinians from their nostalgic prison reinforced by lingering longings and deadly hatreds. He must tell them that time does not stand still, that they must dream more about their future state rather than deliriously demanding or violently planning a return to 1967 or 1947. Yet, somehow, Obama’s finger points more easily and wags more vigorously at Israeli caution than Palestinian obstructionism, rejectionism, and violence.

The logical starting point in advocating a two-state solution comes by acknowledging that borders shifted and populations moved, particularly in historic Palestine. Only fools or fanatics claim that borders were ever perma-marked. We cannot undo history. We must move forward, from 2011, trying to minimize disruptions to populations while maximizing satisfaction on both sides. Rather than trying to freeze one random moment in historical time, demography and the current status quo should be our guides, tempered by sensitivity, creativity, and some history, but not too much. And being realistic entails dealing with the current president effectively. In assessing this week’s errors, hopefully Bibi Netanyahu will learn that not to provoke the President, and that scoring debating points only goes so far.

When Israelis and Americans squabble, Palestinian rejectionists rejoice. This spring’s great outrages are not Obama’s proposals or Netanyahu’s hesitations, but Fatah’s new friend in Hamas, Egypt’s new unreliability as a peace partner, Iran’s continuing rush to nuclear power, and the Arab world’s continuing war against Israel’s existence, aided by the left’s useful idiots. These common enemies, along with enduring common values, should keep America’s President and Israel’s Prime Minister cooperating, whatever tactical quibbles may arise.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of “Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” his latest book is “The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.”

giltroy@gmail.com

RJC’s Matthew Brooks to DNC Chair: Support for Israel is a Legitimate Topic for Debate

Source: Republican Jewish Coalition, www.RJCHQ.org, 5-24-11

DNC Seeks to Create “Gag Order” to Protect Vulnerable Candidates
Brooks Cites Gaza 54 Letter and Obama “1967 Lines” Speech

Washington, D.C. (May 24, 2011) — In response to press reports about a joint meeting of Republican and Democratic leaders with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz asked the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and other Republican groups to pledge to refrain from using Israel as an issue in the upcoming campaign season, Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matthew Brooks sent the following letter today to Wasserman Schultz.

In his letter, Brooks reaffirmed that the RJC would not take the vital issue of Israel’s security off the table in the U.S. public policy debate, and made clear that, “…it is important for both of us to continue to speak out freely when individuals in our parties break from a position of support for Israel.”

Brooks also wrote, “I hope you agree with me that no one – in either party – whether it is the President of the United States, a candidate for President or a rank and file member – should be shielded from criticism if their positions are harmful to Israel’s well being. Covering up anti-Israel positions by gagging debate about them doesn’t help anyone; instead it only protects those who hope to get away with their anti-Israel positions. The Jewish community has a right to be informed about people’s records and people should be answerable for the positions they take. That is the essence of democracy.”

The full text of the letter is below.

Brooks – Wasserman letter

May 24, 2011

The Honorable Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Chairman

Democratic National Committee

430 S. Capitol St. SE

Washington, D.C. 20003

By facsimile: 202-863-8174

Dear Chairwoman Wasserman Shultz:

It was a pleasure to be with you at yesterday’s bipartisan meeting involving the Republican Jewish Coalition and representatives from the National Jewish Democratic Council. It is always an honor to be with an Israeli Prime Minister and I know you are as grateful as I am for the time he gave us so we could discuss matters that involve Israel’s security.

I also commend you personally for your pro-Israel record as a Congresswoman. There is no question that when it comes to how you vote, you have always been strong for Israel. Not everyone in Congress is like you and that’s why it is important for both of us to continue to speak out freely when individuals in our parties break from a position of support for Israel. I did so just two weeks ago when Congressman Ron Paul announced his candidacy for President.

In order to maintain bipartisan support for Israel, the RJC will continue to publicly point out the records and statements of public officials who stray from this bipartisan position. I hope you will do the same and not feel pressure to sweep under the rug or whitewash the positions of anyone in your party whose positions represent a threat to Israel’s security.

I hope you agree with me that no one – in either party – whether it’s the President of the United States, a candidate for President or a rank and file member – should be shielded from criticism if their positions are harmful to Israel’s well being. Covering up anti-Israel positions by gagging debate about them doesn’t help anyone; instead it only protects those who hope to get away with their anti-Israel positions. The Jewish community has a right to be informed about people’s records and people should be answerable for the positions they take. That is the essence of democracy.

Indeed, several leading Democrats have exercised their right to free speech when they criticized President Obama’s controversial statement that, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”

Former New York City Mayor and lifelong Democrat Ed Koch responded, “If President Obama does not change his position, I cannot vote for his reelection.”

According to a story in today’s Politico, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in his remarks to AIPAC, rebuked President Obama for his remarks.

However, in our meeting with the Prime Minister, you appealed to us, in front of the leader of a foreign nation, to pledge to refrain from any debate about these matters. I do not think that the timing or the venue you chose for raising this issue was appropriate.

I recognize that now, as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, you are in a position where you must support candidates whose positions on Israel are different from yours.

To that end, I understand why you would like to shield and provide political amnesty to those Democrats whose positions undermine Israel’s security.

For example, in Wisconsin, your party is likely to nominate a signer of the Gaza 54 letter, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, to replace Senator Herb Kohl.

In New Mexico, the Democrats are likely to nominate Congressman Martin Heinrich, who refused to join 344 colleagues in condemning the Goldstone report.

And in Connecticut, your party is likely to nominate Congressman Chris Murphy, who accepted major financial support from J Street in two different election cycles.

I understand that you would like to stifle debate in the Jewish community on these issues, but the RJC believes they are legitimate issues and part of a healthy and vigorous debate. Indeed, the best way to avoid debating them is for Democratic candidates not to hold positions that weaken Israel’s security, in which case both parties would be fully joined together in strong support of Israel.

Sincerely

Matthew Brooks

Executive Director

Israel Political Brief May 24, 2011: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Gives Speech to Joint Meeting of US Congress

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke to a joint meeting of Congress in Washington on Tuesday.

IN FOCUS

  • FACT CHECK: Netanyahu speech brushes over conflicting views of Mideast realityWaPo, 5-24-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • To Friendly Crowd, Netanyahu Repeats Criteria for Peace: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu capped off a turbulent visit to Washington on Tuesday with a speech to a more sympathetic audience in Congress than he found at the White House, promising peace negotiations aimed at “a far-reaching compromise” with the Palestinians but setting several significant limits on what Israel would accept.
    He said that to reach a deal, Palestinians must agree to live with a Jewish state that would include areas in the suburbs of Jerusalem and around Tel Aviv.
    Jerusalem, he said, “will never be divided,” and Israel’s army would remain along the Jordan River.
    While some land where Israelis have settled would lie outside its final borders, he said, the borders would not be identical to those of 1967 and before, which he once again called indefensible. Palestinian refugees and their descendants, he said, would have to find their homes outside these borders, limiting their right of return to old homelands — long a sticking point.
    “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace,” he said, adding that it would not be easy, because “in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.”… – NYT, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu Gives No Ground in Congress Speech: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, broadly laying out the Israeli response to President Obama’s peace proposals, called on the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Tuesday to accept what Mr. Netanyahu framed as a tenet: that Palestinians will not get a right of return to Israel. In so doing, he made clear that he was giving no ground on the major stumbling blocks to a peace agreement.
    “I stood before my people and said that I will accept a Palestinian state; it’s time for President Abbas to stand up before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state,’ ” Mr. Netanyahu said to cheers from a hugely friendly crowd of Democratic and Republican lawmakers gathered in the House chamber of the Capitol.
    “Those six words will change history,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “With those six words, the Israeli people will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise.”… – NYT, 5-25-11
  • Netanyahu’s speech sets high bar for resumption of peace talks: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited Palestinians back to the bargaining table Tuesday with a speech before Congress that promised “painful” Israeli concessions in exchange for peace but also outlined a tough negotiating stance that was immediately rejected by key Palestinian officials.
    One aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Netanyahu’s proposals a “declaration of war against the Palestinians.”
    Netanyahu’s vision for Middle East peace drew thunderous ovations from U.S. lawmakers who cheered his prescription for a two-state solution that he said would lead to a “viable, independent and prosperous” Palestinian state. The speech culminated a dramatic several days in U.S.-Israeli relations, including a major speech on the Mideast by President Obama on Thursday, a charged visit between the two presidents on Friday and numerous quieter contacts between officials of the two nations.
    Netanyahu, one of a handful of foreign leaders to appear twice before joint sessions of Congress, laid out a vision for a peace agreement with the Palestinians that he said would include a “far-reaching compromise” and generous land concessions by Israel… – WaPo, 5-25-11
  • Netanyahu addresses Congress in historic speech: PM willing to give up parts of Israel but ‘Jerusalem must never be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.’
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United States Congress Tuesday in a much-anticipated speech following a turbulent visit to Washington.
    While the PM spoke about various issues, the focus of his address was clearly on the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, especially the security.
    “We must find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinian people,” said Netanyahu who lauded Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a viable partner in peace, but not under the current conditions of their pact with Hamas.
    “Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction,” Netanyahu stated. “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda.”
    Should the opportunity to negotiate peace with the PA arise, Netanyahu made it clear that “Israel will be generous with the size of the Palestinian state” but will not sacrifice security. “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” he said adamantly before adding, that it needs “unique security arrangements because of its unique size.”
    Netanyahu repeated what he told the AIPAC conference earlier in the day, that the State of Israel is not the root of the Middle East’s problem.
    “Israel’s not what’s wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what’s right about the Middle East,” he said to a cheering audience.
    “Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel,” he said while also thanking Obama for his great commitment to the security of Israel.
    “The Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We’re not the British in India, or the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers… no distortion of history will deny the 4,000 year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”
    Netanyahu did not waste this opportunity to take a jab at the United Nations during this public address, saying that, should a peace agreement be reached “Israel will be the first country to welcome a Palestinian state as a member of the United Nation.” Shalom Life, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu at Congress: Jerusalem Must Remain Undivided: Israel is the only country that has guaranteed freedom of all faiths in Jerusalem, which must remain undivided, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Congress Tuesday.
    Interrupted by repeated by standing ovations, he also thanked the United States for helping Israel reach its defense capabilities despite the “tough” economy.
    There is no need for the United States to send troops to Israel because “we defend ourselves,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said.
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted in his opening remarks that the “ground is still shifting” in the Middle East and that the uprisings in the Muslim countries represent people’s demands for liberty. He said that of 300 million Arabs, the only ones who are “truly free” are citizens of Israel.
    He continued, “Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”
    After one person interrupted his speech briefly, the Prime Minister said that the United States is a “real democracy” unlike “farcical” regimes of Iran and elsewhere.
    He was welcomed with a standing ovation and three minutes of applause…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-24-11
  • PM Netanyahu Calls Congressional Leaders “Steadfast Friends” of Israel: Following his address to the joint meeting of Congress today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the Congressional leadership for the invitation to come to the Capitol, and called the bipartisan quartet of leaders “steadfast friends” of Israel.
    “I’ve known these friends of Israel a long time. They’re true, steadfast friends,” Netanyahu told reporters of Sens. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and Reps. John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor. “I think you got that impression, I got that impression in the [House Chamber] where we’ve just come from, and I was delighted to see these anchors of the Israel-American alliance and the new faces that have been added. It’s heartwarming.”
    “We have a different feeling about the world, about our potential, about our defenses, when we have this solid American support from all parts of the American people. America supports us in our quest for peace; America helps our security; America wants a genuine peace; America opposes Hamas,” he added. “America joins us in demanding that Hamas’s criminal organization release Gilad Shalit. Imagine, they’re keeping our captive soldier in a dungeon for five years, and they’re not letting the Red Cross visit him even once. America stands with us in our just demands to release our soldier; to stop terrorism; to have a real, durable and defensible peace. This is a great day for us.”… – ABC News, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu to Congress: Ready to make painful compromises, but Jerusalem will not be divided: The prime minister was welcomed to the U.S. Congress by a long standing ovation, after which he praised the U.S. for their strong ties and shared values with Israel…. – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu: Militant Islam threatening the world: Israel’s prime minister, in an address to Congress on Tuesday, held out the threat of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying the only time Iran halted its nuclear program was when it feared such an attack.
    Benjamin Netanyahu did not go so far as to say Israel would carry out such an assault. But he told Congress that militant Islam was threatening the world and urged the U.S. never to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
    “The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation,” Netanyahu said.
    Netanyahu has said before that Iran won’t curb its nuclear ambitions unless it thinks it is threatened with military action…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu receives warm reception in Congress: Lawmakers from both sides of the American political divide are giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a rapturous congressional reception, with frequent and sustained standing ovations.
    In his speech to a joint session of Congress, Netanyahu congratulated the United States for killing Osama bin Laden, wishing the al-Qaida leader “good riddance” and making the case that America and Israel are paragons of democracy. He dismissed early shouts from a female protester as evidence that freedom of speech is alive and well and respected in both countries, while it is punished in Arab states now going through upheaval…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Why such a warm reception for Benjamin Netanyahu at US Congress?: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu drew a line in the sand Tuesday during his speech to the US Congress, regarding future borders with any new Palestinian state. The applause was enthusiastic.
    The moment many US lawmakers were waiting for came toward the end of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” he said, to a vigorous burst of cheers and applause.
    With that, Mr. Netanyahu may have demonstrated that the American Congress stands with Israel, and not with President Obama, on the matter of a starting point for resuming peace talks with the Palestinians – if and when such negotiations ever do resume.
    That, perhaps, does not come as a huge surprise, given the shared Judeo-Christian tradition and shared democratic values. But there’s also the pro-Israel lobby, long one of the most effective on Capitol Hill. Since 1990, pro-Israel groups have contributed more than $97 million to congressional candidates – 67 percent to Democrats and 33 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. Some 38 lobbyists are registered on pro-Israel campaigns, spending more than $8.6 million to lobby Congress and the White House since Mr. Obama took office…. – CS Monitor, 5-24-11
  • U.S. Jewish groups united in support of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress: In speech before a joint meeting of Congress, Netanyahu stresses strong U.S.-Israel ties and their joint interests of protecting democracy and peace.
    Jewish American groups were overwhelmingly united in their praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, stressing their support for his clear call for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State and commitment to peace…. – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • Congress gives Netanyahu enthusiastic support down the line: Addressing an enthusiastic joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he was willing to make “painful compromises” to reach a comprehensive peace with Palestinian Arabs, but only if they agreed to live with a Jewish state whose territory included the suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
    In a 45-minute speech punctuated by 29 standing ovations — an unusually high number for a foreign leader before Congress — Netanyahu repeated his assertion that “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” which President Barack Obama said in a major speech last week should be the starting point of peace negotiations.
    The spirit of Obama’s remarks reflected the positions of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. But Obama’s overt call for using the 1967 lines — adjusted by mutually agreed land swaps — was controversial, especially when Netanyahu publicly upbraided Obama in the White House Oval Office the next day. On Tuesday, Netanyahu repeated his stand, but this time in front of a warm, appreciative bipartisan audience of American lawmakers.
    After the speech, congressional leaders of both parties made it clear that they were firmly allied with Israel’s prime minister…. – McClatchy Newspapers 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu’s make-or-break speech to Congress: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long criticized for being passive and reactionary, is under pressure to exhibit the Zionist legacy of risk-taking and initiative in his address to Congress today….
    Four days after publicly spurning President Obama’s vision for ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from supporters and critics alike to present an alternative plan for peace as he addresses a joint session of US Congress.
    In the shadow of regional change, Mr. Netanyahu has been attacked for taking a passive, reactive stance that favors his own political survival over meaningful progress with the Palestinians. Now, with Palestinians gaining momentum on a United Nations vote to establish a Palestinian state without Israel’s approval, his country faces a growing threat of isolation and attacks on its legitimacy.
    Many see Netanyahu’s speech today as an opportunity to take the diplomatic initiative, tapping into an Israeli legacy of risk-taking, initiative, and creativity that stretches from the country’s founding fathers to today’s technology entrepreneurs. That spirit – summed up in Zionist leader Theodore Herzl’s phrase, “If you will it, it is no dream” – has been seen in everything from preemptive military attacks to a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip…. – CS Monitor, 5-24-11
  • Conn. rabbi to give opening prayer at US House session; was invited by Conn. Rep. Himes: A Connecticut rabbi will be visiting Capitol Hill to give the opening prayer before a U.S. House of Representatives session.
    Jeremy Wierderhorn is scheduled to deliver the invocation Tuesday at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Greenwich. Wierderhorn is rabbi of The Conservative Synagogue of Westport, Weston and Wilton.
    His prayer to open the House session takes place on the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress.
    Wierderhorn has been rabbi at The Conservative Synagogue since 2008, and previously was rabbi of a temple in Henderson, Nevada…. – AP, 5-24-11

QUOTES

  • Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Address to a Joint Meeting of the United States CongressTranscript, 5-24-11
  • Bibi to Congress: No compromise on Jerusalem, refugees or Jordan River presence: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any peace deal with the Palestinians must grant Israel a military presence along the Jordan River, exclude repatriation of Palestinian refugees to Israel and leave Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital.
    However, the Israeli leader said in his address to a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, some Jewish settlements in the West Bank would fall outside Israel’s borders in a final peace deal.
    Netanyahu did not appear to offer anything new by way of substance for his vision of peace with the Palestinians, saying Israel “would be very generous” about the size of the Palestinian state but providing few details.
    “Israel needs unique security arrangements, because of its unique size,” Netanyahu said.
    On the dispute over Jerusalem, which he vowed would remain Israel’s undivided capital city, he said, “With creativity and with good will, a solution can be found.”
    “Palestinians from around the world should have the right to immigrate, if they so choose, to the Palestinian state,” he said. “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”
    “It’s absolutely vital that a Palestinian state be demilitarized,” Netanyahu said, “and it’s absolutely vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.”
    The Israeli prime minister had an informal delivery, cracking several jokes and twice turning around to address Vice President Joe Biden. When a heckler interrupted Netanyahu at one point, Congress tried to drown her out with a standing ovation, much as the pro-Israel crowd at the annual banquet of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee did for the prime minister the previous evening.
    “This is real democracy,” Netanyahu said after the heckler had been removed from the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives.
    Netanyahu repeated some lines from the night before, when most of Congress joined the crowd at the AIPAC gala. “Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East,” Netanyahu said both days. “Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”
    On the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu said, “I’m willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace.” He called the West Bank the Palestinians’ homeland, but rejected the notion that it belongs to them alone.
    “In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers,” Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank. “This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel to which Abraham brought the idea of one God.”
    “Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said. “It’s always been about the existence of a Jewish state. That’s what this conflict is about.”
    “I stood before my people and said I will accept a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said. “It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say: I will accept a Jewish state.”
    As for the contours of a future Palestinian state, Netanyahu indicated that large settlement blocs would become part of Israel, along with “other areas of critical strategic and national importance,” but that, “in any real peace agreement, in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders.”
    He said, “We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, to be independent, to be prosperous.”
    “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” Netanyahu said…. – JTA, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu to Congress: Ready to make painful compromises, but Jerusalem will not be divided: The prime minister was welcomed to the U.S. Congress by a long standing ovation, after which he praised the U.S. for their strong ties and shared values with Israel.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened his speech at the United States Congress on Tuesday by reiterating Israel’s strong ties with the U.S., saying “Israel has no better friend than the U.S. and the U.S. has no better friend than Israel.”
    The prime minister’s speech was briefly disrupted by a heckler, who was quickly escorted out by security. Netanyahu said about the heckler, “I appreciate that protesting is allowed” adding “this is the real democracy.”
    Netanyahu rejected those that call Israel a “foreign occupier”, saying that no one could deny the “4,000 year old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”
    “Why has peace eluded us?” the prime minister posed as he began to discuss the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. “Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.”
    “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historical peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility,” he said.
    “Now, this is not easy for me. It’s not easy, because I recognize that in a genuine peace we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland,” he said.
    Netanyahu said that Israel “will not return to the indefensible borders of 1967.” “Israel will be generous on the size of a Palestinian state, but will be very firm on where we put the border with it,” Netanyahu said.
    “It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state’,” Netanyahu said to applause.
    “Those six words will change history. They will make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict will come to an end,” he said. “And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace.”
    “Tear up your pact with Hamas and sit down and negotiate, make peace with the Jewish state,” he said. “The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace, it should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end,” he said. “Peace cannot be imposed, it must be negotiated.”… – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • House Speaker John Boehner: “We live in a time of instability in the Middle East and around the world, but the United States has no stronger ally than Israel. Our long-standing alliance is built on trust, and it’s based on shared values of freedom and democracy. America has a critical leadership role to play in the Middle East, to advance freedom and democracy in the entire region. That is our historic and moral responsibility as a great and free nation, and we should never retreat from that role, and today we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel and once again renew our historic partnership. The work of achieving a safe and secure Israel has never been easy, but the cause is right.”
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: It was “an honor…to join my colleagues in the leadership of the Congress to welcome you once again to the Capitol of the United States” and said that judging by the response to the prime minister’s speech, that Members on “both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol believe that you advance the cause of peace.”
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: Netanyahu singled out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the lone Jewish House Republican. “May I say that I was remiss in not mentioning an extraordinary friend of Israel and an extraordinary public servant, Eric Cantor,” Netanyahu said. “It’s good to see you here, too, Eric, and thank you for that invitation.”
    Cantor, R-Va., said the U.S. lawmakers all “heard today the tremendous challenges that the people of Israel face, the existential threat that they face, as do we, in the Middle East,” but noted that the speech amplified “the resounding bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong and will continue.”
  • Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.): Participated in a meeting featuring Netanyahu and Jewish lawmakers after the Israeli’s speech to Congress, said that making Israel a partisan issue would only damage the Jewish state in the end. He credited Netanyahu for “dialing back” the tension in his speeches, noting his praise in his speech to Congress for bipartisan support of Israel.
    “He tried to bring it back and get this thing off the table as a football,” Ackerman told JTA. “This should not be a wedge issue; there are huge consequences.”
  • Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee: Obama had created an opportunity by staking out Middle East policy that so clearly differentiated from Netanyahu’s.
    “It’s in our strategic interest as Americans to support Israel, and deviations from that position do not square with voters in our country. That’s what we’re going to be singing from the mountaintops for the next 17 months. We’re going to be making a strong play for Jewish voters in 2012, I can tell you that. We just did an eight-city tour in Florida, and we’re going to go back to Florida — we’re not going to let any stone unturned.” –
  • Bibi in Congress: The “wave” and the critical extemporization: There were more than two dozen standing ovations, but not all standing ovations are the same. Most of the ovations brought the entire House to its feet, immediately.
    A few, though, operated like waves: One party would rise and applaud and hoot and holler, and the other party would have a “might as well” reaction and –a little more slowly — also rise and applaud.
    (Republicans, from Netanyahu’s perspective, were on the left side of the chamber, and Democrats were on the right.)
    Here’s an example of a line that prompted GOP-to-Democrat wave (i.e., the Republicans were more enthusiastic)… – JTA, 5-24-11
  • Text of Rabbi Wiederhorn’s Prayer:
    Following is the text of the prayer delivered today by Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn of The Conservative Synagogue of Westport, Weston, and Wilton, before the U.S. House of Representatives:
    Dear God, source of all strength, compassion and peace.
    We know that our time on this earth is preciously short, so please, open our eyes to the beauty of the world around us.
    Remind us that each person we encounter is created in your image. Provide us with the integrity, wisdom, and patience to listen to those with whom we do not agree and learn from those who we might otherwise not hear.
    Protect the courageous men and women who put their lives in danger each day so that our children can live safely and without fear.
    Comfort us today as we mourn with the people of Missouri following the tragic loss of life brought upon by the devastating forces of nature.
    And, finally, bless our leaders and advisers, including the dedicated men and women of this United States Congress, who assiduously seek to protect our sacred democratic values at home and abroad.
    May you grant them the vision to look ahead to our future without forgetting the lessons of our past.
    Amen. –
    Westport Now, 5-24-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • GOP wooing Jewish voters, donors in wake of Obama’s Israel border: GOP activists are confident that they’ll gain additional votes and donations from the Jewish community following President Barack Obama’s call for Israel to retreat to territory along its pre-1967 border, with “mutually agreed swaps,” in any final peace settlement with Palestinian Arabs.
    “My friends in the Republican Jewish Coalition are ecstatic at the crossover they’re having from independent-minded Jews,” GOP consultant Karl Rove told The Daily Caller.
    “Most Jews are Democrats because they vote on the basis of domestic policies,” said Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary for George W. Bush. But, he added, “those who are more inclined to vote on international affairs are more likely to be independent and they tend to vote Republican,” he said. They’re also the people who are more likely to be alarmed by Obama’s new stance, he said. “That’s where the damage was done,” he said.
    The GOP’s share of the Jewish community’s vote in presidential elections rose steadily from the 1990s until 2008, when Obama pushed the GOP’s share back down to 21 percent. The GOP pulled only 9 percent of the community’s vote in 1992, 16 percent in 1996, and 25 percent in 2004.
    These shares of the national vote are important in swing-state Florida, which has an unusually large Jewish community, Fleischer said. In 2012, “if Republicans get only 20 percent [of the vote], it is harder to win Florida, but if Republicans get 25 percent of the Jewish vote, it is likely they’ll win Florida,” he said…. – Daily Caller, 5-25-11
  • Democrats join Republicans in questioning Obama’s policy on Israel: Top Democrats have joined a number of Republicans in challenging President Obama’s policy toward Israel, further exposing rifts that the White House and its allies will seek to mend before next year’s election.
    The differences, on display as senior lawmakers addressed a pro-Israel group late Monday and Tuesday, stem from Obama’s calls in recent days for any peace deal between Israel and Palestinians to be based on boundaries that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, combined with “mutually agreed swaps” of territory.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) and other Democrats appeared to reject the president’s reference to the 1967 lines in his latest attempt to nudge along peace talks, thinking that he was giving away too much, too soon.
    White House officials say Obama’s assertion did not reflect a shift in U.S. policy. But the president’s comments touched a nerve among pro-Israel activists, drew a rare Oval Office rebuke from Is­raeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and instantly became a litmus test in domestic American politics.
    Now Obama — whom critics often accuse of employing a play-it-safe governing style in which he waits for others to take the lead — is largely isolated politically in raising the issue of boundaries…. – WaPo, 5-24-11
  • Ed Koch: The Difference Between Obama’s and Bush’s Positions on Israel: The issues in all of the discussions on peace between the Israelis and Palestinians have revolved around three major controversial matters: Jerusalem, with the Palestinians demanding their capital be in that city; demanding a return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants now numbering 4.5 million to the state of Israel; and the lines of the new state.
    The two pre-Netanyahu prime ministers offered to share the capital of Jerusalem, giving to the Palestinian state that part of East Jerusalem in which Muslims now live, retaining for Israel that part of East Jerusalem in which 250,000 Jews now live and retaining about three percent of the West Bank in which about 300,000 Jews live. And most critical, requiring all Palestinian refugees seeking to return to be resettled in the new state of Palestine. The Palestinian leaders, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, turned down the offers on every occasion. Also, neither Arab leader has been willing to state that they would recognize Israel as a Jewish state — they having a Muslim state — if and when an agreement creating two states was entered into.
    And that is the nub of the disagreement in my opinion. In my opinion, Palestinians and their Arab allies have no intention of ever accepting a Jewish state in their midst. Many in the Muslim world believe that every square inch of Israel belongs to Islam and will someday be theirs; they have no intention of accepting the existence of a Jewish state. At best, they will accept a temporary truce with an entity called Israel which they will whittle away at, later overwhelm and absorb in the future.
    There are those who will say, how does President Obama’s reference to boundaries in his statement of May 19, 2011 differ from that proposed by President Bush. Both referred to the 1967 lines. President Bush added language referring to the facts on the ground, a reference to the 250,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem and 300,000 living on the West Bank. As the Times of January 11, 2008 reported, “By endorsing compensation for refugees, Mr. Bush sided, at least indirectly, with an Israeli view that the return of Palestinians to Israel was unacceptable since it would change the identity of Israel as a Jewish state. Similarly, he endorsed the notion of Israel as ‘a homeland for the Jewish people,’ and ‘Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people.'”… – Huff Post, 5-24-11
  • For Obama, Bibi tensions subside, political problems begin: That Israel problem President Obama had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Old news. That Israel problem Obama has with Congress? And with his party? That’s just beginning.
    In two successive speeches — one to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday and another to a joint meeting of Congress the following day, Netanyahu had nothing but praise for the U.S. president.
    The friendly notes struck by the prime minister were all the more remarkable in light of how Republicans — and even some Democrats — were rushing to emphasize their differences with Obama on Israel policy…. – JTA, 5-24-11
  • Obama’s undue pressure on Israel?: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to Congress at a time when his policies are more popular there than at the White House, POLITICO reports this morning.
    Members of both parties of Senate and the House, have criticized President Obama’s call for the borders of Israel return to that from before the Six-Day War of 1967, with mutually agreed upon land swaps with the Palestinians. Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rebuked Obama’s use of his Middle East speech to address possible aspects of a deal, saying “the place where negotiating will happen must be at the negotiating table – and nowhere else.”
    Is the Obama administration putting too much undue pressure on Israel? – Politico Arena, 5-24-11
  • Tevi Troy Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary: Majority Leader Reid’s pro-Israel speech at AIPAC, followed immediately by Speaker John Boehner’s equally supportive statement, shows that Obama’s position on Israel is unpopular in both parties and on both sides of the Capitol. The joint rebukes should encourage Obama to rethink how to approach the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. – Politico Arena, 5-24-11
  • Tevi Troy: Bibi 4, Obama 1: Cliff May is right about the Netanyahu speech. It was a strong speech, and Congress warmly, even rapturously received Netanyahu, with 30 standing ovations by my count sitting in the House Gallery. The recent disagreement with the White House over President Obama’s Thursday speech if anything made the congressional welcome even friendlier than it would have been otherwise.
    Netanyahu’s speech was the capstone on the complex five-act play that took place in Washington this past week, one in which Netanyahu scored a decisive 4–1 victory. Act One took place last Thursday, in the form of Obama’s speech at the State Department. If Obama was expecting huzzahs from the Arab world for his speech, he certainly didn’t get them, and the president himself seemed to have been caught by surprise by the strong negative reaction from the pro-Israel side. Still, the Obama speech hit Netanyahu & Co. hard, and has to be seen as a loss for Netanyahu.
    But Obama inexplicably chose to give the speech on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, which gave Netanyahu an opportunity to reply at their joint press appearance on Friday. In the tense, on-camera exchange of views, Netanyahu seemed to take Obama on a visit to Hebrew school, telling him the basic realities of existence in the tough neighborhood of the Middle East…. – National Review, 5-24-11
  • Alex Joffe: Say no to right of return Op-ed: Bibi challenges Obama to tell Palestinians forthrightly that right of return won’t happen: In the escalating crisis between the US and Israel, the issues of borders has gotten the most attention. By adopting the 1967 borders with territorial swaps as the starting point for negotiations, US President Barack Obama has explicitly shifted US policy. Previous presidents have recognized that the 1967 borders were untenable for Israel and that adjustments would be made, especially the incorporation of settlement blocs.
    Now, by specifying both the starting point for border adjustments and the precise size of Israel that will result from negotiations, Obama has adopted part of the Palestinian position.
    But while the borders issue has rightly outraged most Israeli commentators, in his public statement to the press after his meeting with Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lobbed a grenade directly at the American role in the Middle East “peace process.” He made it clear that Palestinian “refugees” will never exercise their mythical “right of return” to previous places of residence in Israel, but added, “I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it’s not going to happen.”
    This was a challenge issued directly to President Obama who in his own remarks explicitly stated that the refugee issue would come, along with Jerusalem, at the end of the negotiations. Instead, Netanyahu demanded that Obama tell Palestinians that one of their most cherished myths will never come to pass. The statement must have struck fear into the hearts of Palestinian leaders but appears to have passed over the heads of Obama and his Middle Eastern advisors, as well as most pundits. But now that Netanyahu has put the issue front and center, in Obama’s presence, sooner or later someone will ask him or his administration about Palestinian ‘refugees.” What will he tell them?
    If Israelis are enraged about the issues of borders on purely pragmatic terms, namely the indefensibility of the 1949 armistice lines that left Israel a mere nine miles wide, the “right of return” is part of the central ethos of Palestinian society. A week does not go by when a Palestinian leader, from Fatah or Hamas, does not loudly promise Palestinians that they will be able to undo 63 years of history and return to what is now Israel…. – YNet News, 5-24-11

