All posts tagged binyamin netanyahu

The 1967 Borders, Land Swaps and U.N. Recognition of Palestine in September

Faris Ghawi - With June 5th marking the 44th anniversary of the start of the 1967 War and the recent speeches by Obama and Netanyahu bringing the issue of 1967 borders to the forefront, it is important that this issue is seen in the correct context.

In his speech on the Middle East, president Obama said what many had said before him: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps”. As evidenced by the reactions from both sides (though much louder by Netanyahu), this is a pretty loaded statement.

The real problem of course, is if/when the more likely scenario takes place and the parties do not agree.

Continue reading “The 1967 Borders, Land Swaps and U.N. Recognition of Palestine in September” »

Time for a New ‘Honest’ Broker

What more can be said about Netanyahu’s speech to Congress two weeks ago that has not already been said? It was careless, delusional, and at times, borderline repulsive; it made a mockery of the peace process, the plight of the Palestinian people, and those in the Israeli political establishment that still believe in the moral, legal and political need for the two-state solution.

Washington Conference 8


Speaking to Congress, Netanyahu rejected the foundational underpinnings of any future peace settlement. Denied is a Palestinian state that is based on the 1967 borders and Jerusalem as a capital city for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Netanyahu went so far as to deny the very existence of the occupation; Israelis, don’t you know, are “natural” residents of the West Bank. But have no fear Palestine because he did, after all, promise to be “generous” when deciding on the size of the Palestinian state.

Continue reading “Time for a New ‘Honest’ Broker” »

Bibi Shows Obama That In DC, He’s The Home Team

George Lucas (who incidentally should be legally barred from ever writing dialogue) wrote some of his cheesiest lines in the new Star Wars films when he was waxing political.

One of the worst actually resonated today as I watched Benjamin Netanyahu’s triumphant speechto a joint meeting of Congress. Lucas had Natalie Portman (who was, coincidentally, born in Jerusalem) say: “So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause.”

Today, that was how the American Congress greeted the death of hope for peace in Israel and Palestine any time soon.

Congress, thoroughly beholden to AIPAC and completely indifferent to the best interests of not only the Palestinians but also Israel and their own country, cheered the home team as it defeated the President of the United States.

The home team, in this case, was Netanyahu.

The game started last Thursday with Obama’s tepid attempt at the State Department to clarify his murky foreign policy. He really didn’t do that, but he mentioned the 1967 borders. Despite the fact that not only has that been the basis for negotiation, the only possible one, all along, Bibi and his stooges in Congress on both sides of the aisle made this a phony issue.

They intentionally misrepresented what Obama said and accused him of calling on Israel to – GASP – obey international law and pull back to the 1967 borders. He said nothing of the kind, but, hey, why let facts get in the way?

The next day, Bibi turned up the heat, and actually overplayed his hand. Sitting in the Oval Office and on global television, Netanyahu lectured the President of the United States; defied him by repeating the false accusation on the ’67 borders; left no option, no matter what Hamas does, of talking with a Palestinian unity government (contradicting Obama, who tried to leave a small crack in the door to talks); and virtually ordered the President of the world’s most powerful nation to inform the Palestinians that no refugees would return to Israel.

In that talk, it was not the content that was troublesome; it’s been clear for some time, as the Palestine Papers revealed, that the ’67 borders would be modified and that all but a very few refugees would be dealt with outside of Israel. And no one ever expected the US or Israel to tolerate Hamas’ presence in the Palestinian government.

No, the problem was a foreign leader treating the US President like his lackey. And people noticed.

Bibi’s performance played poorly in Israel.

“Netanyahu understood that he had broken a rule that an Israeli leader must not break – he had come between the two American parties in an election period,” Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, two leading Israeli commentators,wrote in the leading Israeli daily, Yediot Ahronot.

Staunchly pro-Israel columnist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic called Netanyahu’s behavior at the press conference “pedantic” and “shocking”.

For two days, Netanyahu regrouped, while it was Obama’s turn at bat. And Obama did very well.

