I have to wonder why leaders of Jewish organizations and Jewish pundits have to continually make excuses for President Obama. He gives beautiful speeches and sees to it that he says all the right words. But what good are his words when one day, before a Jewish audience, he says Jerusalem will not be divided and the next, before a different audience, he says it will?
In May, 2009 he made the demand that all construction stop in the settlements and in Jerusalem, thereby putting Mahmoud Abbas in a bind. How could the Palestinian leader be less Palestinian than the American President? Despite the fact that cessation of building was never a Palestinian excuse to avoid talks before, it now became one.
On June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Mr. Obama delegitimized Israel by claiming that it was formed by the UN as a result of the Holocaust, thereby allowing the Arabs to ask why they should be penalized for the actions of Europeans. That is a reasonable complaint if you ignore the activities of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hitler’s ally in the Second World War.
Apparently Mr. Obama never heard of the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Conference, or the Zionist movement, all of which preceded the war and the UN by many years and were the basis for the creation of the State of Israel.
In his latest attempt at settling the conflict, he managed to sandbag Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu the day before Netanyahu was to arrive in Washington by adopting the Palestinian view that negotiations start with the 1967 lines. The first thing to be settled would be borders and then the issues of Jerusalem and the Right of Return. After making all these land swaps, Israel would have given up its major negotiating card — land — while the Arabs would still hold theirs — the Right of Return. What would Israel have to give to abrogate that? What would they have left of value to the Palestinians?
The thrust of Mr. Obama’s proposals are easy to discern. The Palestinians immediately accepted them and agreed to return to negotiations on the basis of those proposals, even forgetting building in the settlements. I would think that says it all about Mr. Obama’s plans.
As a result of Mr. Obama’s efforts, the Palestinians and Israelis are much further apart than they were before he assumed office, and I ask why Jewish leaders continue to try to defend him.
Martin W. Cotler