Tevi Troy: Bibi 4, Obama 1

Cliff May is right about the Netanyahu speech. It was a strong speech, and Congress warmly, even rapturously received Netanyahu, with 30 standing ovations by my count sitting in the House Gallery. The recent disagreement with the White House over President Obama’s Thursday speech if anything made the congressional welcome even friendlier than it would have been otherwise.

Netanyahu’s speech was the capstone on the complex five-act play that took place in Washington this past week, one in which Netanyahu scored a decisive 4–1 victory. Act One took place last Thursday, in the form of Obama’s speech at the State Department. If Obama was expecting huzzahs from the Arab world for his speech, he certainly didn’t get them, and the president himself seemed to have been caught by surprise by the strong negative reaction from the pro-Israel side. Still, the Obama speech hit Netanyahu & Co. hard, and has to be seen as a loss for Netanyahu.

But Obama inexplicably chose to give the speech on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, which gave Netanyahu an opportunity to reply at their joint press appearance on Friday. In the tense, on-camera exchange of views, Netanyahu seemed to take Obama on a visit to Hebrew school, telling him the basic realities of existence in the tough neighborhood of the Middle East.

On Sunday, Obama spoke to the pro-Israel group AIPAC, and while he did not quite walk back his remarks, he clearly tailored them to avoid restating his most controversial points in order to forestall the very real possibility that he would be booed. He was not, but the cheers were not quite at the level that a president who won almost 80 percent of the Jewish vote would expect. Furthermore, the fact that he appeared to have softened things for the AIPAC audience was a sign of weakness in his apparent effort to stage a confrontation with Israel.

Monday night, both Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker John Boehner gave forceful pro-Israel remarks to 12,000 people at AIPAC, and Politico characterized Reid’s speech as an intraparty “rebuke” to the president. The two speeches constituted a bipartisan statement that Obama is out of step with both parties and with both houses of Congress on this issue.

And then this morning came Netanyahu’s impressive speech to a joint assembly of Congress. Unlike Obama, he did not wiggle or waver, but instead gave a powerful defense of Israel as a vibrant democracy and steadfast ally of the U.S. Even an interruption from a Jewish, pro-Palestinian protester gave Netanyahu a chance to shine, as he noted that such protests are allowed in free countries like Israel or the U.S., in contrast to what he called the “farcical parliaments in Tehran or Tripoli.” The ad-lib earned him another one of his many standing ovations.

All of this should have been fairly predictable to the Obama administration when they started this process last week. They knew Netanyahu was coming; that Obama would have to speak to a potentially skeptical if not hostile crowd at AIPAC; and that Netanyahu would likely hit it out of the park in front of the friendly audience in Congress. The only potentially unpredictable element was the Reid speech, as the Senate majority leader might have had some hesitation about rebuking his party’s leader. But even without Reid’s reproach, the events were not aligned in President Obama’s favor as he embarked upon this course of action with last Thursday’s speech. There was no action-forcing event dictating that he give that kind of speech right before Netanyahu’s arrival. Presumably his own State Department would have invited him whenever he wanted to appear.

The policy Obama laid out last Thursday remains worrisome. But the lack of strategic sense that led him to give the speech when he did is truly baffling

Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Address to a Joint Session of the United States Congress

Speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress

May 24, 2011

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו נואם בפני הקונגרס האמריקאי בוושינגטון. צילום: אבי אוחיון לע”מ

I am deeply honored by your warm welcome. And I am deeply honored that you have given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time.

Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time we were the new kids in town?

And I do see a lot of old friends here. And I do see a lot of new friends of Israel here. Democrats and Republicans alike.

Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations America, Congratulations, Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance!

In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.

My friends, you don’t need to do nation building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to defend Israel. We defend ourselves. You’ve been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own. Thank you all, and thank you President Obama, for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. I know economic times are tough. I deeply appreciate this.

Support for Israel’s security is a wise investment in our common future. For an epic battle is now unfolding in the Middle East, between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The tremors have shattered states and toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting. Now this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. Millions of young people are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty.

These extraordinary scenes in Tunis and Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet as we share their hopes, but we also must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then. The brief democratic spring in Iran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. This same tyranny smothered Lebanon’s democratic Cedar Revolution, and inflicted on that long-suffering country, the medieval rule of Hezbollah.

So today, the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. Like all of you, I pray

that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty. No one knows what this path consists of better than you. This path is not paved by elections alone. It is paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.

Israel has always embraced this path, in the Middle East has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.

As the great English writer George Eliot predicted over a century ago, that once established, the Jewish state will “shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” Well, she was right. We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates. You think you guys are tough on one another in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset. Be my guest.

Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We’re proud that over one million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel!

This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.

Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the Middle East.

Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium, and said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab World. Well, it’s begun to take root. This beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity. For I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.

But while we hope and work for the best, we must also recognize that powerful forces oppose this future. They oppose modernity. They oppose democracy. They oppose peace.

Foremost among these forces is Iran. The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the dire consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out, and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.

Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. I have no doubt that it will ultimately be defeated. It will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. But like other fanaticisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact a horrific price from all of us before its inevitable demise.

A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world. I want you to understand what this means. They could put the bomb anywhere. They could put it on a missile. It could be on a container ship in a port, or in a suitcase on a subway.

Now the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads in the sand. Less than seven decades after six million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Leaders who spew such venom, should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet. But there is something that makes the outrage even greater: The lack of outrage. In much of the international community, the calls for our destruction are met with utter silence. It is even worse because there are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies.

But not you. Not America. You have acted differently. You’ve condemned the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims. You’ve passed tough sanctions against Iran. History will salute you America.

President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He successfully led the Security Council to adopt sanctions against Iran. You in Congress passed even tougher sanctions. These words and deeds are vitally important.

Yet the Ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. That same year, Muammar Qadaffi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.

My friends, while Israel will be ever vigilant in its defense, we will never give up on our quest for peace. I guess we’ll give it up when we achieve it. Israel wants peace. Israel needs peace. We’ve achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have held up for decades.

I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal. I mean that literally. I battled terrorists along both banks of the Jordan River. Too many Israelis have lost loved ones. I know their grief. I lost my brother.

So no one in Israel wants a return to those terrible days. The peace with Egypt and Jordan has long served as an anchor of stability and peace in the heart of the Middle East.

This peace should be bolstered by economic and political support to all those who remain committed to peace.

The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are vital. But they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.

I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace.

This is not easy for me. I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo.

This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.

But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish.

We’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years,

the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves. Prime Minister Fayad has led this effort. I wish him a speedy recovery from his recent operation.

We’ve helped the Palestinian economy by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming. It’s growing by more than 10% a year.

Palestinian cities look very different today than they did just a few years ago. They have shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, banks. They even have e-businesses. This is all happening without peace. Imagine what could happen with peace. Peace would herald a new day for both peoples. It would make the dream of a broader Arab-Israeli peace a realistic possibility.

So now here is the question. You have to ask it. If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.

You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli Prime Ministers, to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War.

They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said… “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say… “I will accept a Jewish state.”

Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.

This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967. The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv.

These areas are densely populated but geographically quite small. Under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.

The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations. But we must also be honest. So I am saying today something that should be said publicly by anyone serious about peace. In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.

We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, independent and prosperous. President Obama rightly referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as he referred to the future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the Jewish state. Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.

This is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well, that in the Middle East, the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend.

So peace must be anchored in security. In recent years, Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza. But we didn’t get peace. Instead, we got 12,000 thousand rockets fired from those areas on our cities, on our children, by Hezbollah and Hamas. The UN peacekeepers in Lebanon failed to prevent the smuggling of this weaponry. The European observers in Gaza evaporated overnight. So if Israel simply walked out of the territories, the flow of weapons into a future Palestinian state would be unchecked. Missiles fired from it could reach virtually every home in Israel in less than a minute. I want you to think about that too. Imagine that right now we all had less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Would anyone live that way? Well, we aren’t going to live that way either.

The truth is that Israel needs unique security arrangements because of its unique size. Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world. Mr. Vice President, I’ll grant you this. It’s bigger than Delaware. It’s even bigger than Rhode Island. But that’s about it. Israel on the 1967 lines would be half the width of the Washington Beltway.

Now here’s a bit of nostalgia. I first came to Washington thirty years ago as a young diplomat. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: There is an America beyond the Beltway. But Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth.

So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they are necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow.

And when I say tomorrow, I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean — tomorrow. Peace can be achieved only around the negotiating table. The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end.

I appreciate the President’s clear position on this issue. Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. But it can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace.

And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’. Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior. Now again I want to make this clear. Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.

So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state! And if you do, I promise you this. Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.

My friends, the momentous trials of the last century, and the unfolding events of this century, attest to the decisive role of the United States in advancing peace and defending freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All peoples who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation. Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds, in ancient and modern times alike.

I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world. May God bless all of you. And may God forever bless the United States of America.

Bruce Slovin: With the Center for Jewish History debt free, its founding chairman steps down

Source: JTA, 5-25-11

Bruce Slovin speaking at the 10th anniversary gala of the Center for Jewish History, where he was honored as he leaves his post as its founding chairman, May 10, 2011. (John Halpern)

One night back in 1985, businessman Bruce Slovin was walking home from a corporate board meeting with a lawyer named Joe Greenberger when Greenberger asked him about his involvement in the Jewish world.

Slovin responded that he wasn’t at all active, so Greenberger invited him to attend the next board meeting of YIVO, the research institute in New York on East European Jewry and Yiddish.

Slovin, who had recently lost his grandfather and father, attended the meeting and found himself spellbound.

“There was sitting my grandfather and father, who had just died — another Shlomo and a Yaakov,” he said, invoking his father and grandfather’s names.

“They were smoking with cigarettes like this” — he said, making an overhand gesture with his own Parliament cigarette. “They would drink schnapps after they had the board meeting. They were great storytellers. My father and grandfather were alive again.”

The flash of nostalgia set Slovin, a Brooklyn native, on a course that led to his joining the board of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and ultimately becoming the founding chairman of the Center for Jewish History in New York.

The center is a partnership of five historical organizations: the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, the Yeshiva University Museum and YIVO. It features the largest repository of Jewish historical artifacts in the Diaspora, with an impressive building near New York’s Union Square that contains 100 million artifacts and documents, and a library with half a million volumes.

More than 250 people gathered May 10 at a dinner to fete Slovin, 75, as he steps down as the center’s chairman….READ MORE

Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at AIPAC 2011

May 23, 2011


ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ורעייתו שרה בועידת אייפאק בוושינגטון. צילום: אבי אוחיון לע”מ

“My friends, before I talk about things about Israel, I want to say something about the scenes on television that I saw today and you have been seeing as well.  When tragedy strikes America, Israel — Israel feels an immediate identification.  And tragedy has struck America. In recent days floods and tornadoes have claimed the lives of hundreds of Americans, including today in Joplin, Missouri.  All I can say is, America, we’re with you on this day, on every day.

And that’s very evident from the things I just heard from my two close friends.  Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, you lead the many friends who are here today, the distinguished senators and congressmen and congresswomen of the United States of America.

I want to greet AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg.  Rosy, I learned the other day that if I take you on, it’s not going to be in basketball.  It will be in soccer.  And Executive Director Howard Kohr – Howard, you I’m not going to take on in anything.

I want to welcome here also the representatives of the Government of Israel, Members of Knesset, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jim Cunningham, Ambassador-designate Dan Shapiro, my beloved wife and the mother of our two boys, Sara, and finally, our terrific Ambassador to the United States, a man who knows a few things about the U.S.-Israel alliance, Michael Oren.

To all our supporters in this great hall and to the millions of supporters across this great land, the people of Israel thank you.  Thank you for your staunch commitment to Israel’s security.  Thank you for defending Israel’s right to defend itself.  Thank you for standing by Israel as it seeks a secure peace.

Now, I heard tonight from all the speakers something that you know – that Israel is America’s indispensable ally.  You understand that Israel and America stand shoulder to shoulder fighting common enemies, protecting common interests.  You know that Israeli innovators help power computers, fight disease, conserve water, clean the planet. Your support for Israel flows from the heart.

You see, it’s not just what Israel does.  It’s what Israel is.  Now, let me explain that. Yesterday I had a great day.  They let me out.  Sara and I could actually go for a walk.  And I have to congratulate the American security services.  They’re a little more generous than ours.  So we walked along the Potomac and we got to visit Washington’s majestic memorials.  I read Jefferson’s timeless words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  I read Lincoln’s immortal address, “government of the people, for the people, by the people.”

Now, let me tell you why these words resonate so powerfully with me and with all Israelis – because they’re rooted in ideas first championed by our people, the Jewish people, the idea that all men are created in God’s image, that no ruler is above the law, that everyone is entitled to justice.  These are revolutionary Jewish ideas, and they were spoken thousands of years ago – when vast empires ruled the earth, vast slave empires ruled the world. And the Jews spoke these truths.

Israel is the cradle of our common civilization.  It’s the crucible of our common values.  And the modern state of Israel was founded precisely on these eternal values.  And this is why Israel’s more than 1 million Muslims enjoy full democratic rights.  This is why the only place in the Middle East where Christians are completely free to practice their faith is the democratic State of Israel.  And this is why Israel, and only Israel, can be trusted to ensure the freedom for all faiths in our eternal capital, the united city of Jerusalem.

My friends, Israel and America have drawn from these deep well springs of our common values.  We forged an enduring friendship not merely between our governments, but between our peoples.  Support for Israel doesn’t divide America.  It unites America.  It unites the old and the young, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. And, yes, Joe Lieberman, it even unites independents.  I want to take this opportunity to salute one of the great senators in my lifetime, a man who’s given unbelievable service to his country, America, and has been unbelievably dedicated to Israel and the Jewish people.  Thank you, Joe Lieberman.

You see, this broad support for Israel in the United States is a tremendous help and gives tremendous strength to my country.  And since Harry Truman, Israel has looked to American presidents to stand by it as we meet the unfolding challenges of a changing world.

Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented. He spoke of that commitment not just in front of AIPAC.  He spoke about it in two speeches heard throughout the Arab world.  And he has backed those words with deeds.

I know these are tough economic times. So I want to thank the president and Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can defend itself by itself.  I want to thank you all for supporting the Iron Dome missile defense system.  A few weeks ago, Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired eight rockets at our cities, at Ashkelon and Beer Sheva. Now, these rockets never reached their targets.  Iron Dome intercepted them in midair.  For the first time, a missile defense system worked in combat. That’s a precedent in military history.  And I want to say thank you, America.

America and Israel are cooperating in many other ways as well.  We’re cooperating in science, in technology, in trade, in investment.  It’s not only American companies that are investing in Israel.  It’s Israeli companies investing in America.  In the last decade, Israeli companies have invested more than $50 billion in the United States.  One of those companies is investing just down the road in Richmond.  It’s a company that is building a food factory. Now, here’s what it means – more business, more jobs, and, yes, more hummus.

Well, it’s not just food we’re bringing to America.  Take medicine.  Israel is advancing cure for multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, cancer.  We’ve developed mechanical means to make paraplegics walk again.  We’ve placed a tiny diagnostic camera inside a pill.  I have not swallowed it, but I understand it’s quite effective.

And you’ve just heard of this miraculous bandage developed by an Israeli company that has helped save Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ life.  And I wish Gabby, a great friend of Israel, “Refuah Shlema”, a happy, quick, speedy recovery.

Israel and America are also cooperating to end the world’s worst addiction, the addiction to oil.  This dependence fuels terrorism.  It poisons the planet.  So we’ve launched a 10-year program in Israel to kick the habit, to find a substitute for gasoline.  And if we succeed, we can change the world.  We can change history.

My friends, the American people’s support for Israel is reflected in my invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress tomorrow.  Thank you, John Boehner, for that invitation.  I will talk about the great convulsion taking place in the Middle East, the risks and the opportunities.  And I will talk about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran.  And I will also outline a vision for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace.  I intend to speak the unvarnished truth because now, more than ever, what we need is clarity.

And events in our region are finally opening people’s eyes to a simple truth.  Events in the region are opening people’s eyes to a simple truth: The problems of the region are not rooted in Israel.  The remarkable scenes we’re witnessing in town squares across the Middle East and North Africa are occurring for a simple reason: People want freedom.  They want progress.  They want a better life.

For many of the peoples of the region, the 20th century skipped them by.  And now 21st century technology is telling them what they missed out on.  You remember that desperate food vendor in Tunis?  Why did he set himself on fire?  Not because of Israel.  He set himself on fire because of decades of indignity, decades of intolerable corruption.

And the millions who poured into the streets of Tehran, Tunis, Cairo, Sanaa, Benghazi, Damascus, they’re not thinking about Israel.  They’re thinking of freedom.  They’re yearning for opportunity.  They’re yearning for hope for themselves and for their children.  So it’s time to stop blaming Israel for all the region’s problems.

Let me stress one thing.  Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital interest for us.  It would be the realization of a powerful and eternal dream.  But it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East.  It will not give women in some Arab countries the right to drive a car.  It will not prevent churches from being bombed.  It will not keep journalists out of jail.

What will change this?  One word: Democracy – real, genuine democracy.  And by democracy, I don’t just mean elections.  I mean freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, the rights for women, for gays, for minorities, for everyone.  What the people of Israel want is for the people of the Middle East to have what you have in America, what we have in Israel — democracy.  So it’s time to recognize this basic truth.  Israel is not what’s wrong with the Middle East.  Israel is what’s right about the Middle East.

My friends, we want peace because we know the pain of terror and we know the agony of war.  We want peace because we know the blessings peace could bring – what it could bring to us and to our Palestinian neighbors.  But if we hope to advance peace with the Palestinians, then it’s time that we admitted another truth.  This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it.  They refuse to accept the Jewish state.

Now, this is what this conflict has always been about.  There are many issues linked to this conflict that must be resolved between Israelis and Palestinians.  We can, we must, resolve them.  But I repeat: We can only make peace with the Palestinians if they’re prepared to make peace with the Jewish State.

Tomorrow in Congress, I’ll describe what a peace between a Palestinian state and the Jewish State could look like.  But I want to assure you of one thing.  It must leave Israel with security.  And therefore, Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines.

I’ll talk about these and other aspects of peace tomorrow in Congress.  But tonight I want to express Israel’s gratitude for all you are doing to help strengthen Israel and the great alliance that Israel has with America.  You helped maintain our qualitative military edge.  You backed sanctions against Iran.  You supported genuine peace.  You opposed Hamas.  And you’ve joined President Obama and me in denouncing Hamas and demanding that it release our captive soldier, Gilad Shalit.  That’s another outrageous crime of Hamas.  Just imagine keeping a young soldier locked in a dark dungeon for five years without even a single visit – not a single visit of the Red Cross.  I think that the entire civilized community should join Israel and the United States and all of us in a simple demand from Hamas: Release Gilad Shalit.

My friends, I spent my high-school years in Philadelphia.  I understand it’s developed quite a bit since then.  But during those years, when it was a sleepier town, I used to go visit the Liberty Bell.  Now, as Prime Minister of Israel, I can walk down the street and see an exact replica of that bell in Jerusalem’s Liberty Park.  On both bells is the same inscription.  It comes from the Bible, from the book of Leviticus , “U’kratem Dror BaAretz L’chol Yoshveha”, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land.”  My dear friends, this is the essence of the great alliance between our two nations – two peoples bonded in liberty and seeking freedom and peace for all.  That’s what this alliance is all about.  And you are part of it.  You maintain it.