His speech at AIPAC was friendly, but he asserted himself as the President. It was an AIPAC speech, so it was bound to sit poorly with the Palestinians, but essentially, Obama not only stood fast on his ’67 borders statement, he took his shots at those who had so brazenly and willfully distorted his words, by implication indicting a number of people in the room as well as Netanyahu.

Obama then made the case for the urgency of peace, something that hit many in the audience hard, for certain, while the hardliners already knew it and didn’t care. Obama explained, patiently but with the tone of a man in charge, that the Arab population being held without rights by Israel was growing, the Arab Spring means that popular Arab opinion is going to matter a lot more than it has, new technology is going to make Israel more vulnerable despite its military might and the international community is getting tired of waiting for Israel to become reasonable.

Those weren’t his words, but they were his message. Yet his manner of delivering that message earned not opprobrium, but applause. The President couldn’t have scripted it better, for an AIPAC appearance.

But in the end it didn’t matter.

Obama knew very well that his words, at State, in the Oval Office and at AIPAC, were all going to alienate the Palestinians even further. He also knew that his domestic constraints prevented him from even coming close to giving the Palestinians anything remotely resembling incentive to come back to the talks.

Knowing all of that, Obama tried to at least salvage some future for the two-state solution. Netanyahu, however, sensing his advantage, came in to ensure he could not. And he used the most reliable tool in his arsenal—Congress.

Netanyahu’s address to Congress was a home run. He struck a perfect tone, and set it up well in his appearance at AIPAC the night before.

At the AIPAC gala, Netanyahu spoke largely in aphorisms, stressing the ideas of shared values and interests, and reassuring everyone in the audience that their loyalty to Israel didn’t just compliment their loyalty to the US, the two were in fact one and the same.

Bibi promised the AIPAC crowd that he would tell Congress what he saw a peace agreement with the Palestinians looking like. He didn’t disappoint.

Here’s what Netanyahu’s “vision” boils down to:

  • Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state
  • Israel will maintain control of the major settlement blocs (Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel) as well as the Jordan Valley. Bibi even hinted that Israel might keep Hebron.
  • Jerusalem will remain entirely in Israeli hands
  • No Palestinian refugees would return to Israel
  • Israel will decide who may be part of a Palestinian government, which would only come into being when Israel is satisfied with security arrangements, in a de-militarized state whose airspace would still be controlled by Israel

If these were Israel’s negotiating positions, that would be very troubling, but not an absolute game-stopper.

But Congress gave a standing ovation to every piece of this (albeit that many of the members probably didn’t understand all the things they were cheering for). Some of these are things the President would support, some not. Those that he would not, he would have to fight with Congress over. Effectively, then, the Palestinians could only hope for some small compromise on a couple of the points.

Netanyahu won the game. And why? Because he got the last licks, as the home team always does in a baseball game. You’d think that the President of the United States would be the home team in this scenario. But in the absurd universe of Middle East politics in Washington, an Israeli Prime Minister finds more support than an American President.

Netanyahu came with a blatantly anti-peace agenda. All Congress wanted from him is to dress it up to look like a peace initiative to a lot of Americans who either don’t know any better or, with the Israel-first crew, who couldn’t care less.

And so he did.

One moment of his AIPAC speech was very telling. Bibi quoted a verse of the Torah: “U’kratem Dror BaAretz L’chol Yoshveha.” He translated it as “Proclaim liberty throughout the land.” Well, that is an accurate translation…for the first part. Bibi, who surely knows that some of his audience knows Biblical Hebrew, simply left the last two words untranslated, brazenly tipping his hand for those of us who could understand it.

The last two words mean “for all who dwell in it.” You can see why he didn’t want to add that part..

In the end, this all may work out for the better for Palestinians. Israel’s credibility on peace is completely shot outside the US. The United States itself has never been as shameless in its blind support of Israel, over the interests of justice and human rights and even its own self-interest, as Congress showed us to be today.

Nothing is going to prevent the Palestinians from pursuing the vote in the UN on statehood in September now. They have absolutely no incentive to halt that drive, nor for Fatah to split again with Hamas.

