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