I thank you on behalf of the people of Israel and the government of Israel. Thank you for the American-Israel alliance. Thank you, AIPAC.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Speaks at Policy Conference 2011 – Part 1

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Speaks at Policy Conference 2011 – Part 2

Israel Political Brief May 23, 2011: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Gives Speech at AIPAC — AIPAC Roundup

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

IN FOCUS

  • Reporters’ Notebook: AIPAC 2011: The centerpiece of AIPAC’s annual conference, the gala banquet, is a little like the Oscars: The room is full of celebrities, speeches are interspersed with emotional video montages, the highlight that everyone’s waiting for comes at the end, and the main event is followed by exclusive after-parties.
    There are a few differences, too, of course. Instead of Hollywood’s elite, it’s the political elite that shows up. This year, 67 members of the U.S. Senate and 286 members of the House of Representatives came, along with a smattering of Obama administration officials, Knesset members and diplomats from around the world. Former NBA All-Star Allan Houston helped emcee the evening.
    At the after-parties, instead of inebriated celebs showing off their evening gowns, or what’s under them, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) hosted parties in conference rooms with kosher brownies and chocolate chip cookies, and the buzz was about the next presidential election.
    And unlike the Oscars, the AIPAC dinner is a little less exclusive: As long as you pay your registration fee, you get a seat at a table. This year as every year, the dinner for 10,000 — approximately 1,500 of whom were bumped to a satellite ballroom — marked the world’s largest single kosher meal. The menu? Stuffed Cornish hen…. – JTA, 5-24-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Netanyahu to Present Vision for Peace to Congress: Israel’s prime minister said he will present his vision for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace when he addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday morning.
    Speaking at the annual banquet dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee late netanyahu youtubeMonday night in Washington, Benjamin Netanyahu told the crowd of 10,000, “Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital need for us. Peace would be the realization of a powerful and eternal dream. But it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East.”
    Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for the failure to realize peace, saying, “This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state.”
    While other speakers at Monday’s gala dinner referenced President Obama’s call last week and Sunday for the pre-1967 lines to serve as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Netanyahu did not address that issue. Rather, he stressed some of the points Obama noted in his own speech to AIPAC on Sunday that were welcomed by the largely Jewish audience, including the president’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security.
    “He spoke of that commitment not just in front of AIPAC, but in two speeches heard throughout the Arab world,” Netanyahu said of Obama. “And President Obama has backed those words with deeds. I know these are tough economic times. So I want to thank the president and Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can defend itself by itself.”… – Virtual Jerusalem Post, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu: Israel cannot return to 1967 borders: Israel’s prime minister promised to present his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace in a speech before U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday, but vowed his country would not return to mid-1967 borders that he termed “indefensible.”
    Benjamin Netanyahu made this pledge in an address Monday to thousands of pro-Israel American Jews and U.S. lawmakers. His speech drew roaring cheers and standing ovations, a sign of the powerful backing he enjoys in the U.S. as the White House pressures him to do more to renew stalled Mideast peacemaking.
    The warm reception Netanyahu enjoyed at the gala dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee contrasted sharply with the contentious quality of some of his recent exchanges with President Barack Obama precisely over border issues…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Left-wing hecklers interrupt Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC: Activists interrupt the prime minister’s address to the pro-Israel advocacy group and criticize his policies toward the Palestinians.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. on Monday night was interrupted by left-wing protesters who heckled him and criticized his policies toward the Palestinians.
    Protesters from the group Move Over AIPAC, at least some of whom say they are Jewish, stood up, held up banners and made statements criticizing Israeli defense policies…. – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu Says Israel Will Not Return To 1967 Borders: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says his government will not agree to return Israel to the borders it held before 1967’s Six Day War.
    In a speech to pro-Israel lobbyists for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington on May 23, Netanyahu repeated his position that such territorial lines are “indefensible” for current-day Israel. He said he would make this clear in a speech to the U.S. Congress on May 24.
    “Tomorrow, in Congress, I will describe what a peace between a Palestinian state and the Jewish state could look like,” Netanyahu said. “But I want to assure you of one thing: It must leave Israel with security, and therefore Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines.”… – Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu gets his turn to talk to American pro-Israel lobby: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets his chance Monday night to address the main U.S. Jewish lobby when he speaks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks to the group the day before.
    Obama on Sunday sought to tamp down any controversy over his remarks last week that Israeli- Palestinian negotiations should start from pre-1967 borders and include land swaps. The proposal, a longstanding formulation in peace talks that Obama for the first time expressed as official U.S. policy, was immediately rejected by Netanyahu as unrealistic and prompted criticism from political opponents back home.
    Now Netanyahu will have the final word on the issue, at least for now. He sounded more conciliatory toward Obama after the U.S. president sought to reassure the vital U.S. Jewish lobby on Sunday of his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security while also making clear his desire to kick-start the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a time when the entire Middle East landscape is changing amid the so-called Arab Spring demonstrations…. – CNN, 5-23-11
  • Netanyahu speech eyed for sign of U.S.-Israel rift: When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress on Tuesday, many will be watching to see whether he escalates a war of words with the White House over how to make peace in the Middle East.
    Netanyahu has a mostly sympathetic ear in Congress, where few lawmakers in either party speak up for the Palestinians, hewing to decades of close U.S.-Israeli ties.
    But the Israeli prime minister has had a rocky relationship with President Barack Obama, and last week said the president’s vision of a Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967 could leave Israel “indefensible.”
    Obama articulated that vision on Thursday in a major policy speech on the Middle East. His position essentially embraced the Palestinians’ view that the state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza should largely be drawn along lines that existed before the 1967 war in which Israel captured those territories and East Jerusalem.
    On Sunday Obama seemed to ease Israeli anger somewhat when he made clear that the Jewish state would likely be able to negotiate keeping some settlements as part of a land swap in any final deal with the Palestinians.
    Netanyahu voiced appreciation for those comments, and some analysts think Netanyahu will not further escalate the quarrel with Obama in his remarks to Congress on Tuesday.
    “Netanyahu will most likely try to tone down any perceived differences between his position and the president’s, because his disagreements with President Obama have become counterproductive for both and ultimately undermine Israel’s own interests,” said Haim Malka, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
    But Republicans in Congress, including House leaders, are not about to drop their criticism of the Democratic president’s newly articulated Mideast vision.
    House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said Monday that Obama’s comments on Middle East borders left “most Americans … just questioning what kind of strategy there is. It doesn’t make sense to force a democratic ally of ours into negotiating with now a terrorist organization” about land swaps…. – Reuters, 5-23-11
  • Bibi present, Jewish groups debate partisanship: A bipartisan meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Blair House today included moments of sharply partisan tension, sources in the room said.
    As Jewish Democrats stressed the need for a united, bi-partisan American conversation on Israel, the chief of a Jewish Republican group reserved the right to attack Democrats who stray from the pro-Israel line in an unusually frank exchange before a foreign leader.
    “The [Republican Jewish Coalition] and [National Jewish Democratic Council] argued between them,” Israeli Embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled said. “The Prime Minister stressed bipartisanship … and the importance of keeping Israel a bipartisan issue, as has always been the case.”…
    But the meeting came at a moment of high tension between Netanyahu — and his American Republican alies — and President Barack Obama, with many Republicans in no mood to cede political ground on the charged question of Israel. Obama this week sought to lay out an American baseline for future negotiations…. “Several people in the room, on both sides of the aisle, discussed that Israel cannot become a partisan political issue, that if it becomes so then no one wins and Israel loses,” said Jonathan Beeton, Wasserman Schultz’s communications director. – Politico, 5-23-11
  • Benjamin Netanyahu Has Private Sit Down With Bipartisan Group Of Israel Advocates, Lawmakers: In a relatively rare sign of bipartisan collaboration on the Israel-Palestine conflict, a group of Democratic and Republican advocates and several lawmakers sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday for a midday briefing.
    The meeting — which was planned nearly a week ago but remained unknown to the press — featured officials with both the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the National Democratic Jewish Council (NJDC), two groups often at polar ends of the debate over U.S. policy in the the Middle East. Additionally, an aide familiar with the meeting told The Huffington Post that Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel — two of the highest-ranking Jewish members of Congress — were present. Wasserman Schultz’s office confirmed her attendance.
    “It’s safe to say that the conversation taking place in the room is about the bi-partisan support for Israel,” said the aide.
    “While we don’t see eye to eye with the leadership of the Republican Jewish Coalition on many domestic policies, when it comes to the need for a powerfully strong U.S.-Israel relationship, on this we agree,” read a statement from Marc R. Stanley, chairman of the NJDC and David A. Harris, president and CEO of the NJDC. “We welcome this opportunity to place partisanship aside and discuss ways we can work together to help our close ally Israel — just as we strive every day to keep Israel from being used as a partisan wedge issue in the political arena. As we’ve said repeatedly, the stakes are too high for such antics.”… – Huff Post, 5-23-11
  • At AIPAC, effort to shift focus back to agenda: Iran, foreign aid, Capitol Hill relationships: Let’s get past this U.S.-Israel relationship thing, so we can get on with important stuff, like the U.S.-Israel relationship.
    That seemed to be the message this week at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
    With a record 10,000 people and both the U.S. and Israeli leaders in attendance — plus 67 U.S. senators and 286 members of the U.S. House of Representatives at the gala dinner on Monday night — this AIPAC parley was the biggest and in many ways the most impressive ever.
    After the bickering last week between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, AIPAC leaders were keen to focus on what they had hoped would be the headline-makers for this conference: Yanking the public’s attention back to Iran after months of distraction by the so-called Arab Spring, and bludgeoning the Palestinian Authority with the threat of isolation if it presses forward with its inclusion of Hamas and its quest for statehood recognition at the United Nations in September.
    The other agenda item for the AIPAC crowd was trying to make sense of how to foster support for Israel in a U.S. electorate that is changing more rapidly and dramatically than it has in generations…. – JTA, 5-23-11
  • Palestinian Vote at U.N. Looms Over U.S.-Israel Rift: Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly clashed with President Barack Obama on Friday, the Israeli leader still needs American help on a looming test: a proposed United Nations vote on a resolution to recognize Palestinian statehood.
    The vote at September’s U.N. General Assembly, would be mostly symbolic, and carry little legal weight. But passage—which is expected if the resolution proceeds to a vote—would be a very visible show of Israel’s isolation on the international stage.
    It could also undercut the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process—a focus of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy—by removing the promise of statehood as a motivating force. And it would give the Palestinians more leverage if talks do resume.
    Mr. Netanyahu told Mr. Obama, in front of the media in the Oval Office on Friday, that the president’s call for peace talks based on Israel’s borders before it gained new territory in 1967, with negotiated land swaps, was a nonstarter.
    Mr. Netanyahu’s stance and combative tone won praise from his hard-line political supporters in Israel, who had been unnerved by a speech this month in which Mr. Netanyahu articulated a more moderate view of a peace settlement. Many in Israel, who see the wave of Arab revolutions empowering new parties hostile to their country, say now isn’t the time for concessions.
    Yet as Mr. Obama began a six-day European tour Monday, some critics said Mr. Netanyahu’s aggressive stance could undermine the Obama administration’s efforts to lobby European leaders to vote against Palestinian statehood.
    “There is panic in Israeli government political circles about the U.N. resolution in September and the U.N. is an arena where Israel has almost zero influence,” said Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad officer who was an adviser to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. “Netanyahu and his aides have got to be saying to themselves, ‘Can I depend on American support after lecturing the U.S. president in the Oval Office?'”… – WSJ, 5-23-11
  • Bibi and Sara take DC PM leads wife on romantic sunset stroll through US capital ahead of Congress, AIPAC speeches: After meeting with leaders of the American Jewish community Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, clad in sportive attire, went on a sunset stroll through Washington DC.
    The Prime Minister’s Office stated that during the one hour and a half outing, the couple walked by historical landmarks that include Former US Presidents Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial sites and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
    “The prime minister and his wife discussed the history of the United States during their stroll, and from time to time stopped to look at the scenery and the river. When they reached the Jefferson Memorial, the prime minister recited by heart the US Declaration of Independence,” the Prime Minister’s Office wrote in a statement…. – YNet News, 5-23-11
  • US-Israel lobby ‘hopeful’ but wary of Arab Spring: The head of US-Israel lobby AIPAC hailed Monday the “green shoots of democracy” pushing out Arab autocrats, but Israel’s American supporters remain wary of the impacts of uncertain popular uprisings.
    Howard Kohr, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told thousands of delegates that while recent months have brought the most dramatic change in the region since the Jewish state’s founding in 1948, they are also jeopardizing Israel’s entire security framework.
    “The fact is, this most hopeful time of change in the region is at the same time one of the most challenging periods in Israel’s history.”
    For decades, he said, Israel has been the region’s lone democracy “in a sea of dictatorships,” with peace and war constantly in the balance.
    This year, the AIPAC Policy Conference — which drew US President Barack Obama as keynote speaker Sunday and will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Monday — gathers “at a moment of great transition and hopeful anticipation.”
    “We should all celebrate the genuine green shoots of democracy in the Arab world,” Kohr said…. – AP, 5-23-11
  • Is Obama charting a new course on Israeli-Palestinian issues?: President Obama knew he had some damage control to do when he took the podium before thousands of Israel supporters on Sunday morning at the opening plenary of the annual AIPAC conference.
    But he wasn’t offering any apologies for his speech three days earlier that called for “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” to serve as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
    Rather, Obama offered mostly reassurances and clarifications. He also issued a blunt warning that doing nothing undermines U.S. efforts to fend off Israel’s diplomatic isolation and the Palestinians’ plan to obtain recognition of statehood at the United Nations in September.
    It’s unclear if Obama’s maneuvering will do anything to stanch the Palestinian statehood effort or the campaign to isolate Israel. But either way, Obama said, Israel and its supporters should not be alarmed by his remarks about the 1967 lines: All he did was go public with a well-established formula, he said, one that “by definition” means “the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate” a new border taking into account “new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.”
    However, a close reading of what Obama said and left unsaid in his two recent speeches hints at a few significant ways that Obama’s approach to resolving the conflict may differ from that of his predecessors. But scant on details, his remarks also raise more questions than they answer…. – JTA, 5-23-11
  • Israelis Protest Against Obama: Israeli protesters demonstrated against President Obama’s recent statements on Israel and the Palestinians in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.israelis protest obama
    Donning symbolic nooses around their necks and holding banners reading “Israel Won’t Commit Suicide,” some 100 protesters from My Israel, an organization representing settlers and hard-line groups, gathered Sunday outside the embassy to protest Obama’s recent declarations on his vision for a future Palestinian state.
    The protesters gathered at the same time that Obama addressed AIPAC in Washington at the pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference.
    “We support America, but we can say to you Obama, you are wrong,” Ayelet Shaked, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-23-11
  • Israelis protest Obama policies at embassy in Tel Aviv: Israeli protesters demonstrated against President Obama’s recent statements on Israel and the Palestinians in front of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.
    Donning symbolic nooses around their necks and holding banners reading “Israel Won’t Commit Suicide” some 100 protestors from My Israel, an organization representing settlers and hard-line groups, gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Sunday to protest President Obama’s recent declarations on his vision for a future Palestinian state.
    The protesters gathered at the same time Obama addressed AIPAC.
    “We support America, but we can say to you, Obama you are wrong,” Ayelet Shaked, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd.
    “In your speech you abandoned a friend. You betrayed the only true democracy in the Middle East (and) America’s only friend and ally, Israel,” she said, referring to the president’s new Mideast policy speech delivered at the U.S. State Department on May 19 in which he outlined a future Palestinian state according to pre-1967 lines combined with mutually-agreed upon land swaps.
    In a statement, the My Israel group described Obama’s new policy as requiring “exaggerated concessions from Israel without requesting Palestinians give up the right of return.” – JTA, 5-23-11
  • Netanyahu ‘pleased’ with Obama’s AIPAC address:
    PM’s aides describe speech as ‘befitting,’ say Obama’s clarifications about 1967 borders particularly pleasing. ‘I’m determined to work with president Obama to find a way to reignite the peace process,’ Netanyahu says
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates were satisfied by US President Barack Obama’s clarifications during his address to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in Washington, Sunday. Netanyahu and his aides reportedly watched Obama’s AIPAC speech at Blair House – the president’s official guest house….
    “I share the President’s wish to promote peace and I appreciate his past and present efforts to achieve this goal. I am determined to work with President Obama in order to find ways to resume the peace negotiations. Peace is a vital necessity for us all,” Netanyahu said.
    Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who was present at the AIPAC speech, said that the two-state solution was first and foremost an Israeli interest. “Israel must lead in partnership with the US… the world looks up to the US’ relationship with Israel, so the message coming out of Washington these days is very important,” she said. – YNet News, 5-22-11
  • Netanyahu says he’s determined to work with Obama on peace: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “appreciated” President Obama’s speech to AIPAC and that he is “determined to work together” with the president to advance peace.
    “I join in the president’s desire to advance peace, and I appreciate his past and present efforts to achieve this goal,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued after Obama addressed the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference.
    “I am determined to act together with President Obama to find ways to renew the peace negotiations,” he said. “Peace is a fundamental need for us all.”…. – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Canada Rejects ’67 Intervention, Unless Israel Agrees: Canada refuses to join the United States in calling for Israel to return to 1949 Armistice borders, the Ottawa Globe and Mail reported Monday.canda israel support
    At a briefing ahead of the G8 summit that is about to begin in France, federal Canadian officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
    “What the government of Canada supports is basically a two-state solution that is negotiated,” a senior federal official said. “If it’s [the] border, if it’s other issues, it has to be negotiated, it cannot be unilateral action.”
    When the officials were “pressed by reporters,” the Globe and Mail said, they explained that “both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to decide on their bottom lines, which the Israelis have said will not include a return to the 1967 border.”
    An official who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “If the two parties are of the view that this is a starting point, that is fine for them.”
    Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, added that Canada’s position continues to be the search for a two-state solution. “No solution, ultimately, is possible without both parties sitting down, negotiating and agreeing on what that final outcome will look like,” he said…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-23-11

QUOTES

  • Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at AIPAC 2011: …Let me stress one thing. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital interest for us. It would be the realization of a powerful and eternal dream. But it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East. It will not give women in some Arab countries the right to drive a car. It will not prevent churches from being bombed. It will not keep journalists out of jail.
    What will change this? One word: Democracy – real, genuine democracy. And by democracy, I don’t just mean elections. I mean freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, the rights for women, for gays, for minorities, for everyone. What the people of Israel want is for the people of the Middle East to have what you have in America, what we have in Israel – democracy. So it’s time to recognize this basic truth. Israel is not what’s wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what’s right about the Middle East.
    My friends, we want peace because we know the pain of terror and we know the agony of war. We want peace because we know the blessings peace could bring – what it could bring to us and to our Palestinian neighbors. But if we hope to advance peace with the Palestinians, then it’s time that we admitted another truth. This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state.
    Now, this is what this conflict has always been about. There are many issues linked to this conflict that must be resolved between Israelis and Palestinians. We can, we must, resolve them. But I repeat: We can only make peace with the Palestinians if they’re prepared to make peace with the Jewish state…. – Transcript, 5-23-11
  • Livni: 2-state solution good for Israel: Israel’s opposition leader tells AIPAC two-state solution vital for Jewish State, not anti-Israeli. Only way to avert clash between Israel’s Jewishness, democracy is to ensure Jewish majority, she says
    Give peace a chance: The two-state solution is good for Israel and is the only way to maintain a state that is both Jewish and democratic, Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni told the AIPAC conference in Washington Monday.
    “It is not an anti-Israeli policy – it is vital for Israel’s interests,” she said.
    The “only way” to avert a clash between Israel’s Jewishness and democracy is to maintain a Jewish majority in the country, the opposition leader stressed, urging the government to take action to that effect.
    “Inaction is not an option,” Livni stressed, adding that when Israel speaks clearly, the world “hears our voice.”
    “If we won’t shape our future – others will do it for us,” she warned.
    She also noted that peace with Hamas would be impossible to achieve, as the group represents “religious ideology and there is no way to solve religious conflict.” – YNet, 5-24-11
  • Speaker Boehner Reaffirms U.S. Support for “Safe and Secure Israel,” Calls for Well-Defined U.S. Nat’l Security Goals: On the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the joint meeting of Congress Tuesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner is set to deliver an address to AIPAC Monday night, where he will reaffirm America’s support for a “safe and secure” Israel, while rejecting the notion that the U.S. is “too pro-Israel,” calling that suggestion an obstacle to peace in the region.
    “The work of achieving a safe and secure Israel has never been easy, but the cause is right, and let me tell you—that cause has my one hundred percent support,” Boehner, R-Ohio, pledges according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by ABC News. “Israel has demonstrated time and again it seeks nothing more than peace with its neighbor. In a negotiation, both sides need to make serious compromises. And like every prime minister before him, Prime Minister Netanyahu knows this and accepts it.”
    Boehner will also call on the White House and Congress to provide a better understanding of U.S. national security policies and goals in order to alleviate any concern from allies about where America’s priorities stand.
    “Some people complain that the United States is too pro-Israel. Let me tell you what I think: Doubts about what America stands for – and who America stands with – slow the search for peace and stability,” Boehner is set to say. “The president and the Congress should work together so that the American people –and our friends, and yes, our enemies– understand our national security policies and our goals. And so that our allies, allies like Israel, have no cause to doubt that we will be with them through thick and thin.”
    Boehner also will speak to the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, noting that Iranian officials have undoubtedly “taken notice of how the United States has responded to Libya –versus how it has responded to North Korea,” and suggesting that anyone who doubts the Iranian regime’s quest for nuclear weapons is “awfully optimistic.”
    According to Boehner, the top solution to the Iranian threat is a political uprising by the people of Iran, similar to those taking place across the region the past few months.
    “Looming over the entire region is, of course, the Iranian regime and the threat it poses to the there and in the wider world,” Boehner warns. “The best remedy for that threat to the world is if the people of Iran rise up and replace that regime, just as the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have been replaced—and as we all hope those in Libya and Syria will be as well, so that the peoples of those countries can escape from tyranny into freedom.”
    “We should make it clear—clearer than it has been for the last two years—that America is on the side of those who yearn and struggle for their freedom,” Boehner adds. “That is our historic and moral responsibility as a great and free Nation and we should never apologize or be ashamed of that role.”
    Boehner says that the Arab Spring marks “an overdue rejection of corruption and police states” while the people “battle for the region’s political identity.”
    “Will they now build governments that respect human life and dignity, that uphold human rights, and where the people rule?” Boehner asks, “Or will we see women and religious minorities repressed and fundamental rights abridged.”… – ABC News, 5-23-11
  • Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader: Did not mince words in rejecting Obama’s prescription for negotiations based on the 1967 lines with swaps. “No one should set premature parameters about the borders, about building, about anything else,” he said in his speech to AIPAC.
  • AIPAC chief: Obama should not be even-handed toward Israel and Palestinians: Day after U.S. president clarifies vision of Palestinian state within 1967 borders, director of pro-Israel lobby urges Jerusalem and Washington to avoid any public display of diplomatic crisis, as it would likely be exploited by Israel’s enemies.
    AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr said Monday that U.S. President Barack Obama should not take an even-handed approach to the Middle East conflict, as it puts Israel at a disadvantage.
    “Part of being an honest broker is being honest,” Kohr said in an address to AIPAC, a day after Obama spoke to the pro-Israel lobby and clarified his remarks regarding his vision for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, adding “that honesty “should not be confused with even-handedness”.
    “In a world which is demonstrably on the side of the Palestinians and Arabs – where Israel stands virtually alone – the United States has a special role to play,” said the AIPAC director. “When the United States is even-handed, Israel is automatically at a disadvantage, tilting the diplomatic playing field overwhelmingly toward the Palestinians and Arabs.”
    The AIPAC leader also said that no settlement imposed on the Palestinians or on Israel could succeed. “When neither party owns the plan or has responsibility to accept it, that plan is doomed to fail,” he added….
    “If Israel’s foes come to believe that there is diplomatic daylight between the United States and Israel, they will have every incentive to try to exploit those differences and shun peace with the Jewish state,” warned the AIPAC director.
    He also said that Netanyahu was “ready and willing” to negotiate for peace with the Palestinians, but that it was up to the other side to make a positive step forward.
    “There is still time for a Palestinian leader to be bold and creative: to turn back from the current dead end; to reject Hamas; to reject the international path; to reject the road to unilateral recognition at the United Nations and instead to embrace the chance to sit down with Israel to negotiate a real peace,” said Kohr.
    “To say to those who profess to stand for peace: There can be no end to strife for the Palestinian people unless their leaders pursue a partnership in peace with Israel,” he added. – Haaretz, 5-23-11
  • Sarah Palin: Barack Obama’s Disregard for Ally’s Security Begs Clarity: As I noted on Judge Jeanine Pirro’s show this weekend, I reject President Obama’s idea that Israel must cede back its territories to the 1967 line. Will we now be in the habit of telling our allies what their borders should be? Should Prime Minister Netanyahu suggest we return to our 1845 borders before the annexation of the southwest of the United States during the Mexican-American War? Should we give back parts of Texas, New Mexico, and California?
    But the problem is even deeper. In both his State Department speech and his speech yesterday at AIPAC, President Obama made some seemingly specific comments about the Palestinian state that he wants to see created. He either misspoke or he has even more dangerous plans for our friends in Israel than he is publicly admitting.
    In the State Department speech, President Obama said that he wants the borders of Palestine and Israel to “be based on the 1967 lines” (in other words, with both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as part of the new Palestinian state) and that he wants a Palestine that is a “sovereign and contiguous state” (emphasis added). The Merriam–Webster dictionary defines “contiguous” as “being in actual contact: touching along a boundary or at a point; of angles, adjacent; next or near in time or sequence; touching or connected throughout in an unbroken sequence,” like the “contiguous United States” which obviously excludes Alaska and Hawaii.
    But the 1967 lines do not include a “contiguous” Palestine. (See the map here.) So what does he mean? The President proposes “mutually agreed [land] swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Is linking Gaza and the West Bank with a road the “secured border” he has in mind? Or is he suggesting something more? Is it not possible he’s suggesting that the only way you can create a “contiguous” Palestinian state with “secured” borders is by carving Israel in half? Clarification on this point is of paramount importance, Mr. President.
    In fact, that leads me to another even bigger geographic problem with the President’s remarks. As the British newspaper The Independent points out, there is further confusion because President Obama said, “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.” As The Independent asks: “How does that square with the pre-1967 borders? Was the President implying that the new improved Israel will border neither Jordan nor Egypt, as it does now? Would Palestine’s contiguous territory come at the expense of Israel’s? Would Israel get the Gaza Strip and the Mediterranean and Palestine get the Negev and a Red Sea port?”
    Is that what you have in mind, Mr. President? Do you not want an Israeli border with Egypt? You need to clarify what you mean. Diplomacy requires precision and you are causing enormous anxiety for some and making commitments to others that you might not be able to keep.
    It has long been the dream of radicals like Noam Chomsky to create a “contiguous Palestine.” True, President George W. Bush spoke ambiguously of a “contiguous” Palestinian state, but he never defined it geographically with borders the way President Obama has, and he had the security of our ally Israel in mind more than our current President. President Obama has in essence boxed Israel in without regard for the facts on the ground and without appreciating the fact that Israel looks across the negotiating table and sees the terrorist organization Hamas in alliance with Fatah. Israel has demonstrated in the past that it is willing to negotiate fairly with a genuine partner in peace. Just look at the treaty it maintains to this day with Egypt. All of this should have been considered and the President’s words should have been carefully measured so as to help and not hinder the peace process. Unfortunately, his words have caused confusion and distressed our ally. – Sarah Palin, Facebook, 5-23-11
  • Miri Regev: Land of Israel is ours: Knesset Member Miri Regev offers Netanyahu her version of speech for Congress… – YNet News, 5-24-11
  • Lieberman: Netanyahu’s stance on 1967 borders reflects viewpoint of most Israelis: During a Yisrael Beiteinu party meet, the foreign minister says that negotiating for the Palestinian right of return means the de facto elimination of Israel.
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman voiced support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance expressed during his trip to the United States, saying on Monday that Netanyahu’s viewpoints “reflect those of most of Israeli society.”
    In comments to the press in the U.S. on Friday, the prime minister told U.S. President Barack Obama that Israel cannot go back to the “indefensible’ 1967 borders, claiming they are not feasible in light of today’s security and demographic reality.
    “There is no need to turn every disagreement into drama.” He added, referring to the apparent tension, that the situation wasn’t “the apocalypse.”
    “Israel is ready to conduct peace negotiations at any given moment, but without pre-conditions” Lieberman said about stalled talks with the Palestinians.
    “Anyone who wants to conduct negotiations with us is welcome,” the foreign minister said. “All those who defend the Palestinian right of return needs to know consciously or unconsciously, that the intention is the de facto elimination of Israel.”
    Lieberman continued to emphasize that there would be no negotiations on the Palestinian right of return, “not even one refugee.”…. – Haaretz, 5-23-11
  • AIPAC likes Obama’s clarification on ’67 lines: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said it “appreciated” President Obama’s clarification that he did not expect Israel to return to its 1967 lines.
    “In particular, we appreciate his statement that the U.S. does not expect Israel to withdraw to the boundaries that existed between Israel and Jordan in 1967 before the Six-Day War,” the pro-Israel lobby said in a statement released after Obama delivered a speech Sunday to its annual policy conference.
    Some pro-Israel groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee praised the May 19 speech for its pro-Israel remarks, while others like the Zionist Organization of America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the reference to 1967 lines. AIPAC was notably silent. In its statement after his speech to the group Sunday, AIPAC also said it appreciated Obama’s posture on Hamas and Iran.
    “We also commend President Obama for his explicit condemnation of Hamas as a terrorist organization and his recognition that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a group that denies its fundamental right to exist,” AIPAC said. “We also welcome the president’s reaffirmation of his longstanding commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”… – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Gene Simmons Slams Obama, the UN: KISS rock star, Israeli-born Gene Simmons, tells the CNBC Christian network that U.S. President Barack Obama “has no idea of what the world is like.” He also calls the United Nations “the most pathetic body on the face of the earth.”
    Jane Wells interviewed Simmons on CNBC and asked him what he thinks of President Obama, for whom Simmons voted and now regrets it. He answered, “If you have never been to the moon, you can’t issue policy about the moon. For the president to be sitting in Washington D.C. and saying, ‘Go back to your ’67 borders in Israel’ – how abut you live there and try to defend an indefensible border – nine miles wide?”
    “On one side, you got hundreds of millions of people who hate your guts. On the other side you got the Mediterranean. Unless you control the Golan Heights, it is an indefensible position. it is a nice idea, [but] when you grow up, you find out that life is not the way you imagine it.
    “President Obama means well – I think he actually is a good guy, He has no idea of what the world is like because he does not have to live there.”… – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-23-11
  • Obama pre-1967 borders remark recalls Carter-Rabin kerfuffle: President Obama gave an internationally televised speech yesterday outlining United States Middle East policy. The address was largely lauded by American Jewish institutions, but raised some eyebrows while addressing the future borders of a Palestinian state, especially from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Washington today, and had responded that the pre-1967 lines are “indefensible.”
    In 1977, while U.S. attention was focussed on Israel’s borders with several Arab nations — though not about Palestinian state — a similar exchange over borders took place between the leaders of Israel and the U.S. –  JTA, 5-23-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gary Rosenblatt: An Insider’s Look At AIPAC Conference: Just Me And 10,000 Other Attendees: …My mantra, and futile complaint about Jewish public events, is “less is more.” But it never works that way. And truth to tell, the AIPAC conference is not geared to pleasing the media, nor should it be. It’s aimed at its delegates and does a terrific job of educating them about the issues through a variety of speakers at breakout sessions and of firing them up to be passionate, effective lobbyists – in Washington and back home.
    As for the prime minister’s remarks, I wrote about them in my column this week.
    I would just add that the crowd responded very effectively when five people heckled him – one at a time and a few minutes apart. Each time someone shouted out against Israeli policy, the delegates rose to their feet in applause of the prime minister, drowning out the protester. (Note to planners of this fall’s General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.)
    What leaves me worried, though, was the mood of anger and fear among AIPAC delegates stemming from President Obama’s State Department speech – particularly the line about the pre-1967 war boundaries being a starting point for negotiations – and revved up by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated insistence that those borders are “indefensible.”
    It seemed like Netanyahu purposefully responded in a confrontational way, initially and again Monday night. So it was not surprising to see some pro-Israel groups labeling Obama “the new Arafat” and putting out ads asserting that the President had called for Israel to “retreat” to the pre-`67 lines.
    It’s an emotional and dangerous over-reaction that could undermine the very theme of the AIPAC conference: “Best Together” in referring to the U.S. and Israel…. – The NY Jewish Week, 5-24-11
  • Obama’s Israel anorexia Op-ed: Just like anorexics, will US president realize error of his ways only after it’s too late?: I hate the fact that Israel’s appearance has been manipulated to that of the occupier, of the oppressor, the warmonger. None of that is true. Israel was created to be the homeland and safe haven for Jews in a world that has consistently and historically tried to destroy us. I am not happy with my knowledge, that the ultimate goal of our enemies is the destruction of Israel, the Jewish people, and afterward Western society. But unfortunately it is true, even if it’s not politically correct to say in today’s world….
    I would love to have the world applaud Israel’s bold steps for peace. Ignoring that the bold steps already taken at Oslo, in Lebanon, and Gaza did not get accolades, only further criticism on Israel and two wars, with the reality of two more coming soon.
    How long after a pullout to the 1967 borders will the Arabs, and soon after the world, insist on ending the “occupation” in other “territories” like Jaffa and Haifa? And how soon will we be told that there cannot be peace until the Palestinian country can defend itself with an army and defensive weapons? Of course, transporting weapons freely between Gaza and “mainland” Palestine is a basic right.
    I wonder, in the not so far off doomsday scenario, after Israel no longer exists; or maybe after Europe is Judenrein, will Obama, Blair and other lovers of peace realize that the goal was never about peace? Maybe after several more attacks on the US and the West will it become clear?
    The satisfaction of getting Obama to admit from deep in his protective bunker that he was mistaken is insignificant beyond belief compared to the cost. Of course, it is irreversible….
    Until there is a time when there is a real partner in peace and co-existence, Israel will have to suffer as the cruel, inflexible, unreasonable, uncompromising nation we are being portrayed as.
    We do not have the luxury of proving we are right. But maybe we can survive long enough until there is a real cure…. – YNet News, 5-24-11
  • Will Obama’s Israel stance really cost him Jewish support?: …There is one crucial difference between 2008 and 2012, of course: This time around, the eventual GOP nominee won’t be dumb enough to pick someone like Sarah Palin as Veep. The pick of Palin, observers concluded, drove older, swing-voting Jewish voters into the Obama camp and limited any damage he risked among that constituency.
    But even lacking a Palin factor, it’s hard to believe that Obama’s Israel stance will really cost him a meaningful level of Jewish support. I don’t doubt that in the wake of Obama’s speech, Democratic operatives are “scrambling to mollify the Jewish community,” as Reuters reports. It would be folly for Dems to take Jewish support for granted. But my bet is is that the vast majority of Jews will reject the line that Obama’s position is somehow an existential threat to Israel and will side with people like Abraham Foxman and Jeffrey Goldberg, who see Obama’s stance as an articulation of longtime U.S. policy and even see his overall approach as pro-Israel. Stay tuned for the next polling and the next financial disclosure reports. Should be very interesting. – WaPo, 5-23-11