But Europe has its own interest in the Mideast, and, as Obama noted, they are growing impatient. American efforts are now likely to focus not on stopping the Palestinian push for a vote, but on persuading the key European countries – mainly Great Britain, France and Germany—not to vote for it.

Soon, Palestine will be a UN member state, and international pressure on Israel will grow. The United States will become increasingly irrelevant in the Middle East, and the rising tide of Arab popular influence is not going to forget any of this.

It could well be, as MJ Rosenberg sees it, that this will mean a new course that will actually lead to Palestinian liberation this time.

Maybe so. But I have always believed that the Palestinians would eventually win their freedom on some reasonable terms. I have worked for a two-state solution because I have also felt that the sooner the Palestinians are freed, the better it will be for Israel and for my own country, the US. It seems, after today, that that battle is lost.


Netanyahu’s hateful denunciation of peace with the Palestinians and Arab World

It is so insulting to hear an extremist
like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pretend that the freedoms that
Arabs are seeking in the Arab World somehow compare to the alleged freedoms
that Arabs receive in Israel. It was so disgusting to hear Netanyahu lie and
claim that only in Israel can Arabs enjoy Democratic rights. The blindness and
deafness of the U.S. Congress shows how truly it is occupied by the Israeli
rightwing. Christian and Muslim Palestinian citizens of Israel are victims of
routine discrimination. The Israeli government places a special code number so
that police and authorities can easily and quickly distinguish between
Christian and Muslim Israelis and Jewish Israelis.

Netanyahu’s deceitful speech to his
cheerleaders in the U.S Congress, a political body that is more pro-Israel than
AIPAC, is so deceptive and insulting it is a declaration that there can be no
real peace with Israel as long as Israelis embrace such hateful fanatics and
extremists like Netanyahu.

He spoke about the hatred of Hamas
towards Israel but never once mentioned the hateful anti-Christian and
anti-Muslim policies of his own political alliance that includes people like
the bigot Avigdor Lieberman and the Beituni Party, just one of a handful of
racist Israeli political parties.

The U.S. Congress on its part had no
problem playing footsie with Netanyahu, cheering him almost as if they deep
down long for him to be the president of the United States, if only they could
get rid of that African American with the Muslim middle name who they despise
so much, President Barack Hussein Obama.

Not even in Israel’s contentious
Knesset, where a few voices of reason remain drowned out by the growing
cacophony of extremist rhetoric, was Netanyahu so cheered and idolized as he
was during his speech Tuesday to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, a body
that acted more like a pro-Israel protesters. 

Netanyahu’s speech reminds us that
peace is not possible as long as extremists like Netanyahu control the Israeli
government. There is no respect for peace from Netanyahu, just lies. You cannot
deal with someone is hallucinating, and that is the only way to describe

Netanyahu is a reminder that peace is
difficult and that no matter how much the Palestinians and the Arabs have done
to compromise for peace, Israel refuses to recognize those compromises and only
demands more while it does nothing. The Palestinians have recognized Israel six
times since 1988, and the Israelis have yet to recognize Palestine as a state
at least once. In fact, Netanyahu speaks in the rhetoric of the fanatics,
describing the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria.” Those are Israeli
code words that Christians and Muslims have no rights in historic Palestine and
in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In fact, by Netanyahu calling the West Bank
“Judea and Samaria,” it is no different than extremists who refer to
Israel as “the Zionist Entity.”

There is only once voice speaking about
“destruction” and that is the Israeli extremists like Netanyahu who
holds the tragedy of the Holocaust over the heads of anyone who questions their
actions as a means to bludgeon them in to silence. 

His statement “We [Israel] will
never give up our quest for peace.” What kind of peace? In Netanyahu’s
words they are a peace based on surrender where the Palestinians have no
rights, no land and no future.

There is only one option for the
Palestinians and that is to take our case away from the ineffective and poor
leadership of President Barack Obama and to remove the obstacle of the US
Congress and to instead present it to the international community, to the
United Nations. The Palestinians should declare their statehood and let Israel
react, reactions that are always harsh and always selfish and always filled
with propaganda.