Israel Political Brief May 22, 2011: Obama Addresses AIPAC — Reaffirms His Position on Israel’s 1967 Borders — Canada Objects, Palin, & Gingrich Criticize

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama to AIPAC: Israelis, Palestinians should negotiate a new border: President Obama said his call for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines did not mean the future state of Palestine would have those exact borders.
    “By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama said on Sunday morning to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.”
    Last week, Obama said Israeli-Palestinian peace talks should be based on the pre-’67 lines, with mutually agreed swaps. He also said the difficult issues of Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees should be deferred for later. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called such borders “indefensible.”
    “If there is a controversy, it’s not based on substance,” Obama said Sunday. “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.”… – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Obama Challenges Israel to Make Hard Choices: President Obama struck back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in a speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group on Sunday, defending his stance that talks over a Palestinian state should be focused on Israel’s pre-1967 borders, along with negotiated land swaps, and challenging Israel to “make the hard choices” necessary to bring about a stable peace.
    Mr. Obama, speaking before a conference of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, offered familiar assurances that the United States’ commitment to Israel’s long-term security was “ironclad.” But citing the rising political upheaval near Israel’s borders, he presented his peace plan as the best chance Israel has to avoid growing isolation.
    “We cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace,” Mr. Obama said. The world, he said, “is moving too fast.”
    Administration officials said it would be up to Mr. Obama, during an economic summit in Paris next weekend, to try to talk his European counterparts out of endorsing Palestinian statehood in a coming United Nations vote, a prospect that would deeply embarrass Israel. Some French officials have already indicated that they are leaning toward such an endorsement.
    “He basically said, ‘I can continue defending you to the hilt, but if you give me nothing to work with, even America can’t save you,’ ” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator and a fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group.
    The appearance by Mr. Obama on Sunday punctuated a tense week in which he and Mr. Netanyahu made their separate cases about Palestinian statehood to American audiences. Mr. Netanyahu will address the same group on Monday and will speak before Congress on Tuesday at the invitation of Republican lawmakers…. – NYT, 5-22-11
  • Obama seeks to reassure Israel on Mideast policy in speech at AIPAC conference: President Obama sought to reassure Israel and its supporters of “ironclad” U.S. support Sunday in a speech to a Jewish lobbying group that also warned that time could be running out for a peace accord with Palestinians.
    Obama, wading afresh into a topic that evoked anger from Israeli leaders last week, insisted again that 1967 boundary lines should be the starting point for talks on a new Palestinian state. But he allowed that the dividing line would be negotiated to accommodate Israeli settlements and security needs.
    “Israelis and Palestinians will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at its annual conference in Washington.
    While sticking to the views he outlined in a Middle East policy speech Thursday, Obama more clearly aligned his position on borders to one espoused by the George W. Bush administration in 2004. The Bush White House had concluded that a return to the precise boundaries that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War was “not realistic,” because of the presence of large Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
    Acknowledging that Israel faced “hard choices” and security risks, Obama argued that stalling on peace negotiations posed even greater dangers for the country’s survival. The Arab Spring movement and changing demographic forces — including growing numbers of Palestinians west of the Jordan River — present long-term challenges to Israel that will be resolved only by the creation of separate homelands for Jews and Palestinians, he said.
    “No matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option,” he said. “The status quo is unsustainable.”
    “No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction,” he said.
    Obama said he was not surprised by the uproar over his Thursday speech but added that “if there is controversy, it is not based on substance.”
    “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately,” he said. “I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.:”… – WaPo, 5-22-11
  • Obama to AIPAC: I won’t back down on Israel-Palestine border issue: Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, President Obama repeated his position that Israel-Palestine peace negotiations must acknowledge the 1967 borders as a starting point. But he also emphasized that US commitment to Israel’s security is ‘ironclad.’
    President Obama is not backing down on how to solve the Israel-Palestine border issue in achieving peace in the Middle East.
    Speaking Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – which identifies itself as America’s leading pro-Israel lobby – Obama reiterated his stance: Any negotiation has to begin by acknowledging the 1967 borders before the Six-Day War in which Israel occupied land in Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.
    Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, Obama sought to clarify what he had meant on Thursday regarding the 1967 borders.
    “By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama said. “It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides.”
    “The ultimate goal is two states for two people,” he said, “Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people – and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people – each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”… – CS Monitor, 5-22-11
  • Mideast Obama restates call for ‘1967 lines’ in Israeli-Palestinian talks: Unwilling to retreat from Benjamin Netanyahu’s angry outbursts, Barack Obama warned thousands of ardent pro-Israelis that finding a lasting peace with Palestinians begins with Israel’s pre-1967 frontiers.
    The U.S. President’s tone was soothing and his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee placatory, but he didn’t budge from his statement last week that has sparked a furor and the remarkable spectacle of an Israeli prime minister publicly disputing an American president in the Oval Office.
    As Mr. Obama reiterated Sunday, it remains the obvious – if not explicitly stated position by any previous president – that negotiating boundaries for a Palestinian state begins with Israel’s frontiers before the lightning war of June 1967, when Israel defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan, seizing and occupying the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the revered walled city of old Jerusalem.
    “If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance,” Mr. Obama said, added that he has said nothing new or startling, although his reference to “1967 lines” drew scattered boos from the audience that has been explicitly told to respectively receive speakers, even if they disagree.
    “It was my reference to the 1967 lines – with mutually agreed swaps – that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now,” Mr. Obama said. He said his position has been “misrepresented” although he didn’t call out Mr. Netanyahu – who will deliver his own version of the way forward Monday to the 10,000-plus AIPAC at the most powerful pro-Israeli group’s annual convention. (The blunt-speaking Israeli leader – whose relationship with Mr. Obama has ranged from distant to frosty – will give a speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress.)
    “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace.” “Delay will undermine security,” he added…. – The Globe & Mail, 5-22-11
  • Obama Quotes Talmud at AIPAC, Tells Hamas “Release Shalit”: In an address aimed at placating his disgruntled Jewish supporters, President Barack Obama told his audience of over 10,000 at the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday that “a strong and secure Israel is in the interest of the United States and the bond between our two vibrant democracies must be nurtured.”
    He maintained that he did not say anything fundamentally new in his Thursday speech, when he mentioned the “1967 borders” as a basis for future peace
    Taking intense criticism from pro-Israel supporters since then, when he called for Israel to negotiate a future Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, he sought to heal wounds by enumerating actions taken by the US to foster Israel’s security…. – Virtual Jerusalem Post, 5-22-11
  • Obama, at AIPAC, takes on the 1967 borders issue: An interesting morning at the AIPAC policy conference. Then again, how could it not be with President Barack Obama addressing more than 10,000 participants only days after giving a major policy address on the Middle East?
    I half expected a purely political speech, reaffirming his strong support for Israel, using key slogans like Israel’s qualitative military edge and banging away at Iran, and avoiding his call the other day for peace negotiations kith the Palestinians based on the 1967, with negotiated land swaps.
    In an almost stern tone, he referred to how his comments have been “misrepresented” – presumably by those pro-Israel activists who say he called for a return to the exact borders of 1967, which polite critics call “indefensible” and less polite ones call “Auschwitz borders.”
    He said that “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means that “the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”
    Then, an almost chiding tone: “If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.”
    His core argument: with the winds of change sweeping across the Arab world, with growing attempts to delegitimize Israel – which he promised his administration would “steadfastly” oppose – and with the Palestinian effort to bypass direct negotiations with its UN General Assembly gambit, the “status quo is unsustainable” and time is running out…. – The NY Jewish Week, 5-22-11
  • Protests Break Out at AIPAC During Obama’s Speech: KnightNews.com has a crew in Washington D.C. where protests against Israeli and US foreign policy are breaking out outside the AIPAC convention.
    KnightNews.com ilive streamed video of the protests, and we have concluded the live stream to go inside the conference and get video interviews with the other side. An updated video story with both sides will be posted as soon as possible. The protests came before, during and after US President Barack Obama spoke at the conference…. – Knight News, 5-22-11
  • ’67 lines not top Mideast peace hurdle: US lawmaker: Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist remains the primary impasse for Mideast peace, and not the recently revised dispute over territorial lines, the Republican US House majority leader said Sunday.
    Representative Eric Cantor, the most senior Jewish member in House history, also told the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference that it was time for the Arab world and Palestinians in particular to stop “scapegoating” Israel and to earn their statehood by renouncing violence.
    A Palestinian “culture infused with resentment and hatred” over the Jewish state is stymieing the peace process, which has all but frozen in recent months, and whose future is in turmoil with the Palestinian Authority recently signing a unity pact with Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist group.
    “It is this culture that underlies the Palestinians’ and the broader Arab world’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” Cantor said told some 10,000 delegates at AIPAC’s annual policy conference.
    “This is the root of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not about the ’67 lines,” he said to a rousing standing ovation.
    “And until Israel’s enemies come to terms with this reality, a true peace will be impossible.”… – AFP, 5-22-11
  • Several GOP presidential hopefuls to attend AIPAC Conference: As President Barack Obama’s Mideast speech this week came under fire from many in the Republican Party for not being supportive enough of Israel, several GOP prospective presidential candidates will be appearing this week at a major event sponsored by a key American Israeli lobbying organization.
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will attend a policy conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, Ari Goldberg, a spokesman for the group, confirmed to CNN.
    Obama will be making his first appearance as president before an AIPAC event when he addresses the conference Sunday morning. Several leading members of Congress are also scheduled to speak at the event…. – CNN, 5-21-11
  • Palin slams Obama, supports Israel: Former Alaska governor says US should defend Israel against enemies, adds her primary goal is to make sure Obama not reelected
    Former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin slammed Barack Obama’s Mideast policy speech, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “does not need to be lectured by President Obama on the importance of peace. He understands it.”
    In an interview for Fox News on Saturday, Palin went on to speak in support of the Jewish state: “Anyone who studies history, studies the Old Testament, studies geography understands that Israel now is surrounded by enemies at all times,” she said. “It should be now that America takes a stand in defending our enemies in Israel.
    “More than ever we should be standing strong with Israel and saying ‘No, you don’t have to divide Jerusalem, you don’t have to divide your capital city,’” she added.
    She continued to attack Obama, saying his foreign policy “really makes no sense.”
    “I’m going to call him our temporary leader because my goal is to make sure that President Obama is not reelected in 2012,” she said.
    Palin, who has yet to decide whether to run for president in the coming elections, wasn’t the only Republican to express disapproval of Obama following his tense weekend meeting with Netanyahu.
    Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a prominent contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said that Obama “threw Israel under the bus.”
    “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said.
    Tim Pawlenty, another Republican presidential hopeful, called Obama’s demand for Israel to return to 1967 borders a “disaster waiting to happen.”… – YNet News, 5-22-11
  • Ottawa won’t back Obama’s Mideast peace proposal: The Harper government is refusing to join the United States in calling for a return to 1967 borders as a starting point for Mideast peace, a position that has drawn sharp criticism from Canada’s staunch ally Israel.
    At a briefing ahead of the upcoming G8 summit in France, federal officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon.
    Israel quickly rejected U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposal for the talks to be guided by the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps.
    “What the government of Canada supports is basically a two-state solution that is negotiated,” a senior federal official said. “If it’s border, if it’s others issues, it has to be negotiated, it cannot be unilateral action.”
    Pressed by reporters, federal officials said both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to decide on their bottom lines, which the Israelis have said will not include a return to the 1967 border.
    “If the two parties are of the view that this is a starting point, that is fine for them,” said the federal official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
    The Prime Minister’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, added that Canada’s position continues to be the search for a two-state solution.
    “No solution, ultimately, is possible without both parties sitting down, negotiating and agreeing on what that final outcome will look like,” he said…. – The Globe & Mail, 5-22-11
  • Israel ‘approves new West Bank settler homes’: Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has approved the construction of 294 new homes in Beitar Ilit settlement on the occupied West Bank, anti-settlement NGO Peace Now reported on Sunday.
    It also said that work had started on more than 2,000 settler homes since the end in September of Israel’s 10-month freeze on Jewish construction on Palestinian land.
    Peace Now made its announcement as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington preparing to address the US Congress and a powerful pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
    It said Barak has also approved building of homes for the elderly and a shopping centre in the settlement of Efrat…. – AFP, 5-22-11

QUOTES

  • Remarks by the President at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011 Walter E. Washington Convention Center Washington, D.C.: THE PRESIDENT: ….Now, I’m not here to subject you to a long policy speech. I gave one on Thursday in which I said that the United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.
    On Friday, I was joined at the White House by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we reaffirmed — (applause) — we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years — that even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable — (applause) — and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad. (Applause.)
    A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and children can live free from the threat of violence. It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.
    America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place — and that’s the values we share. As two people who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers — and foremothers — fought must be the work of every generation. As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedoms we cherish must be constantly nurtured. And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland for the Jewish people. (Applause.)
    We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel living in a very tough neighborhood. I’ve seen it firsthand. When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland. When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map — face of the Earth.
    Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. (Applause.) It’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. (Applause.) And that includes additional support –- beyond regular military aid -– for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. (Applause.) A powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation — a powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. (Applause.)
    You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.) Here in the United States, we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. (Applause.) At the United Nations, under our leadership, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we’re going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear –- we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.)
    Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses. As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and we will stand up to groups like Hezbollah, who exercise political assassination and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.
    You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. (Applause.) As I said at the United Nations last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” (Applause.)
    So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. (Applause.) When an effort was made to insert the United Nations into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it. (Applause.)
    And so, in both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security. (Applause.) And it is precisely because of our commitment to Israel’s long-term security that we have worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. (Applause.)
    Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties. (Applause.) And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. (Applause.) No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. (Applause.) And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements. (Applause.) And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years. (Applause.)
    And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable. And that is why on Thursday I stated publicly the principles that the United States believes can provide a foundation for negotiations toward an agreement to end the conflict and all claims — the broad outlines of which have been known for many years, and have been the template for discussions between the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians since at least the Clinton administration.
    I know that stating these principles — on the issues of territory and security — generated some controversy over the past few days. (Laughter.) I wasn’t surprised. I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a President preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy. I don’t need Rahm to tell me that. Don’t need Axelrod to tell me that. But I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination. I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another. (Applause.) So I want to share with you some of what I said to the Prime Minister.
    Here are the facts we all must confront. First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. This will make it harder and harder — without a peace deal — to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.
    Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.
    Third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders. Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.
    And just as the context has changed in the Middle East, so too has it been changing in the international community over the last several years. There’s a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one, not just in the Arab World — in Latin America, in Asia, and in Europe. And that impatience is growing, and it’s already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.
    And those are the facts. I firmly believe, and I repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict. No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum. (Applause.) Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate. That is my commitment; that is my pledge to all of you. (Applause.)
    Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner –- which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist. (Applause.) And we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and for their rhetoric. (Applause.)
    But the march to isolate Israel internationally — and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations –- will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative. And for us to have leverage with the Palestinians, to have leverage with the Arab States and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success. And so, in advance of a five-day trip to Europe in which the Middle East will be a topic of acute interest, I chose to speak about what peace will require.
    There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations. Since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday — not what I was reported to have said.
    I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps — (applause) — so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
    As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself –- by itself -– against any threat. (Applause.) Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. (Applause.) And a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign and non-militarized state. (Applause.) And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated. (Applause.)
    Now, that is what I said. And it was my reference to the 1967 lines — with mutually agreed swaps — that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now. And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.
    By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. (Applause.) That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. (Applause.) It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people — (applause) — and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. (Applause.)
    If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. (Applause.) The world is moving too fast. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.
    Now, I know that some of you will disagree with this assessment. I respect that. And as fellow Americans and friends of Israel, I know we can have this discussion.
    Ultimately, it is the right and the responsibility of the Israeli government to make the hard choices that are necessary to protect a Jewish and democratic state for which so many generations have sacrificed. (Applause.) And as a friend of Israel, I’m committed to doing our part to see that this goal is realized. And I will call not just on Israel, but on the Palestinians, on the Arab States, and the international community to join us in this effort, because the burden of making hard choices must not be Israel’s alone. (Applause.)
    But even as we do all that’s necessary to ensure Israel’s security, even as we are clear-eyed about the difficult challenges before us, and even as we pledge to stand by Israel through whatever tough days lie ahead, I hope we do not give up on that vision of peace. For if history teaches us anything, if the story of Israel teaches us anything, it is that with courage and resolve, progress is possible. Peace is possible.
    The Talmud teaches us that, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.” And that lesson seems especially fitting today.
    For so long as there are those across the Middle East and beyond who are standing up for the legitimate rights and freedoms which have been denied by their governments, the United States will never abandon our support for those rights that are universal.
    And so long as there are those who long for a better future, we will never abandon our pursuit of a just and lasting peace that ends this conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security. This is not idealism; it is not naïveté. It is a hard-headed recognition that a genuine peace is the only path that will ultimately provide for a peaceful Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and a Jewish state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. (Applause.) That is my goal, and I look forward to continuing to work with AIPAC to achieve that goal.
    Thank you. God bless you. God bless Israel, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you. – Transcript
  • Gene Simmons Slams President Obama’s Israel Policy: ‘He Has No F-Ing Idea What The World Is Like’Breitbart, 5-22-11
  • Sarah Palin Criticizes Obama on Israel; Calls Him ‘Temporary Leader’: In an interview with Fox News’ Judge Jeanine on Saturday, Palin spoke in support of the Jewish state, saying, “Anyone who studies history, studies the Old Testament, studies geography understands that Israel now is surrounded by enemies at all times.
    “It should be now that America takes a stand in defending our friends in Israel.”
    Obama has been drawing fire from Republicans after delivering a major speech on Thursday. In it, he stated, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
    Also rejecting Obama’s stance, Palin stated on Fox, “To tell Israel that now they have to pull back from their homeland, that they have to concede even more, and that they have to negotiate with terrorists, with Hamas, having been a part now joining in the unity government under Palestinian authority, we’re flirting with disaster under President Obama’s very clouded, very murky foreign policy as it applies to Israel.”
    What the U.S. should be doing more than ever is “standing strong with Israel and saying, ‘No, you don’t have to divide Jerusalem, you don’t have to divide your capital city,’” she continued.
    Palin commented, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not need to be lectured by President Obama on the importance of peace. He understands it.”
    “I’m going to call him a temporary leader, because my goal is to make sure that President Obama is not reelected in 2012,” she said on Fox.
    “We the people need to rise up, saying we’ll take a stand for Israel. We’ll be on their side, no matter if our ‘temporary leader’ sides with terrorists and demands Israel negotiate with terrorists.
    “Until President Obama is replaced by a president who understands the importance of treating our friends right and being strong against our enemies – until that happens – it’s ‘We the People’ who have to rise up and make sure that Israel knows they have friends here.”… – Christian Post, 5-21-11
  • Newt Gingrich Leads Criticism on Obama’s Israel-Palestine Remarks: Republican presidential hopeful and Catholic convert Newt Gingrich has labeled President Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian policy a “disaster” during Sunday’s CBS program “Face the Nation.”
    Outspoken Gingrich said Obama’s remarks were “extraordinarily dangerous,” and further stated that “a president who can’t control his own border probably shouldn’t lecture Israel about their border.”
    Gingrich was referring to Obama’s comments this week that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations be based on border demarcations from before the six-day war in 1967, in which Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip among other territories. Furthermore, he stated that potential agreements should include land swap deals to reflect changes over recent decades.
    Gingrich said on “Face the Nation:” “I think that defining the 1967 border would be an act of suicide for Israel. They are totally non-defensible.
    “You have Hamas, which is a terrorist organization whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. The idea that somehow we’re supposed to be neutral between Hamas and Israel is fundamentally flawed and I do not believe that we should have any pressure on Israel as long as Hamas’ policy is the destruction of Israel and as long as missiles are being fired into Israel and terrorists are preparing to try to kill Israelis.”
    Gingrich is not the only one condemning Obama’s stance towards Israel; Congressman Ron Paul has also issued a blistering critique of Obama’s recent proposals.
    “Unlike this President, I do not believe it is our place to dictate how Israel runs her affairs,” the Texas Republican said in a press statement.
    “There can only be peace in the region if those sides work out their differences among one another. We should respect Israel’s sovereignty and not try to dictate her policy from Washington,” he added…. – Christian Post, 5-22-11
  • MK Katz Warns AIPAC, ‘Obama Put a Gun to Israel’s Head’: “Don’t fall for U.S. President Barack Obama’s magical oratory. He put a gun to Israel’s head and asked it to commit suicide,” National Union chairman and Knesset Member Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz MK wrote the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Sunday.
    The legislator continued, “I urge you not to be captured by his magic tongue because he actually is asking you for your votes and your money.”
    MK Katz wrote to AIPAC committee members, “The People of Israel, in the Diaspora for 2,000 years, developed a sense of who loves us and who hates us. President Obama knows very well that former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban described the 1967 borders as ‘Auschwitz borders.'”
    “The People of Israel will not fall for the false charm of posters, slogans, cellophane wrappers of sweetened drugs of death”, he concluded. – Israel National News, 5-22-11
  • Livni on Obama speech: US and Israel have shared interests: Opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday commented on US President Barack Obama’s speech to AIPAC earlier, saying “The principle of Israel’s security and the need to arrive at a two-state solution, one of which is the State of Israel, is first of all an Israeli interest. Therefore, we need to be going in this direction in our partnership with the US.”
    “It’s important to understand that the entire world looks at the relationship between Israel and the United States, especially those who still do not accept our existence here. And part of Israel’s deterrence capability comes from the understanding that we are working together [with the US]. Therefore, there is a very important message coming from Washington these days,” Livni said.
    She stressed, “The things that Obama mentioned represent a long-standing American policy. We have shared interests. This is very important to Israel, so that it can once and for all advance the process to prevent unilateral moves at the United Nations.” – JPost, 5-22-11
  • Eric Cantor: Israel is America’s Most Loyal Ally: Republican Eric Cantor, the GOP majority leader in the House of Representatives, addressed the attendees of the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
    Speaking of his immigrant roots and of his pride of being Jewish, Cantor told the audience that “America needs Israel as it is our most stable and loyal ally,” adding that “America must do everything in its power to protect Israel. It is okay to vilify Israel but it is not okay to scapegoat Israel.”
    He addressed the conflict between Israelis and Arabs and said that the root of the conflict is not the so-called 1967 lines (the 1949 armistice lines which defense experts have said would be indefensible), but rather the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel. Israel wants to live in peace, said Cantor, but PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has to stop promoting hate and should come to the negotiating table. Until that happens, noted Cantor, there can be no peace, particularly with Hamas being part of the PA government…. Israel National News, 5-22-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: Despite the talk about “Obama’s Mideast speech” Thursday, I actually heard two separate addresses. In the first, President Barack Obama offered vague nostrums about the “Arab spring,” best summarized in three words: Democracy is good. Obama transitioned awkwardly to the second speech, about Israelis and Palestinians, saying: “Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.” In this section, the professorial president turned from airy abstractions to problematic particulars. Although it was impossible to predict America’s next move in the Arab world from the speech’s first part, we now know exactly how an Israel-Palestine peace treaty would look if Obama could dictate it and those annoying people who live there would just follow….
    Even more problematic was his call for “the borders of Israel and Palestine” to “be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” These words not only seem to contradict George W. Bush’s vow to Ariel Sharon based on decades of American policy, but the deification of 1967 boundaries lacks historical nuance in a region obsessed with nuance and history.
    The logical starting point in advocating a two-state solution comes by acknowledging that in the region particular borders shifted and populations moved. Anyone who talks about people frozen in place for centuries or borders as if they were permamarked on a map is either a fool or a fanatic. Bible-based Israelis must admit that the boundaries of Biblical land of Israel, varied, just as passionate Palestinians must admit that the boundaries of Palestine-Israel in the twentieth-century alone shifted repeatedly.
    We cannot undo history and we must move forward, from 2011, trying to minimize disruptions to populations while maximizing satisfaction on both sides. Rather than trying to freeze one random moment in historical time, demography and the current status quo should be our guides, tempered by sensitivity, creativity, and a touch but not too much historicity. Obama’s overlooked line about the “growing number of Palestinians [who] live west of the Jordan River,” explains why each of the two clashing people should have a state. Peace will work if it passes the test of what Obama called populism, working logically for many people today, not at some random point from the past.
    Obama did speak beautifully about “a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.” Alas, this speech did not do enough to buttress the forces of hope over hate, and by feeding the 1967 obsession, Obama himself was too shackled to one unhelpful perspective on the past.

Full Text: President Barack Obama’s Speech at AIPAC

Remarks by the President at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011

Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

President Obama at 2011 AIPAC Policy Conference
May 22, 2011 4:55 PM

President Obama at 2011 AIPAC Policy Conference

10:56 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Good morning.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you.

What a remarkable, remarkable crowd.  Thank you, Rosy, for your very kind introduction.  I did not know you played basketball.  (Laughter.)  I will take your word for it.  (Laughter.)  Rosy, thank you for your many years of friendship.  Back in Chicago, when I was just getting started in national politics, I reached out to a lot of people for advice and counsel, and Rosy was one of the very first.  When I made my first visit to Israel, after entering the Senate, Rosy, you were at my side every step of that profound journey through the Holy Land.  So I want to thank you for your enduring friendship, your leadership, and for your warm introduction today.

I also want to thank David Victor, Howard Kohr and all the board of directors.  And let me say that it is wonderful to look out and see so many great friends, including a very large delegation from Chicago.  (Applause.)  Alan Solow, Howard Green.  Thank you all.

I want to thank the members of Congress who are joining you today — who do so much to sustain the bonds between the United States and Israel, including Eric Cantor — (applause) — Steny Hoyer — (applause) — and the tireless leader I was proud to appoint as the new chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  (Applause.)

We’re joined by Israel’s representative to the United States, Ambassador Michael Oren.  (Applause.)  And we’re joined by one of my top advisors on Israel and the Middle East for the past four years and who I know is going to be an outstanding ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.  (Applause.)  Dan has always been a close and trusted advisor and friend, and I know that he will do a terrific job.

And at a time when so many young people around the world are standing up and making their voices heard, I also want to acknowledge all the college students from across the country who are here today.  (Applause.)  No one has a greater stake in the outcome of events that are unfolding today than your generation, and it’s inspiring to see you devote your time and energy to help shape that future.

Now, I’m not here to subject you to a long policy speech.  I gave one on Thursday in which I said that the United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.

On Friday, I was joined at the White House by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we reaffirmed — (applause) — we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years — that even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable — (applause) — and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.  (Applause.)

A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and children can live free from the threat of violence.  It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.

America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place — and that’s the values we share.  As two people who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers — and foremothers — fought must be the work of every generation.  As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedoms we cherish must be constantly nurtured.  And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland for the Jewish people.  (Applause.)

We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel living in a very tough neighborhood.  I’ve seen it firsthand.  When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland.  When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map — face of the Earth.

Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority.  It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels.  It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies.  (Applause.)  It’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels.  (Applause.)  And that includes additional support –- beyond regular military aid -– for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.  (Applause.)  A powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation — a powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved Israeli lives.  So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.  (Applause.)

You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)  Here in the United States, we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime.  (Applause.)  At the United Nations, under our leadership, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world.  Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we’re going to keep up the pressure.  So let me be absolutely clear –- we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)

Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses.  As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality.  Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations.  So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and we will stand up to groups like Hezbollah, who exercise political assassination and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.

You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel.  (Applause.)  As I said at the United Nations last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”  (Applause.)

So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew.  In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself.  (Applause.)  When an effort was made to insert the United Nations into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it.  (Applause.)

And so, in both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security.  (Applause.)  And it is precisely because of our commitment to Israel’s long-term security that we have worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  (Applause.)

Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties.  (Applause.)  And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace.  (Applause.)  No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction.  (Applause.)  And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements.  (Applause.)  And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.  (Applause.)

And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option.  The status quo is unsustainable.  And that is why on Thursday I stated publicly the principles that the United States believes can provide a foundation for negotiations toward an agreement to end the conflict and all claims — the broad outlines of which have been known for many years, and have been the template for discussions between the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians since at least the Clinton administration.

I know that stating these principles — on the issues of territory and security — generated some controversy over the past few days.  (Laughter.)  I wasn’t surprised.  I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a President preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy.  I don’t need Rahm to tell me that.  Don’t need Axelrod to tell me that.  But I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination.  I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another.  (Applause.)  So I want to share with you some of what I said to the Prime Minister.

Here are the facts we all must confront.  First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  This will make it harder and harder — without a peace deal — to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.

Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.

Third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region.  A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders.  Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.

And just as the context has changed in the Middle East, so too has it been changing in the international community over the last several years.  There’s a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations.  They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one, not just in the Arab World — in Latin America, in Asia, and in Europe.  And that impatience is growing, and it’s already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.

And those are the facts.  I firmly believe, and I repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict.  No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state.  And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum.  (Applause.)  Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.  That is my commitment; that is my pledge to all of you.  (Applause.)

Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner –- which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist.  (Applause.)  And we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and for their rhetoric.  (Applause.)

But the march to isolate Israel internationally — and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations –- will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative.  And for us to have leverage with the Palestinians, to have leverage with the Arab States and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success.  And so, in advance of a five-day trip to Europe in which the Middle East will be a topic of acute interest, I chose to speak about what peace will require.

There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations.  Since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday — not what I was reported to have said.

I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps — (applause) — so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself –- by itself -– against any threat.  (Applause.)  Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.  (Applause.)  And a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign and non-militarized state.  (Applause.)  And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.  (Applause.)

Now, that is what I said.  And it was my reference to the 1967 lines — with mutually agreed swaps — that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now.  And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.

By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.  (Applause.)  That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means.  It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation.  It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.  (Applause.)  It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides.  The ultimate goal is two states for two people:  Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people — (applause) — and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.  (Applause.)

If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance.  What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.  I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace.  (Applause.)  The world is moving too fast.  The world is moving too fast.  The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow.  Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.

Now, I know that some of you will disagree with this assessment.  I respect that.  And as fellow Americans and friends of Israel, I know we can have this discussion.

Ultimately, it is the right and the responsibility of the Israeli government to make the hard choices that are necessary to protect a Jewish and democratic state for which so many generations have sacrificed.  (Applause.)  And as a friend of Israel, I’m committed to doing our part to see that this goal is realized.  And I will call not just on Israel, but on the Palestinians, on the Arab States, and the international community to join us in this effort, because the burden of making hard choices must not be Israel’s alone.  (Applause.)

But even as we do all that’s necessary to ensure Israel’s security, even as we are clear-eyed about the difficult challenges before us, and even as we pledge to stand by Israel through whatever tough days lie ahead, I hope we do not give up on that vision of peace.  For if history teaches us anything, if the story of Israel teaches us anything, it is that with courage and resolve, progress is possible.  Peace is possible.

The Talmud teaches us that, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”  And that lesson seems especially fitting today.

For so long as there are those across the Middle East and beyond who are standing up for the legitimate rights and freedoms which have been denied by their governments, the United States will never abandon our support for those rights that are universal.

And so long as there are those who long for a better future, we will never abandon our pursuit of a just and lasting peace that ends this conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security.  This is not idealism; it is not naïveté.  It is a hard-headed recognition that a genuine peace is the only path that will ultimately provide for a peaceful Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and a Jewish state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.  (Applause.)  That is my goal, and I look forward to continuing to work with AIPAC to achieve that goal.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless Israel, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
11:21 P.M. EDT

Israel Political Brief May 20, 2011: President Obama & Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Meet & Disagree over Israel Borders

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

IN FOCUS: OBAMA & NETANYAHU MEET

Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office on Friday.

THE HEADLINES….

  • Divisions Are Clear as Obama and Netanyahu Discuss Peace: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told President Obama on Friday that he shared his vision for a peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and then promptly listed a series of nonnegotiable conditions that have kept the two sides at an impasse for years. Sitting at Mr. Obama’s side in the Oval Office, leaning toward him and at times looking him directly in the eye, the Israeli leader bluntly rejected compromises of the sort Mr. Obama had outlined the day before in hopes of reviving a moribund peace process. Mr. Obama, who had sought to emphasize Israel’s concerns in his remarks moments earlier, stared back. In his public remarks, delivered after a meeting that lasted more than two hours, Mr. Netanyahu warned against “a peace based on illusions,” seemingly leaving the prospect for new talks as remote as they have been since the last significant American push for peace collapsed last fall. Officials said that the meeting was productive, but that there were no plans for formal negotiations or any mechanisms in place to push the two sides forward. Most significant among his public objections, Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel would not accept a return to the boundaries that existed before the war in 1967 gave it control of the West Bank and Gaza, calling them indefensible. “Remember that before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide; it’s half the width of the Washington Beltway,” Mr. Netanyahu said. He was referring to the narrowest point between the West Bank and the Mediterranean Sea, north of Tel Aviv, while displaying a well-honed familiarity with American cultural references to make his point for an American audience. “These were not the boundaries of peace. They were the boundaries of repeated wars.”… – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Israeli leader rejects ’67 lines At a tense appearance with the president, Netanyahu rebuffed the idea, while Obama spoke of differences between friends: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday publicly lectured President Obama on the shortcomings of his plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during a tense Oval Office appearance that laid bare the strained relations between the leaders. Admonishing a president of the United States on international television, Netanyahu rejected the plan outlined by Obama that would use the boundaries in effect before 1967 – more accurately, an armistice line set by the United Nations in 1949 after Israeli and Arab forces stopped fighting – as the starting point for negotiations, saying that doing so would risk Israel’s security and force it to negotiate with “a Palestinian version of al-Qaeda.” “The only peace that will endure is one based on reality, on unshakable facts,” Netanyahu said, leaning intently toward a grim Obama in the news appearance that followed an unexpectedly long, three-hour meeting. Obama acknowledged the chasm. “Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulation and language, and that’s going to happen between friends,” he said. The clash was remarkable even by the standards of frequently fractious ties between U.S. and Israeli leaders. Obama and Netanyahu sat, mostly stiff and unsmiling. It has contributed to worry among Israelis, who prefer that their leaders be on good terms with the Americans…. – PA Inquirer, 5-20-11
  • In meeting with Obama, Netanyahu rules out Israeli withdrawal to 1967 boundaries: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu suggested Friday that President Obama holds an unrealistic view of how to achieve peace in the Middle East, saying that Israel would never pull back to the boundaries that the American president said a day earlier must be the basis for negotiations. The unusual Oval Office exchange, following a nearly two-hour meeting, laid bare the fundamental differences between Obama and the hawkish leader of the chief U.S. ally in the Middle East. Republicans on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, injected partisan politics into the debate by vowing to formally condemn Obama’s position toward Israel in a resolution next week…. – WaPo, 5-20-11
  • Talking, and Listening, in the Oval Office: When President Obama met with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, in the Oval Office on Friday, this photo caught our eye. The two men have had a sometimes rocky relationship, (see today’s story by Helene Cooper) but they exchanged cordial words on Friday. This picture was snapped as Mr. Obama listened, almost frozen, during long remarks by Mr. Netanyahu, in which the Israeli leader pushed back against the framework for a peace deal that Mr. Obama outlined in a speech Thursday at the State Department. It made us wonder: What is Mr. Obama thinking?… – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Israel ‘Cannot Go Back to the 1967 Lines,’ Netanyahu Tells Obama: Before the meeting, Mr. Netanyahu’s aides told reporters that Mr. Obama failed to understand “the reality” of Israel’s situation and suggested that the American president was harboring some “delusions.” Speaking to the press as Mr. Obama sat by his side, Mr. Netanyahu echoed those sentiments, saying “a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality.” The Israeli prime minister then reiterated his strong objection to Mr. Obama’s statement, in his speech on Thursday, that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Netanyahu said: “While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the past 44 years.”… – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Israeli official: Washington does not understand what Israel faces: A senior Israeli official says President Barack Obama demonstrated in his latest Mideast policy speech that “Washington does not understand what we face.” The official says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was disappointed the speech did not address the Palestinian demand to repatriate to Israel millions of Palestinians, most descendants of people who were driven from or fled homes in the war over the Jewish state’s 1948 creation. Speaking Friday ahead of Netanyahu’s White House meeting with Obama, the official said, “There is a sense that Washington does not understand the reality, that Washington does not understand what we face.” Netanyahu arrived in Washington early Friday…. – WaPo, 5-20-11
  • Netanyahu to Confront Obama With ‘Reality,’ Israelis Say: Even as he flew to Washington for talks at the White House on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to signal his anger with President Obama’s statement on Thursday that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” While it has been a central point of negotiations for years that Israel would swap at least some of the land it seized during the Six-Day War in 1967 for peace, Mr. Netanhayu was apparently disappointed that Mr. Obama had failed to mention specifically the idea that Israel should be allowed to redraw its borders to include the parts of the West Bank where hundreds of thousands of Israelis have settled since the land was occupied. In a written response to Mr. Obama’s speech on Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu’s office suggested that the Obama administration should be bound by “U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004,” by President George W. Bush. In a letter to the Israeli leader Ariel Sharon that year, Mr. Bush had called a return to the borders of 1967 “unrealistic,” given “already existing major Israeli populations centers” on the West Bank…. – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Netanyahu brings starkly different vision to Obama’s White House: While President Obama has voiced support for pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East, the instability has made Israel’s Netanyahu wary of making concessions for peace. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a US visit today at the White House, bringing with him a fundamentally different vision of the Middle East than the one presented by President Barack Obama in a major policy speech yesterday. As Mr. Obama encourages democratic reforms across the Arab world, he meets the leader of a nation deeply wary about the regional instability wrought by six months of Arab uprisings. Israeli officials emphasize that the rising influence of political Islam and efforts by Iran to expand its footprint in the region make concessions for peace riskier than ever. “If we warned before, our concerns have been reinforced,’’ says Zalman Shoval, a Netanyahu aide. “While we hope that this will lead to democratization, there’s no guarantee…. Nobody really knows the answers.”… – CS Monitor, 5-20-11
  • Damage control on the Middle East speech: President Obama blew it yesterday. The Israelis are infuriated, numerous sharp-eyed lawmakers spotted the forced concessions Obama was demanding of Israel and, if former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block is any indication, the most prominent pro-Israel Jewish group is very, very worried. So what does Obama do? He reverses course — fast! On the BBC last night, Obama immediately nixed his definitive language on the 1967 borders and reverted to language that sounded more in tune with that of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush:To the BBC, the president said, “The basis for negotiations will involve looking at that 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides. That’s on the one hand and on the other hand, and this was an equally important part of the speech, Israel is going to have to feel confident about its security on the West Bank and that security element is going to be important to the Israelis.” The president said that the Israelis “will not be able to move forward unless they feel that they themselves can defend their territory particularly given what they have seen happen in Gaza and the rockets that have been fired by Hezbollah.” That is as sure a sign as any that the speech was an overstep, and a misstep, that the Israelis are infuriated and that Obama is now in a pinch…. – WaPo, 5-20-11
  • Obama’s Peace Tack Contrasts With Key Aide, Friend of Israel: Five days ago, during a closed-door meeting with a group of Middle East experts, administration officials, and journalists, King Abdullah II of Jordan gave his assessment of how Arabs view the debate within the Obama administration over how far to push Israel on concessions for peace with the Palestinians. Dennis B. Ross, right, with Benjamin Netanyahu in 1997. Mr. Ross has served as a Middle East envoy for several presidents…. By almost all accounts, Dennis B. Ross — Middle East envoy to three presidents, well-known architect of incremental and painstaking diplomacy in the Middle East that eschews game-changing plays — is Israel’s friend in the Obama White House and one of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in town. His strategy sometimes contrasts sharply with that of a president who has bold instincts and a willingness to elevate the plight of the Palestinians to a status equal to that of the Israelis. But now, as the president is embarking on a course that, once again, puts him at odds with Israel’s conservative prime minister, the question is how much of a split the president is willing to make not only with the Israeli leader, but with his own hand-picked Middle East adviser…. – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Obama’s Take on the Middle East The U.S. President says he believes in a separate Palestinian state: In an unprecedented speech on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama expressly conveyed the long held yet rarely stated U.S. policy that the borders of a future Palestinian state should reflect those prior to the 1967 Middle East conflict…. Reaction to the speech has been mixed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to have initially rejected the parameters of the speech. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas apparently called an “urgent meeting” of Palestinian leaders. Obama stated that a fundamental shift in U.S. policy must transpire, lest the divide with the Arab world grow ever more expansive. “A failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and the Arab world,” Obama said. – Shalom Life, 5-20-11
  • AIPAC: Don’t Boo Obama!: AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg has sent an e-mail to delegates not to boo President Barack Obama during his speech to the AIPAC annual policy conference on Sunday. “We ask that you act and react to every speech, address, and briefing, that will be offered as part of the conference program in only the most positive manner,” Rosenberg wrote. Rosenberg’s e-mail is clearly targeted at responses to Obama’s speech, as there is no concern that the AIPAC delegates will heckle Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other Israeli speakers.aipac obama lee rosenberg While top US administration officials (usually the president or vice president) always reiterate the US’s commitment to Israel’s security, calls for talks with the Palestinians, or to show flexibility, are liable to inflame some delegates. Whistles and boos, or alternatively a thunderous silence or weak handclapping, have been heard in past appearances. AIPAC’s leadership wants to avoid such spontaneous protests during Obama’s speech, especially now, when no one knows what his message will be. As far as AIPAC is concerned booing the President would be a public relations disaster…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11
  • Israel rejects pre-’67 lines as condition for peace Prime minister warns President Barack Obama old borders indefensible: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told President Barack Obama on Friday that he shared his vision for a peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and then promptly listed a series of nonnegotiable conditions that have kept the two sides at an impasse for years. Sitting at Obama’s side in the Oval Office, the Israeli leader rejected compromises of the sort Obama had outlined the day before in hopes of reviving a moribund peace process. Obama, who had sought to emphasize Israel’s concerns in his remarks moments earlier, stared back. In his public remarks, delivered after a meeting that lasted more than two hours, Netanyahu warned against “a peace based on illusions,” seemingly leaving the prospect for new talks as remote as they have been since the last significant U.S. push for peace collapsed last fall. Officials said that the meeting was productive, but that there were no plans for formal negotiations or any mechanisms in place to push the two sides forward. Most significant among his public objections, Netanyahu said that Israel would not accept a return to the boundaries that existed before the war in 1967 gave it control of the West Bank and Gaza, calling them indefensible…. – Albany Times-Union, 5-20-11
  • Next Israel-US Crisis Brewing in Jerusalem: The next diplomatic crisis between the US and Israel has arrived. On the eve of his departure for Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved discussion of construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. Several hours ahead of President Barack Obama’s policy speech on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and a couple of hours before Netanyahu himself flies to the US for a meeting with Obama on Friday, the Ministry of Interior regional planning and building committee will discuss the construction of 1,550 housing units in Har Homa in southeast Jerusalem and Pisgat Ze’ev in northeast Jerusalem, both neighborhoods over the 1967 “Green Line.” Discussion on these plans have already been postponed several times, and the cabinet secretary has now finally approved them at an especially sensitive moment…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11
  • Obama Elaborates on Call for 67 Borders: President Obama has elaborated upon his call for the 1967 lines to serve as the basis for a Palestinian state’s border in an interview with the BBC.obama sitting “The basis for negotiations will involve looking at that 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides,” Obama told the BBC Thursday in an interview following his Middle East policy speech. “Israel is going to have to feel confident about its security on the West Bank, and that security element is going to be important to the Israelis,” Obama added. “They will not be able to move forward unless they feel that they themselves can defend their territory, particularly given what they’ve seen happen in Gaza and the rockets that have been fired by Hezbollah.” In his speech, Obama had said that the borders of a Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded with a statement calling the 1967 lines “indefensible” for Israel…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11

QUOTES

President Barack Obama Meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of IsraelPresident Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, in the Oval Office, May 20, 2011. (by Pete Souza)