Netanyahu declared “In Judea and
Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers.” That may be true
Netanyahu but the Christian and the Muslim Palestinians ARE NOT FOREIGN
OCCUPIERS EITHER. But that is the vile lie that Netanyahu makes, the shell-game
that Netanyahu plays.

Netanyahu’s speech to the Congress is
the clearest declaration that the only future and hope for Middle East peace is
to bring the issue of creating a Palestinian State to the United Nations and
secure United Nation’s recognition.

– Ray Hanania

Bibi Tries To Give Obama His Marching Orders


When writing about President Obama’s speech on Thursday, I got one thing very wrong. I wrote:

“Bibi will not have anything here to fight with Obama about tomorrow.”

Well, that was wrong; but not as much as you might think.

As MJ Rosenberg pointed out in his Friday column, a lot of this anger is contrived, and geared toward attaining a political goal.

We need to understand what that goal is and what Netanyahu’s reprehensible hubris on Friday after meeting with the President of the United States, was meant to achieve.

We can start with a basic fact: this tumult is not really about Obama’s statement regarding the 1967 borders. This is a contrived controversy, based, to begin with, on a willful distortion of what Obama said.

The President did not call for a return to the 1967 borders. He merely stated what is obvious, what has been American de facto policy all along and the fundamental truth of any two-state solution: that negotiations must start with the 1967 borders, and whatever modifications may be agreed to start from there.

So, what was the purpose of this intentional distortion and elaborate theater by Netanyahu, one which was subsequently lauded and backed by the ultra-right wing Israeli cabinet and a drove of Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle?

In fact, it was a bold, albeit clumsy, gambit by Netanyahu to rework the entire framework of what is generally understood to be the framework for negotiations.

Netanyahu is hoping to re-create the change wrought by George W. Bush with his 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon. In that letter, Bush went some distance toward pre-determining the outcome of final status issues by promising Sharon that Israel would not have to go back to the pre-1967 borders and that Palestinian refugees would not be able to return to Israel.

Everyone knew that was going to be the American vision of resolving the conflict, but by stating it publicly, Bush essentially made those the new starting points for any talks, effectively giving away much of what the Palestinian Authority intended to bargain with.

Netanyahu would like Obama to reaffirm those points and take them off the table, and also state unequivocally that there will be no talks with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas.

Netanyahu is well aware what such a statement from Obama would mean: the end of any possibility of peace talks, the end of even the meager American words objecting to settlement growth and a growing division between Israel and the US on one hand and Europe and the rest of the Quartet partners on the other.

That’s why Obama doesn’t want to do these things. So, Netanyahu went on global television and ordered him to do so.

That sounds absurd, but that’s what he did. Consider Bibi’s words:

“…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… 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.”

Let’s translate that: Mr. President, I heard every word you said yesterday, and screw you, we are going to keep our settlements and the Jordan Valley. I’ve told you that’s what’s going to happen, so deal with it. Go tell the Palestinians that the land that is called Area A and some of Area B will have to do for their state.”

On Hamas, Obama has not changed his stance; he repeated that he expects Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel and abide by past agreements. Obama, recognizing what many Israeli right-wingers have said – that a deal with half the Palestinians would never hold anyway – left a door open to the Palestinians by saying “…the Palestinians are going to have to answer some very difficult questions about this agreement that’s been made between Fatah and Hamas.”

That’s not good enough for Bibi.

“…[This] echoes something the president just said, and that is that Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas… 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.”

Translation: “The door you left open will be slammed shut. If you try to open it again, you will be painted as an appeaser of terrorism, and it will be no problem to deceive Americans about the great differences between Hamas and al-Qaeda. Don’t think for a minute that your killing bin Laden is going to change this. I will give the Palestinians a choice—either engage in a peace process that excludes a major portion of the Palestinian polity, thus rendering it insubstantial, or don’t have one at all.”

This, of course, frees Netanyahu from ever being threatened with real peace.