  • President Obama Hosts Prime Minister Netanyahu: “An Extremely Constructive Discussion”: A day after the President’s speech on the Middle East and North Africa, where he spoke on the changes sweeping the region as well as the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the President hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel for a lengthy meeting. Afterwards they both spoke to the press in the Oval Office, and the President described their discussion as focusing on the same themes as his speech, including support for reforms in countries throughout the region…. – WH, 5-20-11Transcript
  • Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu Following Their Meeting at the White House: THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, D.C. 1:56 P.M. EDT, FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2011 PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me first of all welcome once again Prime Minister Netanyahu, who, I think, has — has now been here seven times during the course of my presidency. And I want to indicate that the frequency of these meetings is an indication of the extraordinary bond between our two countries, as is the opportunity for the prime minister to address Congress during his visit here. I know that’s — that’s an honor that’s reserved for those who have always shown themselves to be a great friend of the United States and — and is indicative of the friendship between our countries. We just completed a prolonged and extremely useful conversation, touching on a wide range of issues. We discussed first of all the changes that are sweeping the region and what has been happening in places like Egypt and Syria and how they affect the interests and security of the United States and Israel, as well as the opportunity for prosperity, growth and development in the Arab world. We agreed that there is a moment of opportunity that can be seized as a consequence of the Arab Spring, but also acknowledged that there are significant perils as well and that it’s going to be important for the United States and Israel to consult closely as we see developments unfold. I outlined for the prime minister some of the issues that I discussed in my speech yesterday, how important it was going to be for the United States to support political reform, support human rights, support freedom of speech, religious tolerance and economic development, particularly in Egypt as the largest Arab country; as well as Tunisia, the country that first started this revolutionary movement that’s taking place throughout the Middle East and North Africa. We also discussed the situation in Syria, which is obviously of acute concern to Israel, given its shared border. And I gave more details to the prime minister about the significant steps that we are taking to try to pressure Syria and the Assad regime to reform, including the sanctions that we placed directly on President Assad. We continued to share our deep concerns about Iran, not only the threat that it poses to Israel but also the threat that it poses to the region and the world if it were to develop a nuclear weapon. We updated our strategy to continue to apply pressure, both through sanctions and our other diplomatic work. And I reiterated my belief that it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. We also discussed the hypocrisy of Iran, suggesting that it somehow supports democratization in the Middle East when in fact they first showed the repressive nature of that regime when they responded to (the ?) own peaceful protests that took place inside Iran almost two years ago. Finally, we discussed the issue of a prospective peace between Israelis and Palestinians. And I reiterated and we discussed in depth the principles that I laid out yesterday, the belief that our ultimate goal has to be a secure Israeli state, a Jewish state, living side by side in peace and security with a contiguous, functioning and effective Palestinian state. Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulations and language, and that’s going to happen between friends. But what we are in complete accord about is that a true peace can only occur if the ultimate resolution allows Israel to defend itself against threats and that Israel’s security will remain paramount in U.S. evaluations of any prospective peace deal. I said that yesterday in the speech, and I continue to believe it. And I think that it is possible for us to shape a deal that allows Israel to secure itself, not to be vulnerable, but also allows it to resolve what has obviously been a wrenching issue for both peoples for decades now. I also pointed out, as I said in the speech yesterday, that it is very difficult for Israel to be expected to negotiate in a serious way with a party that refuses acknowledge its right to exist. And so that — for that reason, I think the Palestinians are going to have to answer some very difficult questions about this agreement that’s been made between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas has been, and is, an organization that has resorted to terror, that has refused to acknowledge Israel’s rights to exist. It is — it is not a partner for a significant, realistic peace process. And so, as I said yesterday during the speech, the Palestinians are going to have to explain how they can credibly engage in serious peace negotiations in the absence of observing the Quartet principles that have been put forward previously. So, overall, I thought this was an extremely constructive discussion. And coming out of this discussion, I once again can reaffirm that the extraordinarily close relationship between the United States and Israel is sound and will continue, and that together, hopefully, we are going to be able to work to usher in a new period of peace and prosperity in a region that is going to be going through some very profound transformations in the coming weeks, months and years. So, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. Great to see you. PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: Thank you, Mr. President. PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: Thank you, Mr. President. Well, Mr. President — and first, I want to thank you and the first lady for the gracious hospitality that you’ve shown me, my wife and our entire delegation. We have an enduring bond of friendship between our two countries. And I appreciate the opportunity to have this meeting with you after your important speech yesterday. We share your hope and your vision for the spread of democracy in the Middle East. I appreciate the fact that you reaffirmed once again now and in our conversation, and in actual deed, the commitment to Israel’s security. We value your efforts to advance the peace process. This is something that we want to have accomplished. Israel wants peace. I want peace. What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold, that will endure. And I think that the — we both agree that a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality, and that the only — the only peace that will endure is one that is based on reality, on unshakable facts. I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities. The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible, because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. Remember that before 1967, Israel was all of 9 miles wide — half the width of the Washington Beltway. And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive from them. So we can’t go back to those indefensible lines, and we’re going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan. I discussed this with the president. I think that we understand that Israel has certain security requirements that will have to come into place in any deal that we make. The second is — echoes something the president just said, and that is that Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas. Hamas, as the president said, is a terrorist organization, committed to Israel’s destruction. It’s fired thousands of rockets on our cities, on our children. It’s recently fired an anti-tank rocket at a — at a yellow school bus, killing a 16-year-old boy. And Hamas has just attacked you, Mr. President, and the United States for ridding the world of bin Laden. So Israel obviously cannot be asked to negotiate with a government that is backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaida. I think President Abbas has a simple choice. He has to decide if he negotiates or keeps his pact with Hamas, or makes peace with Israel. And I — I can only express what I said to you just now: that I hope he makes the choice, the right choice, of choosing peace with Israel. But a third reality is that the Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state but certainly not in the borders of Israel. The Arab attack in 1948 on Israel resulted in two refugee problems, Palestinian refugee problem and Jewish refugees, roughly the same number, who were expelled from Arab lands. Now tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees. Now, 63 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel: accept the grandchildren, really, and the great-grandchildren of these refugees, thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state. So that’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen. And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly, it’s not going to happen. The Palestinian refugee problem has to be resolved. It can be resolved. And it will be resolved if the Palestinians choose to do so in Palestinian state. That’s a real possibility. But it’s not going to be resolved within the Jewish state. The president and I discussed all of these issues, and I think we may have differences here and there, but I think there is an overall direction that we wish to work together to pursue a real, genuine peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, a peace that is defensible. Mr. President, you are the — you are the leader of a great people, the American people. And I am the leader of a much smaller people. The — PRESIDENT OBAMA: A great people. PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: It’s a great people too. It’s the ancient nation of Israel. And you know, we’ve been around for almost 4,000 years. We have experienced struggle and suffering like no other people. We’ve gone through expulsions and pogroms and massacres and the murder of millions. But I can say that even at the dearth of — even at the nadir of the valley of death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of reestablishing a sovereign state in our ancient homeland, the land of Israel. And now it falls on my shoulders as the prime minister of Israel at a time of extraordinary instability and uncertainty in the Middle East to work with you to fashion a peace that will ensure Israel’s security and will not jeopardize its survival. I take this responsibility with pride but with great humility, because, as I told you in our conversation, we don’t have a lot of margin for error and because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance. So, in the coming days and weeks and months, I intend to work with you to seek a peace that will address our security concerns, seek a genuine recognition that we wish from our Palestinian neighbors and give a better future for Israel and for the entire region. And I thank you for the opportunity to exchange our views and to work together for this common end. Thank you, Mr. President. PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. – Israel Embassy, 5-21-11
  • Pro-Israel push for magic words from Obama: Josh Block, the former AIPAC spokesman and a pro-Israel stalwart now at the Progressive Policy Institute, this morning emailed over quotes from several pro-Israel Democratic legislators unhappy with the White House move to formally embrace the 1967 lines around Israel as the basis for future negotiation. He also suggested language with which Obama could “make clear” something that, unless you’re very close to the page, already seemed fairly clear: That he’s not proposing withdrawal to the ’67 lines. The language Block suggests: Everyone understands the lines as they were in 1949/1967 are not defensible, and no one can expect Israel to accept them as final borders, but they can form the basis for negotiation, as they have in the past. As I have said, changes must be mutually agreed, and swaps should compensate for territory exchanged…. – AP, 5-21-11
  • Benjamin Netanyahu, The Prime Minister of Israel: PMO Announcement following President Obama’s speech: Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state. That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress. Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines. Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel. Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace. Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River. Prime Minister Netanyahu will also express his disappointment over the Palestinian Authority’s decision to embrace Hamas, a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction, as well as over Mahmoud Abbas’s recently expressed views which grossly distort history and make clear that Abbas seeks a Palestinian state in order to continue the conflict with Israel rather than end it. – PM Israel, Facebook, 5-20-11
  • Eric Cantor: The President needs to join the bipartisan majority in Congress and say that the United States’ security in the region goes hand in hand with Israel’s, and that our country is going to stand with our democratic ally.
  • Joseph Lieberman: Unfortunately, President Obama’s important and constructive speech embracing and supporting the peaceful, democratic revolutions in the Arab world was also undermined by an unhelpful and surprising set of remarks about Israel and the Palestinians that will not advance the peace process and in fact is likely to set it back. While the President made some strong statements about the “unshakeable” support for Israel’s security and rightly criticized the Palestinian pursuit of a symbolic statehood declaration at the UN in September, his unilateral call for negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps — the first time any president has adopted this position — was profoundly ill-advised. As in the case of the President’s counterproductive demand for a settlement freeze two years ago, unilateral statements of this sort do nothing to bring the two parties back to the negotiating table and in fact make it harder for them to do so. They also damage the relationship of trust that is critical to peacemaking. In particular, the President’s remarks have revived and exacerbated fears in Israel about the commitment and understanding of this Administration with regard to their unique security situation. The fact is, while the exciting and hopeful new reality in the Arab world is the Arab spring, the newest reality in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not hopeful. It is the threatening new unity government between the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a group which the U.S. government has long designated as terrorist because it is committed to violence and the destruction of Israel. In the days ahead, I hope President Obama will make clear Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a Fatah-Hamas unity government until Hamas accepts the Quartet conditions. I also hope that the President will make clear that his Administration recognizes the 1967 borders themselves are no longer an acceptable endpoint for negotiations because they do not allow Israel to defend itself, and that any peace agreement must reflect new realities on the ground, including the major new Israeli communities that have grown up since 1967, and the need for an extended presence by the IDF in the Jordan River Valley. In the past few months, the forces of freedom and self-determination have begun to move inexorably through the region. It is in that movement where we can find the greatest hope for peace between neighbors in the region, including Israelis and Palestinians. Full Statement
  • Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) Statement: “I commend President Obama for reiterating to the entire world — including the 22 Arab countries that surround Israel — that the United States has an unshakable commitment to the safety and security of the Jewish State of Israel. I agree with the President that the United Nations is not the place to negotiate the final parameters of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and that Israel should not be forced to talk with parties, such as Hamas, that don’t recognize its right to exist and seek to drive it into the sea. A two-state solution agreed upon by the Israelis and Palestinians should be negotiated through direct talks, but it is important to remember that a full return to the 1967 borders will be indefensible for Israel and that talking with terrorists who want to destroy Israel is a non-starter.”
  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.): First, I am unclear as to why the President did not recount the three conditions of the Quartet, comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia, for dealing with Hamas. (1) Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist, (2) Hamas must renounce terrorism, and (3) Hamas must commit to all of the agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians. Those conditions, laid down in 2006, establish the foundation of our policy toward Hamas and must not be disregarded or glossed over. Further, we cannot expect Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority which has Hamas, a terrorist organization, as a working partner until Hamas accepts these conditions. Second, the 1967 armistice lines were simply not defensible, and Israel must not be made to return to them. Moreover, United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which forms the basis of any future peace between Israelis and Palestinians, does not require Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines in exchange for peace. The President is correct that land swaps built into a peace agreement could make Israel’s borders safe and secure, but make no mistake about it – such territorial adjustments would be very significant so that Israel would no longer be 9 miles wide at its narrowest point. The reason that there has been no progress toward a peace agreement is that the Palestinians have refused to sit down with Israel and have used every excuse under the sun to refuse to negotiate. President Abbas, with all his talk of moderation, has been anything but. It is time to tell the Palestinians that the only way to statehood is through negotiations at the bargaining table, not through unilateral actions. The President still has the opportunity to elaborate on these points when he speaks on Sunday about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and I, for one, will listen carefully to what he has to say.” Full Statement
  • Florida Republican Allen West also blasted Obama’s speech in a statement he released and which was quoted by Newsmax: “Today’s endorsement by President Barack Obama of the creation of a Hamas-led Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, signals the most egregious foreign policy decision his administration has made to date, and could be the beginning of the end as we know it for the Jewish state,” said West. “The pre-1967 borders endorsed by President Obama would deny millions of the world’s Jews access to their holiest site and force Israel to return the strategically important Golan Heights to Syria, a known state-sponsor of terrorism,” he added and emphasized that “there has always been a Nation of Israel and Jerusalem has been and must always be recognized as its rightful capital.” West also said that “the Hamas-run Palestinian state envisioned by President Obama would be devastating to Israel and the world’s 13.3 million Jews. It would be a Pavlovian style reward to a declared Islamic terrorist organization, and an unacceptable policy initiative.” He called for the United States to “never negotiate with the Palestinian Authority- which has aligned itself with Hamas.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11
  • Mitt Romney: “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,” Former Massachusetts governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a statement quoted on Politico.com. “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”
  • Michele Bachmann: Minnesota House member Michele Bachmann also responded to the presidential speech, saying on her Twitter account that Obama had “betrayed our friend and ally Israel. Obama’s call for 1967 borders will cause chaos, division & more aggression in Middle East and put Israel at further risk.”
  • Tim Pawlenty: Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, also a potential Republican candidate for the presidency, called Obama’s call for Israel return to the so-called ‘1967 borders’ – the 1949 Armistice Lines which are considered indefensible by defense experts – “a mistaken a very dangerous demand.” In a statement quoted in Politico, Pawlenty said that “the city of Jerusalem must never be re-divided. To send a signal to the Palestinians that America will increase its demands on our ally Israel, on the heels of the Palestinian Authority’s agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization, is a disaster waiting to happen. At this time of upheaval in the Middle East, it’s never been more important for America to stand strong for Israel and for a united Jerusalem.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dore Gold: Israel’s 1967 Borders Aren’t Defensible: Fair observers have never considered the old armistice line as a non-negotiable starting point for peace talks. It’s no secret that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to lobby the U.N. General Assembly this September for a resolution that will predetermine the results of any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on borders. He made clear in a New York Times op-ed this week that he will insist that member states recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 lines, meaning Israel’s boundaries before the Six Day War. Unfortunately, even President Barack Obama appears to have been influenced by this thinking. He asserted in a speech Thursday that Israel’s future borders with a Palestinian state “should be based on the 1967 lines,” a position he tried to offset by offering “mutually agreed land swaps.” Mr. Abbas has said many times that any land swaps would be minuscule. Remember that before the Six Day War, those lines in the West Bank only demarcated where five Arab armies were halted in their invasion of the nascent state of Israel 19 years earlier. Legally, they formed only an armistice line, not a recognized international border. No Palestinian state ever existed that could have claimed these prewar lines. Jordan occupied the West Bank after the Arab invasion, but its claim to sovereignty was not recognized by any U.N. members except Pakistan and the U.K. As Jordan’s U.N. ambassador said before the war, the old armistice lines “did not fix boundaries.” Thus the central thrust of Arab-Israeli diplomacy for more than 40 years was that Israel must negotiate an agreed border with its Arab neighbors. The cornerstone of all postwar diplomacy was U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed in November 1967. It did not demand that Israel pull back completely to the pre-1967 lines. Its withdrawal clause only called on Israel to withdraw “from territories,” not from all territories. Britain’s foreign secretary at the time, George Brown, later underlined the distinction: “The proposal said ‘Israel will withdraw from territories that were occupied,’ and not from ‘the’ territories, which means that Israel will not withdraw from all the territories.” Prior to the Six Day War, Jerusalem had been sliced in two, and the Jewish people were denied access to the Old City and its holy sites. Jerusalem’s Christian population also faced limitations. As America’s ambassador to the U.N., Arthur Goldberg, would explain, Resolution 242 did not preclude Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem. In fact, Resolution 242 became the only agreed basis of all Arab-Israeli peace agreements, from the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace to the 1993 Oslo Agreements between Israel and the Palestinians…. – WSJ, 5-20-11
  • ‘Borders’ vs. ‘lines’: A distinction with meaning: Lines, borders, boundaries. Distinctions without a difference? Not legally, and certainly not in the Middle East, where President Obama’s prescription that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” of land to create “secure and recognized borders” for both states, triggered ire in supporters of Israel after many media outlets, paraphrasing Obama’s Thursday speech, used “lines” and “borders” interchangeably. “The so-called 1967 borders are not borders at all, just armistice lines,” said attorney John Smith, of Reed Smith, the Philadelphia firm with an international law group and eight overseas offices. Israel has “honest-to-goodness . . . bona fide borders” with Egypt and Jordan, which were created by treaties, Smith said. But its boundary with the West Bank, which Israel conquered after being attacked by Arab armies in 1967, is merely a tracing on military maps, not a demarcation with a border’s permanence and legal weight. The U.N. partition plan of 1947 called for a Jewish state of Israel, an Arab state, and international control over Jerusalem, said Paul Scham, a professor of Israeli studies at the University of Maryland, in College Park. “But fighting started shortly after the U.N. resolution,” Scham said. “Israel not only defended the areas that were to be Jewish, it expanded into areas that were supposed to be the Palestinian state. Then five Arab armies invaded in 1948, to support the Palestinians and grab territory for themselves. “At the end of the war, which Israelis call the War of Independence, Jordan held what we now call the West Bank, and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. The armistice lines reflect where the armies were when the cease-fire happened” in 1949…. – PA Inquirer, 5-21-11
  • Obama’s speech: where’s the followup?: Days after President Obama’s big Middle East speech at the State Department, the Jewish left is caught between skepticism and hope, the right is on the warpath – and I suspect most American Jews are wondering what the fuss is all about. Yes, President Obama uttered the words “1967 borders” on Thursday along with “mutually agreed swaps,” all of which has been more or less U.S. policy for a long time even though that particular rhetorical formulation hasn’t been used. What both sides seem to be missing is that President Obama didn’t say a word about how he plans to follow up on his words. And I suspect that’s no accident…. – The NY Jewish Week, 5-21-11
  • Lowell Ponte: What Does Obama Gain by Snubbing Israel?: American politics underwent a tectonic shift this week, a change that apparently reflects a huge shift in political money and global power. Breaking with more than half a century of bipartisan U.S. policy on the Middle East, President Barack Obama appeared to turn against our longtime ally Israel. He called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be based on Israel retreating to its pre-1967 borders, a boundary to be altered only by “a few swaps” of land between the parties. To those of us who have stood near the old Syrian cannon emplacements on the Golan Heights looking down on the Galilee and Tiberius, or who have landed at Israel’s international airport within 3 miles of the pre-1967 border, or who understand that this would produce an indefensible Israel only 8 miles wide at its narrowest point, Obama’s proposal seems bizarre. As recently as 2005, President George W. Bush promised Israel, in exchange for new concessions, that the United States would not press Israel to return to the 1967 borders. This week President Obama broke that pledge by our government. Obama’s new pressure on Israel, he knows, will alienate many American Jews. Jews comprise only about 2 percent of America’s population, but this mostly-Democratic bloc turns out to vote, and 80 percent in 2008 voted for him…. – Newsmax, 5-20-11
  • The blowup with Israel: PRESIDENT OBAMA and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have a powerful and urgent common interest. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has turned his back on both Israel and the United States; he is seeking accommodation with the extremist Hamas movement and has announced that he will seek a declaration of Palestinian statehood from the U.N. General Assembly in September. The result could be what Mr. Netanyahu’s defense minister calls “a diplomatic tsunami” against Israel and possibly the eruption of another Israeli-Palestinian war. As for the United States, the U.N. vote could isolate it in support of Israel, undermine the ambitious strategy that Mr. Obama has just announced to promote democracy in the Arab world — and maybe derail the Arab Spring itself. Now, of all times, the Israeli and U.S. governments ought to be working closely together; they should be trying to defuse the U.N. threat, induce Mr. Abbas to change course, and above all prevent a resumption of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, Friday found Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu once again publicly and poisonously at odds with each other, thanks to a handful of lines added by Mr. Obama to his Middle East speech on Thursday. The president’s decision to publicly endorse terms for a peace settlement seemingly calculated to appeal to Mr. Abbas, over the strong objections of Mr. Netanyahu, has had the effect of distracting attention from the new U.S. agenda for the region…. – WaPo, 5-20-11
  • What’s really behind harsh GOP responses to Obama’s Middle East speech: How much of the Republican candidates’ harsh reaction to President Obama’s policy speech on the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue was campaign strategy?… Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is trying to recover from a terrible campaign rollout week, called Obama’s speech a “disaster.” “I understand he has already in effect offered concessions to the Palestinians, in advance of anything the Israelis do, in a way that could be a significant security threat to the Israelis,” Mr. Gingrich told reporters following him in Iowa. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who is best known for his strongly conservative views on social issues but has also given speeches devoted to foreign policy, also reacted harshly: “The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies.”… – CS Monitor, 5-20-11
  • Israel’s 1967 borders: Three reasons Obama’s stance is a very big deal: In the subtle world of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Obama’s step – describing the 1967 borders as something more than a ‘Palestinian goal’ – could signal a significant policy shift…. – CS Monitor, 5-20-11
  • ANALYSIS Harman: Netanyahu Could ‘Be the Peacemaker Israel Has Been Seeking’: SUMMARY President Obama met Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after delivering a U.S. policy speech calling for a return to pre-1967 borders. Judy Woodruff discusses what comes next in the peace process with former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman. – PBS Newshour, 5-20-11
  • ANALYSIS After Obama Speech, What’s Next for Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Relations?: SUMMARY In a speech Thursday, President Obama called for support of democratic reforms in the Arab world and steps toward peace in the Middle East. Jeffrey Brown discusses the president’s address and U.S. policy with reporter Mona Eltahawy, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk and American University of Beirut’s Rami Khouri…. – PBS Newshour, 5-19-11
  • Sean Hannity: Reaction to Obama’s Israel Rhetoric Ranges From ‘Historic’ to ‘Shameful’: Special Guests: Michael Ghouse, author of “They Must Be Stopped” & president for Act for America, Brigitte Gabriel SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Now in a speech today President Obama may have radically altered U.S. foreign policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but he completely failed to address all the other ongoing Mideast conflicts and what America should be doing about them. Take Libya for instance. Now, time has run out on the administration’s 60-day occupation limit as provided by the War Powers Resolution and now the White House must obtain Congressional approval for the war in Libya by tomorrow in order to continue deploying troops there. But there was noticeably no mention of this pressing situation or the impending deadline in today’s speech. Also missing was any reference to the disturbing fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is likely about to take over Egypt and with its strict interpretation of Sharia law put an end to things like freedom of speech, religious diversity, and gender equality. Joining me now with reaction is the President of the American Together Foundation — is Michael Ghouse and the author of “They Must Be Stopped,” the president for Act for America, Brigitte Gabriel…. – Fox News, 5-19-11
  • Dershowitz: Obama made ‘serious mistake’ (Video): BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Israeli advocate and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says President Obama hurt the Middle East peace process by calling for 1967 borders as a starting point… – CNN, 5-20-11

Gil Troy: Obama Offered Two Speeches in One — Neither Worked

By Gil Troy

Despite the talk about “Obama’s Mideast speech” Thursday, I actually heard two separate addresses. In the first, President Barack Obama offered vague nostrums about the “Arab spring,” best summarized in three words:  Democracy is good. Obama transitioned awkwardly to the second speech, about Israelis and Palestinians, saying: “Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.” In this section, the professorial president turned from airy abstractions to problematic particulars. Although it was impossible to predict America’s next move in the Arab world from the speech’s first part, we now know exactly how an Israel-Palestine peace treaty would look if Obama could dictate it and those annoying people who live there would just follow.

Sophisticated cinema buffs will have identified the inspiration for the “Democracy is good” quotation – that frat house classic, “Animal House.” In the fictitious campus where the movie’s hijinks occur, the founder’s statue features the empty motto “Knowledge is good.” Of course it is, and so is democracy – for many of the reasons Obama identified. But I defy anyone, based on that speech, to explain why Obama abandoned Hosni Mubarak in Egypt rather quickly, attacked Muhammar Qaddafi very definitively, and dithered with Bashar al-Assad, only abandoning him quite recently. Moreover, can anyone predict Obama’s next move based on this speech or identify just what principles will guide him?

Having failed the tests of consistency and retroactivity, Obama’s words also lacked clarity. The biggest conundrum he faces as various Arab allies face popular revolts, and as other Arab countries potentially face Islamist revolts, is how he balances America’s interest and ideals. Obama identified “core interests,” including “countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.” He endorsed finding “mutual interests and mutual respect.” But how to balance all those factors is difficult. I have no idea how to do that, which is why I am happy not to be president. But, as a voter, I have no idea how Obama plans to do it either.

Finally, and surprisingly, Obama’s words lacked legs. Not one phrase seems likely to resonate. And judging by the Franklin Roosevelt majestic, memorable, “four freedoms” standard, Obama’s “universal rights” are mushy and forgettable.  Compare Roosevelt: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear – with Obama – “And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders -– whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.” The “Yes We Can” poet of 2008, has become the technocratic cataloguer of 2011, forgetting basic rules like the power of parallelism in rhetoric.

Not surprisingly, Obama’s more specific and pointed Israel-Palestine peace plan has attracted the most attention – and controversy. Here, by being too specific, Obama once again complicated future negotiations. As President of the United States, dealing with understandably nervous allies in an explosive region, he had a moral obligation to reconcile his proposal with his predecessor’s plans, acknowledging if he was deviating from an earlier consensus while upholding commitments earlier Presidents have made.

Yet, in discussing Hamas, Obama ignored the conditions the Quartet of the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations embraced – requiring the Palestinian government to recognize Israel, renounce violence and honor past agreements.  Asking Palestinians to find a “credible answer to the question … How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist” is a start – but lacks the specifics Obama’s predecessor and allies endorsed.

Even more problematic was his call for “the borders of Israel and Palestine” to “be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” These words not only seem to contradict George W. Bush’s vow to Ariel Sharon based on decades of American policy, but the deification of 1967 boundaries lacks historical nuance in a region obsessed with nuance and history.

The logical starting point in advocating a two-state solution comes by acknowledging that in the region particular borders shifted and populations moved. Anyone who talks about people frozen in place for centuries or borders as if they were permamarked on a map is either a fool or a fanatic. Bible-based Israelis must admit that the boundaries of  Biblical land of Israel, varied, just as passionate Palestinians must admit that the boundaries of Palestine-Israel in the twentieth-century alone shifted repeatedly.

We cannot undo history and we must move forward, from 2011, trying to minimize disruptions to populations while maximizing satisfaction on both sides. Rather than trying to freeze one random moment in historical time, demography and the current status quo should be our guides, tempered by sensitivity, creativity, and a touch but not too much historicity. Obama’s overlooked line about the “growing number of Palestinians [who] live west of the Jordan River,” explains why each of the two clashing people should have a state. Peace will work if it passes the test of what Obama called populism, working logically for many people today, not at some random point from the past.

Obama did speak beautifully about “a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.” Alas, this speech did not do enough to buttress the forces of hope over hate, and by feeding the 1967 obsession, Obama himself was too shackled to one unhelpful perspective on the past.

Full Text: US President Barack Obama & Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Joint Press Conference

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel After Bilateral Meeting

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, in the Oval Office, May 20, 2011. (by Pete Souza)

Oval Office

1:35 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me, first of all, welcome again Prime Minister Netanyahu, who I think has now been here seven times during the course of my presidency.  And I want to indicate that the frequency of these meetings is an indication of the extraordinary bonds between our two countries, as is the opportunity for the Prime Minister to address Congress during his visit here.  I know that’s an honor that’s reserved for those who have always shown themselves to be a great friend of the United States and is indicative of the friendship between our countries.

We just completed a prolonged and extremely useful conversation touching on a wide range of issues.  We discussed, first of all, the changes that are sweeping the region and what has been happening in places like Egypt and Syria and how they affect the interests and security of the United States and Israel, as well as the opportunity for prosperity, growth and development in the Arab world.

We agreed that there is a moment of opportunity that can be seized as a consequence of the Arab Spring, but also acknowledge that there’s significant perils as well, and that it’s going to be important for the United States and Israel to consult closely as we see developments unfold.

I outlined for the Prime Minister some of the issues that I discussed in my speech yesterday — how important it was going to be for the United States to support political reform, support human rights, support freedom of speech, religious tolerance and economic development, particularly in Egypt, as the largest Arab country, as well as Tunisia, the country that first started this revolutionary movement that’s taking place throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

We also discussed the situation in Syria, which is obviously of acute concern to Israel, given its shared border.  And I gave more details to the Prime Minister about the significant steps that we are taking to try to pressure Syria and the Assad regime to reform, including the sanctions that we placed directly on President Assad.

We continue to share our deep concerns about Iran, not only the threat that it poses to Israel but also the threat that it poses to the region and the world if it were to develop a nuclear weapon.  We updated our strategy to continue to apply pressure, both through sanctions and our other diplomatic work.  And I reiterated my belief that it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon.

We also discussed the hypocrisy of Iran suggesting that it somehow supports democratization in the Middle East when, in fact, they first showed the repressive nature of that regime when they responded to the own peaceful protests that took place inside Iran almost two years ago.

Finally, we discussed the issue of a prospective peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  And I reiterated and we discussed in depth the principles that I laid out yesterday — the belief that our ultimate goal has to be a secure Israeli state, a Jewish state, living side by side in peace and security with a contiguous, functioning and effective Palestinian state.

Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulations and language, and that’s going to happen between friends.  But what we are in complete accord about is that a true peace can only occur if the ultimate resolution allows Israel to defend itself against threats, and that Israel’s security will remain paramount in U.S. evaluations of any prospective peace deal.

I said that yesterday in the speech, and I continue to believe it.  And I think that it is possible for us to shape a deal that allows Israel to secure itself, not to be vulnerable, but also allows it to resolve what has obviously been a wrenching issue for both peoples for decades now.

I also pointed out, as I said in the speech yesterday, that it is very difficult for Israel to be expected to negotiate in a serious way with a party that refuses to acknowledge its right to exist.  And so for that reason I think the Palestinians are going to have to answer some very difficult questions about this agreement that’s been made between Fatah and Hamas.  Hamas has been and is an organization that has resorted to terror; that has refused to acknowledge Israel’s rights to exist.  It is not a partner for a significant, realistic peace process.  And so, as I said yesterday during the speech, the Palestinians are going to have to explain how they can credibly engage in serious peace negotiations in the absence of observing the Quartet principles that have been put forward previously.

So, overall, I thought this was an extremely constructive discussion.  And coming out of this discussion, I once again can reaffirm that the extraordinarily close relationship between the United States and Israel is sound and will continue, and that together, hopefully we are going to be able to work to usher in a new period of peace and prosperity in a region that is going to be going through some very profound transformations in the coming weeks, months and years.

So, Mr. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Mr. President, first I want to thank you and the First Lady for the gracious hospitality that you’ve shown me, my wife, and our entire delegation.  We have an enduring bond of friendship between our two countries, and I appreciate the opportunity to have this meeting with you after your important speech yesterday.

We share your hope and your vision for the spread of democracy in the Middle East.  I appreciate the fact that you reaffirmed once again now, and in our conversation, and in actual deed the commitment to Israel’s security.  We value your efforts to advance the peace process.

This is something that we want to have accomplished.  Israel wants peace.  I want peace.  What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold, that will endure.  And I think that the — we both agree that a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality, and that the only peace that will endure is one that is based on reality, on unshakeable facts.

I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities.  The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines — because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.

Remember that, before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide.  It was half the width of the Washington Beltway.  And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive.

So we can’t go back to those indefensible lines, and we’re going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan.  I discussed this with the President and I think that we understand that Israel has certain security requirements that will have to come into place in any deal that we make.

The second is — echoes something the President just said, and that is that Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas.  Hamas, as the President said, is a terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction.  It’s fired thousands of rockets on our cities, on our children.  It’s recently fired an anti-tank rocket at a yellow school bus, killing a 16-year-old boy.  And Hamas has just attacked you, Mr. President, and the United States for ridding the world of bin Laden.

So Israel obviously cannot be asked to negotiate with a government that is backed by the Palestinian version of al Qaeda.

I think President Abbas has a simple choice.  He has to decide if he negotiates or keeps his pact with Hamas, or makes peace with Israel.  And I can only express what I said to you just now, that I hope he makes the choice, the right choice, in choosing peace with Israel.

The third reality is that the Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state, but certainly not in the borders of Israel.

The Arab attack in 1948 on Israel resulted in two refugee problems — Palestinian refugee problem and Jewish refugees, roughly the same number, who were expelled from Arab lands.  Now, tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees.  Now, 63 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel, accept the grandchildren, really, and the great grandchildren of these refugees, thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state.

So it’s not going to happen.  Everybody knows it’s not going to happen.  And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it’s not going to happen.  The Palestinian refugee problem has to be resolved.  It can be resolved, and it will be resolved if the Palestinians choose to do so in a Palestinian state.  So that’s a real possibility.  But it’s not going to be resolved within the Jewish state.

The President and I discussed all these issues and I think we may have differences here and there, but I think there’s an overall direction that we wish to work together to pursue a real, genuine peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors; a peace that is defensible.

Mr. President, you’re the — you’re the leader of a great people, the American people.  And I’m the leader of a much smaller people, the —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  A great people.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  It’s a great people, too.  It’s the ancient nation of Israel.  And, you know, we’ve been around for almost 4,000 years.  We’ve experienced struggle and suffering like no other people.  We’ve gone through expulsions and pogroms and massacres and the murder of millions.  But I can say that even at the dearth of — even at the nadir of the valley of death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of reestablishing a sovereign state in our ancient homeland, the land of Israel.

And now it falls on my shoulders as the Prime Minister of Israel, at a time of extraordinary instability and uncertainty in the Middle East, to work with you to fashion a peace that will ensure Israel’s security and will not jeopardize its survival.  I take this responsibility with pride but with great humility, because, as I told you in our conversation, we don’t have a lot of margin for error.  And because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance.

So in the coming days and weeks and months, I intend to work with you to seek a peace that will address our security concerns, seek a genuine recognition that we wish from our Palestinian neighbors to give a better future for Israel and for the entire region.

And I thank you for the opportunity to exchange our views and to work together for this common end.  Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.

END 1:51 P.M. EDT

President Obama & Prime Minister Netanyahu: “The Common Goal is Peace”

Watch the entire press conference below:

Israel Political Brief May 19, 2011: President Obama’s Speech on the Middle East Advocates Israel Returning to Pre-1967 Borders

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings and JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Doug Mills/The New York Times

IN FOCUS

  • Obama Backs Mideast Plan Based on 1967 Borders: Declaring that “the dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” President Obama said that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must embody two sovereign states based on pre-1967 borders.

THE HEADLINES….

  • As Obama Endorses ’67 Borders, Netanyahu Objects: President Obama’s endorsement on Thursday of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute based on the 1967 borders — the first time an American president has explicitly endorsed those borders as the baseline for negotiations over a Palestinian state — prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to push back and the Palestinian leadership to call an urgent meeting.
    Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement just before boarding a plane to Washington that while he appreciated Mr. Obama’s commitment to peace, he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of American commitments made to Israel in 2004 which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress.”
    Those commitments came in a letter from President George W. Bush that stated, among other things, that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” which was another way of describing the 1967 boundaries…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Endorses 1967 Borders for Israel: Seeking to harness the seismic political change still unfolding in the Arab world, President Obama for the first time on Thursday publicly called for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would create a non-militarized Palestinian state on the basis of Israel’s borders before 1967.
    “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent that ever,” he said.
    Although Mr. Obama said that “the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians remain to be negotiated, including the searing questions of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, he spoke with striking frustration that efforts to support an agreement had so far failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.
    The outline for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement came in what the president called “a moment of opportunity” following six months of political upheaval that has at times left the administration scrambling to keep up. The speech was an attempt to articulate a cohesive American policy to an Arab Spring that took a dark turn as the euphoria of popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt gave way to violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Syria, a civil war in Libya and political stalemate in Yemen…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech Backlash on Call to Reinstate 1967 Mideast Borders: President Obama’s call this afternoon for Israel and Palestine to redraw boundaries based on 1967 lines has already generated backlash.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” the president said in a wide-ranging, Mideast speech at the State Department.
    “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
    The suggestion landed with a thud in Israel, where some skeptics worry that such a border makes the country less secure. The country will object to any “indefensible” borders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
    “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel’s existence,” said Netanyahu, who is expected to arrive here in Washington Friday.
    Netanyahu’s office tweeted its clear disapproval of the president’s reference to the 1967 borders.
    “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress,” the office wrote on Twitter. “Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Obama pledges new aid to Mideast nations embracing democracy: Under pressure from key allies to act more decisively on several volatile issues in the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama on Thursday promised new U.S. aid to nations that embrace democracy while he also condemned attacks on demonstrators, notably in Syria.
    Saying that the future of the United States is bound to the region in a number of ways, Obama said he was focused on “how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.”
    In what was billed as a major speech meant to define U.S. interests in the region amid the wave of change known as the Arab Spring, Obama was unveiling a series of economic initiatives to encourage democracy there, including aid for Tunisia and a total of $2 billion in debt relief and loan guarantees for Egypt’s fledgling government.
    Speaking at the State Department before an audience of U.S. diplomats, administration officials and foreign envoys, Obama made his first broad attempt to place the region’s wave of popular uprisings, which have swept away autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt and threatened several others, in the context of American interests and values. Aides said he felt it was importrant to address the armed rebellion in Libya, the uprising in Syria and the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
    The speech was aimed in part at reassuring allies alarmed by what they perceive as drift in Obama’s policy in the rapidly changing region, after weeks when Osama bin Laden’s killing and a domestic debate over the national debt took center stage…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama Lays Out U.S. Policy on Arab World Amid Uprisings: With a backdrop of continuing anti-government protests in the Arab world and criticism from some corners over a perceived uneven U.S. response, President Obama said in a major policy speech Thursday that the U.S. would use its influence and economic power to support the region’s transitions to democracy.
    “Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States,” he said.
    The president said that for decades, the United States has pursued a set of interests, including countering terrorism, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, securing the flow of commerce and security in the region, and standing up for Israel’s security along with pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.
    And while the U.S. would continue to do these things, “we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind,” he said.
    President Obama also acknowledged that “we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force — no matter how well-intended it may be.”… – PBS Newshour, 5-19-11
  • Barack Obama throws full US support behind Middle East uprisings: • President unveils shift in US policy towards Arab countries
    • ‘Status quo not sustainable,’ he warns region’s autocracies
    • Sets out two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    • Tells Syria’s Assad to lead transition or ‘get out of way’
    Barack Obama has sought to realign US policy on the Middle East, promising to shift from the long-held American backing for autocratic regimes to support for pro-democracy movements – and pledging to set out the shape of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
    “The status quo is not sustainable,” Obama said in a major speech at the state department in Washington on Thursday, the first on the Middle East since he spoke in Cairo in 2009.
    In a speech dubbed Cairo 2, he threw US weight behind the protesters, saying: “We face a historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator … After decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”
    He was addressing criticism that America has moved too slowly in response to the pro-democracy movements sweeping the region.
    As well as support for the newly emerging democracies in Egypt and Tunisia, he criticised long-term US allies such as Bahrain, where America has a large naval base, for its suppression of democracy movements…. – Guardian UK, 5-19-11
  • President Obama has message for Mideast regimes: We’ll give you aid, if you promote reform: President Obama proposed billions in economic aid Thursday to reward Mideast regimes that reform, delivering a much-hyped speech on U.S. policy toward a region rocked by upheaval.
    “Square by square, town by town, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights,” Obama told an audience at the U.S. State Department. “And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics, security, by history, by faith.”
    Obama embraced the sea change triggered in Tunisia and vowed to support the growing freedom movement across the Arab world.
    “We have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals,” Obama said.
    “The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they’re built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.”… – NY Daily News, 5-19-11
  • Obama Addresses ‘Extraordinary Change’ in Middle East, North Africa: ‘In Libya, we had a mandate to take action,’ says President Obama. ‘Syrian government must stop unjustified arrests of protesters.’
    U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed the “extraordinary change” taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, but said too many countries have met the calls for change with violence.
    Mr. Obama, speaking Thursday at the State Department, said the most extreme example is Libya, where he said Moammar Gadhafi launched a war against his own people. He said thousands of people would have been killed in Libya if the United States and its partners did not act.
    He said Syria has also chosen the “path of murder and mass arrests.” Mr. Obama called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to either lead a transition to democracy or “get out the way.” He called on the Syrian government to stop shooting protestors, allow peaceful protests and stop unjust arrests.
    Mr. Obama noted that in the last six months two leaders have been replaced in the Middle East and North Africa, and he said “more may follow” as people rise up to demand their basic rights.
    He said it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region and support a transition to democracy. He said that effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia…. – VOA, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel must act boldly: In major policy speech, President Obama says ‘Israel must act boldly to advance lasting peace,’ stresses status quo ‘unsustainable.’ Border between Israel, Palestinians to be based on 1967 lines, he says
    Israel must act boldly in order to advance a peace agreement with the Palestinians, President Barack Obama said in his highly anticipated Mideast policy speech Thursday, presenting his vision for future negotiations.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” he said.
    “There are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward (on peace,)” Obama said. “I disagree… the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.”
    Obama blamed both Israel and the Palestinians for failing to meet expectations in their pursuit of peace thus far.
    “Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks,” he said.
    Turning his attention to the Jewish State, the president stressed that America’s friendship with Israel “is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.”
    Obama noted that America’s committed to Israel’s security is “unshakable,” but added that “precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – YNet News, 5-19-11
  • Obama: 1967 borders with swaps should serve as basis for negotiations: President Obama said the future state of Palestine should be based on the pre-1967 border with mutually agreed land swaps with Israel.
    In his address Thursday afternoon on U.S. policy in the Middle East, Obama told an audience at the State Department that the borders of a “sovereign, nonmilitarized” Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    Negotiations should focus first on territory and security, and then the difficult issues of the status of Jerusalem and what to do about the rights of Palestinian refugees can be breached, Obama said.
    “Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and secuertiy does not mean it will be easy to come back to the table,” Obama said, noting the new unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, a group foreswarn to Israel’s destruction.
    “How can one negotiate with a party that shows itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama said. “Palestinians have to provide a credible answer to that question.”
    The U.S. president did not announce a specific initiative to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.
    The speech, which focused mostly on the Arab democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world, marked the first time Obama formally declared that the pre-Six Day War borders should form the basis of negotiations. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel-Palestine Borders Should Be on 1967 Lines: In his speech on Thursday morning regarding Middle East policy, American President Barack Obama declared that a two-state solution is imperative to the security of the middle east, and that the borders must be based on the 1967 borders of the state of Israel with agreed upon territorial exchange. This, the president claims will provide “security” for both sides.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
    As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.”
    The President also stated that nothing can go forward without full Palestinian recognition of the state of Israel on the side of the Palestinians, as well as full cooperation and change of policy from Hamas. Hamas recently signed a formal accord with its opposing party Fatah, and while no leader has yet been named to head this new party, it is clear that this new marriage of Palestinian leaders is not in Israel’s best interest as Hamas has declared repeatedly that all Jews should be killed and Israel does not actually exist.
    Recently, a Hamas official stated that while Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, it will not agree to recognize Israel formally as the “future generations” must be given the opportunity to “liberate the lands.”
    Briefly addressing the upcoming declaration of a unilateral Palestinian state by the United Nations in September, President Obama reiterated American support of Israel multiple times. “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection… Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel, Palestine borders must be based on 1967 lines: Obama says status quo in Mideast and North Africa is not sustainable, stresses U.S. opposes use of violence, oppression against people of the region.
    President Barack Obama said Thursday that the U.S. endorses the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. ”
    U.S. President Barack Obama urged Palestinians and Israelis to renew peace talks on Thursday, and stressed that the Palestinians’ efforts to delegitimize Israel will fail.
    “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state,” Obama said. “Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”
    “As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – Haaretz, 5-19-11
  • Obama: America’s future bound to Middle East: President Barack Obama says the future of the U.S. is bound to the Middle East and North Africa by the forces of economics, security, history and fate.
    Obama opened a major speech on U.S. policy in the region by trying to tell Americans why it matters to them even though the countries “may be a great distance from our shores.”
    He made the comments at the State Department Thursday in speech meant as his first comprehensive response to revolts sweeping the Arab world. It was aimed at audiences in the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa, where the State Department was providing simultaneous translation in Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew.
    In his remarks, Mr. Obama addressed the Israel-Palestine conflict, and, in a move that will likely infuriate Israel, endorsed the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. Israel says the borders of Palestinian state have to be determined through negotiations.
    Mr. Obama sided with the Palestinians’ opening position a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to referring to the 1967 borders.
    Until Thursday, the U.S. position had been that the Palestinian goal of a state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, should be reconciled with Israel’s desire for a secure Jewish state through negotiations…. – CBS News, 5-19-11
  • What Arabs want to hear (or not hear) from Obama speech: In contrast with Obama’s major speech two years ago in Cairo, today’s address on the Middle East has generated little interest in Egypt. But Libyans and Syrians have higher hopes…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East Speech Has Many American Audiences: Thursday’s speech by President Obama on the upheaval in the Middle East is aimed at a global audience. But it will also play out in a domestic — and political — context as Mr. Obama seeks a second term in the White House.
    Since taking office, Mr. Obama has sought to strike a balance between reaching out to the Muslim world while also combating terrorism and pushing for progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The as-yet unfulfilled promise of that approach, which he described in a speech in Cairo in 2009, helped win him the Nobel Peace Prize early in his presidency.
    But the effort to construct a cohesive narrative for American voters about his administration’s efforts in the region has proved more difficult. The peace process has been largely halted. The move away from Bush-era terrorism policies has gone more slowly than expected. And the uprisings in the Arab world have forced case-by-case decisions that sometimes appear contradictory…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East speech — how far will he go?: We know many of the topics President Obama will discuss in this morning’s Middle East speech. The question is: How far will he go?
    For example, we suspect Obama will talk about the sanctions his government slapped yesterday on Syrian President Bashar Assad. But will he call on Assad to step aside in light of his government’s attacks on pro-democracy protesters?
    Obama is also expected to call for revived peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, despite recent clashes between the two. But how much pressure will he put on either side, especially with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming to town for a presidential meeting on Friday?
    We know that Obama will announce plans for new economic aid to Tunisia and Egypt, countries that actually threw off authoritarian governments earlier this year; but how much money does that involve?… – USA Today, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech to Test Extent of U.S. Influence: When President Barack Obama outlines his vision of U.S. policy in the Middle East today, his challenge will be to get people in the region to care.
    The excitement generated by Obama’s call two years ago for a “new beginning” in U.S.-Arab relations evaporated as people waited for changes that haven’t come, said Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations and others who study the region.
    As protests have swept the Arab world, toppling some leaders and challenging others, U.S. influence has been diminished by a response seen as cautious and inconsistent, Danin and other analysts said. And the U.S. has suffered some very public diplomatic setbacks in dealing with Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and the Israelis and Palestinians.
    “It’s not clear what the United States says right now matters to the people of the Middle East,” Danin said. “The people of the Arab world are more interested in seeing what the United States does, not what it has to say.”… – Bloomberg, 5-19-11
  • Focus Is on Obama as Tensions Soar Across Mideast: Few game-changing proposals are emerging to defuse tensions in the Middle East as a busy week of diplomacy unfolds with President Obama’s address to the region and his meeting with Israel’s prime minister.
    Against the backdrop of Middle East uprisings that have intensified animus toward Israel and growing momentum for global recognition of a Palestinian state, American and Israeli officials are struggling to balance national security interests against the need to adapt to a transformative movement in the Arab world.
    The White House unveiled a $2 billion multiyear economic aid package for Egypt, which officials say would largely shift existing funds. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel prepared to arrive in Washington with a package that he hoped would shift the burden of restarting the peace process to the Palestinians.
    Mr. Obama, who is set to address Americans — and, more significantly, Muslims around the world — from the State Department on Thursday morning, may yet have something surprising up his sleeve. One administration official said that there remained debate about whether Mr. Obama would formally endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state, a move that would send an oratorical signal that the United States expected Israel to make concessions…. – NYT, 5-18-11

QUOTES

President Barack Obama delivers a policy address on events in the Middle East at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, May 19, 2011

Photo: AP

President Barack Obama delivers a policy address on events in the Middle East at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, May 19, 2011