And then the real topper, the refugees. Bibi said:

“…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 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.”

Translation: “Barack, be a good boy and tell the Palestinians that this is no longer a final status issue and it has already been pre-determined. After all, if refugees will not come back to Israel and this is determined before talks, there’s nothing to talk about. We will not have to compensate them for something that is not negotiable anyway, and what they do with their refugees is not our concern if they’re not going to come back to Israel. Now go tell them that.”

Obama changed nothing in his statement. He simply put forth a point more clearly than has been done in the past that is fundamental to a two-state solution. Here’s what George W. Bush said in 2005:

“Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. This is the position of the United States today, it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.”

Obama said nothing different in substance. Indeed, he said substantially less than this on Thursday.

So, with a foreign leader sitting in the Oval Office and publicly telling the President of the United States what to do, being condescending and arrogant toward him, naturally, Congressional leaders would express their outrage, right?

Hell, no, not on the best day, and certainly not on the eve of their annual hajj to the AIPAC conference.

But they will blast their own President and support that foreign leader against not only the President, but against clear US interests that have been repeatedly articulated by diplomats and military leaders who, unlike Congress members, actually have some familiarity with Israel, the Palestinians and the tactical and diplomatic situation on the ground.

The Republicans started, and this is no surprise. The party that once held to realist, albeit selfish and imperialistic, views of foreign policy now cares nothing about its own country if by betraying it they can score political points for themselves.

But then came the Democrats as well, falling over themselves to blast the most prominent member of their own party.

So, in closing, here is a selection of some comments by these sycophantic and clueless members of Congress, and other notable figures on the American political scene.

Mitt Romney: “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,” Romney said. “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: “Today President Barack Obama has again indicated that his policy towards Israel is to blame Israel first. In a shocking display of betrayal towards our ally, President Obama is now calling on Israel to give up yet more land and return to its 1967 borders. If there is anything that has been proven, the policy of land-for-peace has meant that Israel has continually had to give away increasing amounts of its land and decrease its size. In exchange, it still has not known security. President Obama wants to further this policy by putting Israel in a very vulnerable position with borders that would be extremely difficult to defend. “

Orrin Hatch: “Rather than stand by Israel against consistent unprovoked aggression by longtime supporters of terrorism, President Obama is rewarding those who threaten Israel’s very right to exist.”

Newt Gingrich: “Congress in the next week should pass resolutions in the House and Senate condemning the president setting the 1967 lines.”

Tim Pawlenty: “President Obama’s insistence on a return to the 1967 borders is a mistaken and very dangerous demand. 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”

One prominent Democrat, Howard Berman, the leading minority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs did defend the President.

Howard Berman: “It has been my expectation for many years, dating to the end of the Clinton Administration, that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would involve a border that is close to that of 1967 but with agreed upon land swaps. That is fully consistent with Israel’s right to have defensible borders and to retain its settlement blocs, positions for which there is overwhelming support in Washington.”

But Berman was in the minority.

Joe Lieberman (not a Democrat, but an Independent generally counted as part of the Democratic bloc in the Senate, but a major hawk on Israel): “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.”

Steve Rothman, usually a staunch Obama backer: “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.”

Eliot Engel: “The 1967 armistice lines were simply not defensible, and Israel must not be made to return to them.”

Ted Deutsch: Israel cannot be expected to make any territorial concessions that do not acknowledge the reality on the ground. The 1967 borders are indefensible. References to ‘land swaps’ must mean that major Israeli population areas in the post-Six Day War territory, including the Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, will forever continue to be a part of the Jewish state of Israel.”

Shelly Berkley (a Democrat, but possibly the most hawkish one in the House on Israel, and certainly among the most ignorant): “”I am also deeply concerned by any calls for Israel to return to the armistice line that existed before 1967.  That line left Israel far too vulnerable to outside attack, and without access to many of the Jewish holy sites on the other side of the line.  Past experience demonstrates that when the Arabs have controlled the Jewish holy sites they have not permitted access to Jews. “

And, it should be noted, that these statements have come in the wake of praise for Obama’s speech from the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.