  • TEXT: Obama’s Mideast Speech: Following is a text of President Obama’s prepared speech on the Middle East, delivered on Thursday in Washington, as released by the White House:
    I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – one million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.
    The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.
    Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.
    Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build.
    Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Clinton introduces Obama address, says US vital in Mideast: Opening US President Barak Obama’s Middle East speech on Thursday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that the “president’s clear vision, and pure principles” show the “indispensable role [the US] must play in the Middle East.”
    Clinton said “America’s leadership is more essential than ever,” and that the “US must lead in a new and innovative way.” She thanked the State Department, where Obama was speaking, for doing work “engaging with citizens in the streets and through social networks as [Middle East citizens] move from protests to politics.”… – JPost, 5-19-11
  • Netanyahu’s Office Tweets Disapproving Response to President Obama’s Speech: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office twitter account — run by Dr. Eitan Eliram, new media director of the prime minister’s office –- sent out a rapid succession of tweets stating clear disapproval with the president’s reference to the 1967 borders:
    “Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state… cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state,” the tweets state. “That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress. Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines. Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel. Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace. Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Mitt Romney: Obama threw Israel ‘under the bus’ in speech: President Obama “has thrown Israel under the bus,” potential rival Mitt Romney said in a statement responding to the president’s speech on Middle East policy Thursday
    The former Massachusetts governor criticizes Obama for endorsing a call for Israel to withdraw to borders that were in place before the 1967 war in the interests of achieving peace.
    “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said. “He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”… – LAT, 5-19-11
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R), another candidate seeking to challenge Obama, later reacted more broadly to the policy Obama outlined for the region: “No speech can make up for the lost time and opportunity President Obama has squandered,” he said. “The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies.”
  • President Obama’s Suicide Speech for Israel: McCotter’s Statement re President Obama’s Middle East Speech: In response to President Obama’s address on the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI) has issued the following statement:
    In his latest lecture to the Middle East, an ideologically purblind President Obama has again failed to acknowledge the facts on the ground, much to the detriment of American and Israeli strategic interests.
    …Such strategic celerity, though, is lacking in the Obama Administration. For, as is becoming abundantly clear, its missteps and missed opportunities stem from the President’s inconstant commitment to the strategic partnership that founds America’s Middle Eastern policies for our national security and regional peace: the American-Israeli alliance.
    Israel is a market-based, liberal democracy that protects the lives and property of its people, including its minorities.
    Israel is America’s key strategic ally in the region. Israel enhances our defense capabilities; provides us a secure foothold in the strategically important and turbulent Middle East; and has supported our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by sharing its military technology and its intelligence on hostile forces.
    Israel is under a constant and increasing threat from terrorist forces, such as Hamas and Hezbollah; instability on its borders; and the hatred of hostile nations, notably Iran and Syria, that seek our ally’s demise.
    Already, due to the Obama administration’s bungling, radical political forces in Egypt are promising to press for the abrogation of the Camp David accords with Israel, both as a matter of law and a matter of fact.
    Inexcusably, the President’s opining and overtures have caused America’s and Israel’s shared strategic interests to decline in the Arab world – as has, not ironically, America’s popularity.
    Now must end the Obama Administration’s pressure upon our ally to make dangerous strategic concessions, which the President has done since entering office. Indeed, from day one the President has misunderstood and mangled the peace process, demanding concessions on Israeli settlements that the Palestinians had never made a precondition in negotiations. In return, all the President has reaped is the Palestinian National Authority pulling out of negotiations and endeavoring to have the United Nations foist a Palestinian state upon Israel without any direct negotiations. Moreover, the President’s “policies” have done nothing to stem the Palestinian national authority allying with the terrorists of Hamas, who are pledged to Israel’s destruction.
    Today’s speech repeats the injurious canards of forcing unilateral concessions on Israel; and claiming Hamas is becoming “moderate”. This is naïve at best, and, in reality, a foolish and dangerous misreading of a terrorist group that is America’s and Israel’s enemy. Instead, The President should have made clear that, if the Palestinian Authority chooses Hamas, it has turned its back on peace and forfeited American support, aid and assistance.
    Bluntly, a continued destabilization of Israel’s security is a strategic sellout of the highest order, and a breaking of our solemn promise to our ally.
    Mideast peace will not result from arbitrarily and unilaterally imposed solutions that will, in consequence, only further destabilize the region. Peace will come when the Palestinians and the Arab nations accept Israel as a Jewish state, abandon their dreams of eradicating it; stop demonizing Israel; cease teaching their children to hate it; and, conversely, tolerate and protect the minorities in their midst. When this happens, the Israelis will have a true partner in peace, one with whom they can mutually work for liberty, prosperity and security in that long troubled land.
    Thus, to do otherwise in our strategic partnership with Israel, however unwittingly, would reveal President Obama’s failure to acknowledge President Kennedy’s sage advice: “The surest path to war is the path of weakness and disunity.”
    No, in the interests of peace and American and Israeli security, the President must acknowledge the truths underpinning our alliance; recognize those facts on the ground endangering our alliance; and, so doing, commence strengthening the foundations of the American-Israeli alliance; and the very hopes for Middle East peace. – The Hill, 5-19-11
  • Republican Jewish Committee: JC Executive Director Matt Brooks: RJC Concerned about Obama’s Call for Israel to Return to 1967 borders: Today the President called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based “on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Those borders, actually the 1949 armistice lines, are physically indefensible, as numerous military experts have plainly stated. Asking Israel to return to those borders is unacceptable and places Israel in a vulnerable and dangerous position.
    President Bush, in his 2004 letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon memorializing the position of the United States, made it clear that, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
    President Bush spoke often about Israel’s need for secure and defensible borders and recognized Israel’s legitimate claim to certain high-population Jewish areas, such as the immediate suburbs of Jerusalem, which are beyond the 1949 armistice line. In contrast, President Obama has consistently condemned even the building of housing in municipal Jerusalem itself. It is, in fact, President Obama’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to negotiations, more than anything else, that doomed his administration’s peace-making efforts. That stand emboldened Palestinian extremists, damaged the PA’s ability to negotiate, and forced Israelis to question the sincerity of the administration’s friendship.
    With that immediate history in mind, we are concerned that when President Obama speaks of “the 1967 borders,” he means borders for Israel that are much less secure and defensible and that put Israel at risk. – RJCHQ, 5-19-11
  • B’nai B’rith International commends and critiques: B’nai B’rith International commends President Obama for clearly reiterating U.S. support for Israel. The president noted the relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared history and values and he strongly asserted that the commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable, while he affirmed that Israel is a Jewish state.
    It was also encouraging that the president spoke against unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, a measure the Palestinians are planning to bring before the United Nations in September….
    B’nai B’rith is concerned that the president is prejudging the outcome of the peace process by publicly calling for pre-1967 borders as a basis for a Palestinian state, with land swaps. Discussion about this difficult issue should be reserved for direct negotiations between the parties.
    Though he noted the issue of Palestinian refugees, B’nai B’rith is disappointed that the president failed to mention the one million Jewish refugees created at the same time. The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is often overlooked. JTA, 5-19-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Politico Arena: Did Obama lay out cohesive Middle East policy?Politico, 5-19-11
  • President Obama Rewards Hamas: President Obama delivered an unprecedented rebuke of the Israeli people by an American president today. In words that were designed to reach more Muslim citizens than United States citizens, Obama called Israel’s legitimate West Bank settlements an “occupation”; and by calling for a return to the 1967 borders, he is calling for a divided Jerusalem. He continued to press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and, subsequently, with the “unity government” the PA has formed with the terrorist group, Hamas.
    It’s extremely troubling that President Obama would side with the Palestinian Authority in an effort to jump-start peace talks in the Middle East. President Obama is not the negotiator-in-chief for the Middle East and to make sweeping demands and characterizations not only hurts the peace process but also damages U.S.-Israeli relations.
    For decades, Israel has been our most important ally in the region. Sadly, with the President’s remarks, and decision to side with the Palestinian Authority, it appears he no longer believes that is the case. By endorsing the “unity government” he has rewarded Hamas – a terrorist organization that calls for the elimination of the Jews…. – Liberty Alerts, American Center for Law and Justice, 5-19-11
  • Obama speech greeted with skepticism, apathy in Mideast: President Obama’s vow that the United States will “stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights” in the Middle East was received with a mix of apathy and skepticism by people in the region who watched the speech Thursday night.
    Some said they saw little news or any discernible shift in policy from an administration that has struggled to formulate a coherent response to the wave of popular uprisings roiling the region this spring.
    “My hope was for an unqualified apology” for Obama’s perceived support of dictators, said Hossam Bahgat, a Cairo human rights activist who was among a handful of people who got up from his table to watch the speech at a popular downtown cafe. “And I thought only Obama could do that.”
    Baghat said he was expecting stronger words from a president who delivered a speech at Cairo University two years ago that left many in the Middle East feeling that the United States was backing away from its commitment to support democratic reform in the region.
    “The overwhelming sense was one of deja vu,” Bahgat said. “I kept waiting for Cairo II, but all I heard was Cairo I.”… – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • DANNY DANON: Making the Land of Israel Whole: OVER the past few months, analysts in Israel and abroad have warned that Israel will face what Defense Minister Ehud Barak has termed a “diplomatic tsunami.” In September, the Palestinian Authority plans to bring the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundary to the United Nations General Assembly for a vote. The Palestinians’ request will almost certainly be approved.
    While most voices in the Israeli and international news media are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to grant major concessions to the Palestinians to forestall such a move, he should in fact do the opposite: he should annex the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria.
    In 1995, as part of the Oslo accords, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” If the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, decide to disregard this section of the accords by seeking United Nations recognition of statehood, it would mean that Israel, too, is no longer bound by its contents and is freed to take unilateral action.
    The first immediate implication would be that all of the diplomatic and security assistance that Israel provides to the Palestinians would be halted, and the transfer of tax revenues — upward of $1 billion per year — would end permanently. This alone could threaten the very existence of the Palestinian Authority.
    Second, a United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood would give Israel an opportunity to rectify the mistake we made in 1967 by failing to annex all of the West Bank (as we did the eastern half of Jerusalem). We could then extend full Israeli jurisdiction to the Jewish communities and uninhabited lands of the West Bank. This would put an end to a legal limbo that has existed for 44 years.
    In addition to its obvious ideological and symbolic significance, legalizing our hold on the West Bank would also increase the security of all Israelis by depriving terrorists of a base and creating a buffer against threats from the east. Moreover, we would be well within our rights to assert, as we did in Gaza after our disengagement in 2005, that we are no longer responsible for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who would continue to live in their own — unannexed — towns.
    These Palestinians would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population.
    While naysayers will no doubt warn us of the dire consequences and international condemnation that are sure to follow such a move by Israel, this would not be the first time that Israel has made such controversial decisions…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Deciphering Obama’s mideast speech: President Obama’s speech on the Middle East this morning is an attempt to put the Arab Spring into context– and also, in effect, to hit the “reset button” on U.S. policy in the region. Administration officials say they have tried to tackle each uprising in a deliberate fashion, with a response tailored to the situation in each particular country. But the administration in many ways has reaped the worst of all possible outcomes from its approach. Many reports from the region suggest that ordinary Arabs are disappointed in the U.S. response to the uprisings, and believe Obama was too slow to abandon autocrats such as Hosni Mubarak…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East speech: Good but irrelevant: President Obama’s Middle East speech at the State Department today is likely to be positively received in Washington. Middle Easterners, however, will probably find it disappointing, or worse, irrelevant… – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East Speech Has Many American Audiences: “They need to make the case for why all of this stuff matters to Americans and give some narrative that makes sense for all the different things we are doing,” said Marc Lynch, the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University.
    Mr. Obama’s decision to launch the raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden has clearly helped to define for Americans a new Obama story in the region. Thursday’s speech will give the president the opportunity to put those actions in a broader context, Mr. Lynch said.
    “Pivoting into presidential campaign season, they are going to want to have in place a robust story to tell,” said Mr. Lynch, who writes the Middle East blog for Foreign Policy magazine. “The more that they can choose a few clear themes that fit together into a clear story, the better.” – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Arab-Israeli Options: The Arab uprisings that have swept the Middle East touched Israel directly for the first time, as an unprecedented wave of Palestinian protesters charged toward Israel’s borders from four directions on Sunday.
    With President Obama set to give a major speech on the Middle East on Thursday and with the departure of George Mitchell, the chief United States envoy to the Israelis and Palestinians, the White House is facing new challenges on both sides in dealing with the impasse in peace talks .
    In a speech on Monday, in advance of a trip to Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is willing to show more flexibility on territory, but his position is far from what any Palestinian leader will accept.
    Should the White House play a more active role in pushing both sides toward compromise? Or will more involvement simply raise expectations that cannot be met, as has occurred in the past? What should the White House strategy be?… – NYT, 5-17-11
    Yossi Klein Halevi: An Imposed Deal Will Fail
    Rime Allaf: Don’t Bother
    Aaron David Miller: Right Now, the U.S. Is Irrelevant
    Shibley Telhami: Only Washington Can Lead
    Michele Dunne: First, Obama Needs a Strategy
    Menachem Klein: We Need a Game Change
    Daniel Levy: From Illusions to Solutions
    Rashid Khalidi: An End to the Status Quo

Full Text: President Barack Obama’s Arab Spring Speech — Asserting Israel Must Adopt Pre-1967 Borders

Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa

Moment of Opportunity: American Diplomacy in the Middle East & North Africa
May 19, 2011 1:19 PM

Moment of Opportunity: American Diplomacy in the Middle East & North Africa

State Department, Washington, DC

12:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you very much.  I want to begin by thanking Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark — one million frequent flyer miles.  (Laughter.)  I count on Hillary every single day, and I believe that she will go down as one of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.

The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy.  For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa.  Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights.  Two leaders have stepped aside.  More may follow.  And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith.

Today, I want to talk about this change — the forces that are driving it and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.

Now, already, we’ve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts.  After years of war in Iraq, we’ve removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there.  In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan lead.  And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden was no martyr.  He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate –- an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change.  He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy -– not what he could build.

Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents.  But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life.  By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.

That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia.  On December 17th, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart.  This was not unique.  It’s the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world -– the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity.  Only this time, something different happened.  After local officials refused to hear his complaints, this young man, who had never been particularly active in politics, went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.

There are times in the course of history when the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has been building up for years.  In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat.  So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country.  Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands.  And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home –- day after day, week after week — until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.

The story of this revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise.  The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not.  In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of a few.  In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn  -– no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.

And this lack of self-determination –- the chance to make your life what you will –- has applied to the region’s economy as well.  Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity.  But in a global economy based on knowledge, based on innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.

In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere.  The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half-century after the end of colonialism.  Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression.  Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.

But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and strategies of diversion will not work anymore.  Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world -– a world of astonishing progress in places like India and Indonesia and Brazil.  Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before.  And so a new generation has emerged.  And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.

In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.”

In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end.”

In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, “Our words are free now.  It’s a feeling you can’t explain.”

In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, “After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.”

Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region.  And through the moral force of nonviolence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.

Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily.  In our day and age -– a time of 24-hour news cycles and constant communication –- people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks.  But it will be years before this story reaches its end.  Along the way, there will be good days and there will bad days.  In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual.  And as we’ve already seen, calls for change may give way, in some cases, to fierce contests for power.

The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds.  For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region:  countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.

We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to people’s hopes; they’re essential to them.  We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks.  We believe people everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut-off in energy supplies.  As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.

Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind.  Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our interests at their expense.  Given that this mistrust runs both ways –- as Americans have been seared by hostage-taking and violent rhetoric and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens -– a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and the Arab world.

And that’s why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.  I believed then -– and I believe now -– that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals.  The status quo is not sustainable.  Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.

So we face a historic opportunity.  We have the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator.  There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity.  Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise.  But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

Of course, as we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility.  It’s not America that put people into the streets of Tunis or Cairo -– it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and it’s the people themselves that must ultimately determine their outcome.

Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short-term interests don’t align perfectly with our long-term vision for the region.  But we can, and we will, speak out for a set of core principles –- principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:

The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region.  (Applause.)

The United States supports a set of universal rights.  And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders  -– whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.

And we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.

Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest.  Today I want to make it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.

Let me be specific.  First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.  That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high -– as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab world’s largest nation.  Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections, a vibrant civil society, accountable and effective democratic institutions, and responsible regional leadership.  But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.

Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have thus far been answered by violence.  The most extreme example is Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi launched a war against his own people, promising to hunt them down like rats.  As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to try to impose regime change by force -– no matter how well-intentioned it may be.

But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help.  Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed.  The message would have been clear:  Keep power by killing as many people as it takes.  Now, time is working against Qaddafi. He does not have control over his country.  The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council.  And when Qaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.

While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it’s not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power.  Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens.  The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime –- including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.

The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy.  President Assad now has a choice:  He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.  The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests.  It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests.  It must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition.  Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and will continue to be isolated abroad.

So far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression.  And this speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet represses its own people at home.  Let’s remember that the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail.  We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran.  The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory.  And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.

Now, our opposition to Iran’s intolerance and Iran’s repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known.  But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that at times our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for consistent change — with change that’s consistent with the principles that I’ve outlined today.  That’s true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power.  And that’s true today in Bahrain.

Bahrain is a longstanding partner, and we are committed to its security.  We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law.

Nevertheless, we have insisted both publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and we will — and such steps will not make legitimate calls for reform go away.  The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.  (Applause.)  The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.

Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict.  In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy.  The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security.  Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks.  But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress.  And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region.  Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike.  Our message is simple:  If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States.

We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future -– particularly young people.  We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo -– to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand exchanges in education, to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease.  Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths.  And we will use the technology to connect with -– and listen to –- the voices of the people.

For the fact is, real reform does not come at the ballot box alone.  Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information.  We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard -– whether it’s a big news organization or a lone blogger.  In the 21st century, information is power, the truth cannot be hidden, and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview.  Let me be clear, America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them.  And sometimes we profoundly disagree with them.

We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy.  What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent.  Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities.

Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion.  In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.”  America will work to see that this spirit prevails -– that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them.  In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation.  And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.

What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women.  History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered.  And that’s why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men -– by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office.  The region will never reach its full potential when more than half of its population is prevented from achieving their full potential.  (Applause.)

Now, even as we promote political reform, even as we promote human rights in the region, our efforts can’t stop there.  So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that are transitioning to democracy.

After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets.  The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family.  Too many people in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, perhaps hoping that their luck will change.  Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job.  Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from those ideas.

The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people.  In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world.  It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google.  That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street.  For just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.

So, drawing from what we’ve learned around the world, we think it’s important to focus on trade, not just aid; on investment, not just assistance.  The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness, the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young.  America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability, promoting reform, and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy.  And we’re going to start with Tunisia and Egypt.

First, we’ve asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt.  Together, we must help them recover from the disruptions of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year.  And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.

Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past.  So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship.  We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation.  And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.

Third, we’re working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt.  And these will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region.  And we will work with the allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.

Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa.  If you take out oil exports, this entire region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland.  So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement.  And just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress -– the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect.  We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts at anti-corruption — by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to increase transparency and hold government accountable.  Politics and human rights; economic reform.

Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.

For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region.  For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them.  For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own.  Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost to the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security and prosperity and empowerment to ordinary people.

For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations.  Yet expectations have gone unmet.  Israeli settlement activity continues.  Palestinians have walked away from talks.  The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate.  Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.

I disagree.  At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.  That’s certainly true for the two parties involved.

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure.  Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection.  And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.  Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.  And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.  But precisely because of our friendship, it’s important that we tell the truth:  The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.

The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River.  Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself.  A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people -– not just one or two leaders — must believe peace is possible.  The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.

Now, ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action.  No peace can be imposed upon them — not by the United States; not by anybody else.  But endless delay won’t make the problem go away.  What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows — a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples:  Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear:  a viable Palestine, a secure Israel.  The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.  The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat.  Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.  The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.  And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations.  Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met.  I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain:  the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees.  But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Now, let me say this:  Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table.  In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel:  How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?  And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.  Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.

I recognize how hard this will be.  Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past.  We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones.  That father said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.”  We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza.  “I have the right to feel angry,” he said.  “So many people were expecting me to hate.  My answer to them is I shall not hate.  Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow.”

That is the choice that must be made -– not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region -– a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.  It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.

For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful.  In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests.  In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, “peaceful, peaceful.”  In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known.  Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying loose the grip of an iron fist.

For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar.  Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire.  Our people fought a painful Civil War that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved.  And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of nonviolence as a way to perfect our union –- organizing, marching, protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa -– words which tell us that repression will fail, and that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights.

It will not be easy.  There’s no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope.  But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves.  And now we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END 1:00 P.M. EDT

Deborah Lipstadt: Demjanjuk Trial May Be Last For Holocaust Crimes

Source: NPR, 5-18-11

John Demjanjuk was convicted in Germany on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder after four decades of legal battles. Deborah Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University, wrote an op-ed describing the case as likely “the last Holocaust war crimes trial.”

NEAL CONAN, host:

When the United States in 2009 sent John Demjanjuk to stand trial in Germany as an accused Nazi war criminal, many wondered: What’s the point? Or as Deborah Lipstadt put it in a recent New York Times op-ed: Wasn’t there something comic, even shameful, about dragging a dying man across the Atlantic to stand trial for a crime he committed over half a century ago? Shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations, even for genocide?

Deborah Lipstadt teaches modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University, and joins us now from our bureau in New York.

And thanks very much for being with us today.

Dr. DEBORAH LIPSTADT (Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Emory University): Thank you, Neal. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

CONAN: And part of that question line comes – this is a man who spent six months as a guard at a death camp called Sobibor. This was not Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust.

Dr. LIPSTADT: True. It was not, well, first of all, I don’t think Adolf Eichmann was the architect, but we can talk about that later.

CONAN: All right.

Dr. LIPSTADT: He’s one of the operating – chief operating officers. But John Demjanjuk was certainly not as important as an Adolf Eichmann. He was not as high-ranking. He was Ukrainian. He was a guard. But he knew exactly what was going on. And, in fact, the judge – the German judge who found him guilty of being an accessory to murder in 28,000-plus murders made that point, that he had to know what was going on. And as every guard – the judge said every guard at Sobibor knew he was part of an organization with no other purpose but mass murder. So to say it was only six months when people like Eichmann were there – were doing this for four or five years is not really an excuse.

CONAN: And interestingly, he and Eichmann had the same excuse. They said: We had no choice.

Dr. LIPSTADT: Kill or be killed. Well, the truth of the matter is that no defense attorney, including Demjanjuk’s, has ever been able to produce any evidence – defense attorney or historian – of someone actually being killed for refusing to participate. So the idea of kill or be killed is really, I think, a bit of a myth.

Moreover – they might have been sent to the Eastern Front. They might have been sent to do terrible jobs, more dangerous jobs to them, but they weren’t forced to do that. And even if they had been forced, I think there is a – an ethical law that they very happily ignored.

CONAN: And another criticism is there was no specific evidence against John Demjanjuk charged. He was charged as an accessory to murder in the more than 28,000 deaths that occurred at the time he was a guard at the death camp. And basically, the allegation was, yes, he knew, therefore he did nothing to stop, therefore he was an accessory in all of these murders, but no specific allegation.

Dr. LIPSTADT: Well, I think there were specifics. I think – we have to remember that this wasn’t the only court that heard the evidence. He actually had been tried in three different nations: Israel, the United -first the United States, then Israel, then Germany. And all three judicial systems found him – found that he wasn’t Ivan the Terrible, as he was originally accused of being…

CONAN: Falsely.

Dr. LIPSTADT: …falsely accused of being. He was a terrible Ivan. And, in fact, it pays to see what – pay attention to what happened in Israel. After he’s stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1981 and extradited to Israel, he’s put on trial. The trial lasts 17 months, an inordinately long time. He gets a guilty verdict and sentenced to death. And then, eventually, that verdict is overturned by the Israeli High Court, the equivalent of our Supreme Court. And they issue a 405-page ruling in which they say, it’s clear to us. The evidence before us shows us that this man did terrible things. There is no question about that.

But he was brought here. He was extradited from the United States as being charged as Ivan the Terrible, a specific person. There is now very good evidence to say that’s not the case, that this was mistaken identity. And even though we find him to have done terrible things, we have to overturn his verdict, because you can’t switch indictments in the middle. And they let him go.

CONAN: And they let him go.

Dr. LIPSTADT: The attorney general refused to try him again. They say -he said the atmosphere was poisoned. And, again, the attorney general repeated that they had extradited him to the United States on the charge of being Ivan the Terrible and he wasn’t, and they couldn’t now charge him as something else.

And I think it’s quite extraordinary that here was the victims’ – the heirs to the victim, you know, the Jewish state saying we know you did a terrible thing but justice demands the legal system’s trials. We have that – you’ve had a trial. You’ve been part of a legal system. The legal system demands that we let you go….READ MORE

Alan M. Dershowitz: Civil Libertarians and Academics Who Support Censors

Source: Hudson New York, 5-13-11

Should students who conspire to “shut down” an invited speaker with whom they disagree be prosecuted for the misdemeanor of conspiracy to disturb a meeting? That is the question roiling the University of California. The facts are not really in dispute. Israel’s Ambassador to the United States—a moderate academic named Michael Oren—was invited to present a talk at the University of California at Irvine, a hotbed of radical Islamic hate speech against Israel. The Muslim Student Union organized an effort, in the words of one of its leaders, to “shut down” Oren’s speech—that is to prevent Oren from expressing his views and to stop the audience who came to hear him from listening to them. Here is the way the Dean of the law school, who opposes any criminal prosecution, described what happened.

“The Muslim Student Union orchestrated a concerted effort to disrupt the speech. One student after another stood and shouted so that the ambassador could not be heard. Each student was taken away only to be replaced by another doing the same thing.”

The dean’s description is something of an understatement —as anyone can see by watching a video of the event, available online. This was more than a “concerted effort to disrupt the speech. It was a concerted effort to stop it completely—to “shut [it] down.”

Ultimately, that effort failed and Oren managed to deliver his speech, after many long and sustained disruptions, but if the Muslim Student Union had gotten its way, Oren would have been shut down completely. The University, which is a state institution, had a constitutional obligation to protect the First Amendment rights of Oren’s audience to hear what he had to say, and the state prosecutor has a legal obligation to deter future conspiracies to censor controversial speakers, by criminally prosecuting those students who conspired to deny other students their First Amendment rights.

While dissenting students have the right to express disapproval of a speaker’s views by episodic booing, heckling or holding signs, they have no right to conspire to shut down a speaker, which is what the Muslim Student Union students did in this case. One would think that this distinction should be clear to all civil libertarians, academics and others who claim to care about freedom of speech on campus.

It is shocking therefore to see who has lined up behind the students who set out to censor Ambassador Oren. Two prominent leaders of the American Civil Liberties have joined with radical Muslims and other extremists in an effort to pressure the local District Attorney to drop misdemeanor charges against 11 student censors….READ MORE

RENÉE LEVINE MELAMMED: His/Her Story: A 16th-century Judaizer from Castile

This conversa, her husband and four children lived in the village of Cogolludo in Castile, where they worked, interacted with neighbors.

Source: The Jerusalem Post Magazine, 5-13-11

[illustrative]
Photo by: Courtesy María López was a conversa of Jewish origin who witnessed the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Her parents and grandparents had lived and died as Jews, but López, already a mother herself in 1492, chose to be baptized rather than leave her native soil.

She was fated to die as a convicted Judaizer, an unfaithful Catholic whose soul was lost to the church because of her heretical activities.

This conversa, her husband and four children lived in the village of Cogolludo in Castile, where they worked and interacted with their neighbors.

However, in 1516, their lives were to be drastically changed. As soon as ample suspicion and corroborating evidence existed regarding a New Christian’s fidelity to Catholicism, the Holy Tribunal considered it its duty to prosecute the alleged heretic. Thus López was arrested and imprisoned in September.

The prosecutor listed nine counts in the accusation, which was based on six different witness testimonies. López was accused of not eating pork or pork products, of removing fat from meat and of washing it vigorously in order to remove the blood, of removing the sciatic nerve from the leg of meat, of preparing Sabbath stew, of refraining from eating fish without scales, such as eel and octopus, as well as rabbit and the like, and of eating meat on Friday and on other days forbidden by the Church…

López never confessed, but the tribunal was convinced of her guilt; she was subjected to torture on November 24, 1518, but continued to insist on her innocence. Despite her claim that she was a good Christian, she was found guilty and sentenced to death at the auto-da-fé in Toledo on November 30.

When I first read the court proceedings, I wondered if she might have been a serious convert to Catholicism. Though the intricacies of the trial (see my article, “María López,” in Women in the Inquisition, ed. Mary E.

Giles, Baltimore, 1999) are confusing, López remained strong and unbending throughout. However, when her husband was later arrested, he chose an alternate path and confessed. His confession clearly attests to the Jewishness of his wife’s lifestyle and secret observances. The Inquisition had not erred this time.

The writer is a professor of Jewish history and dean at the Schechter Institute, academic editor of the journal NASHIM and the author of numerous articles and books on Jewish women.

Jews in the Civil War: Jewish Soldiers in Blue & Grey

Source: The Philadephia Jewish Voice, 5-13-11
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the National Museum of American Jewish History presented Jewish Soldiers in Blue & Gray,  a first-of-its-kind documentary that reveals the little-known struggles that faced Jewish-Americans both in battle and on the home front during the Civil War. This film reveals an unknown chapter in American history when allegiances during the War Between the States deeply split the Jewish community. It examines a time when approximately 10,000 Jewish soldiers fought on both sides; 7,000 Union and 3,000 Confederate. It exposes General Ulysses Grant’s controversial decision to expel all Jews from his territory, and tells the stories of President Lincoln’s Jewish doctor who serve as a spy in the South and how five Union Jewish soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor. It features commentary by noted historians, with Sam Waterston as the voice of Abraham Lincoln and narration by Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Milius (Apocalypse Now). This moving film allowed me to discover many surprising facts about American Jews during the Civil War…READ MORE