Obama’s Neville Chamberlain Speech

By Ken Levin, Front Page Mag

In his May 19 speech on the Middle East, President Obama, in a matter of minutes, abandoned Security Council Resolution 242, which for more than four decades had been the cornerstone of diplomacy in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace; likewise abandoned the Roadmap, adopted in 2003 by the so-called Quartet (the U.S., UN, EU and Russia) as a blueprint for resolving, more specifically, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; committed his Administration to pushing Israel back to indefensible borders; and essentially adopted as Administration policy Mahmoud Abbas’s variation on Arafat’s “Plan of Phases” for Israel’s destruction.

The cumulative impact of Obama’s declarations is to chart a course for Israel comparable to that charted for Czechoslovakia in 1938 when Neville Chamberlain endorsed Hitler’s demands of that country.

“We believe,” declared the President, in just one of his statements undermining Israel, “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines.”

Resolution 242, adopted unanimously by the Security Council a few months after the 1967 war, calls for establishment between Israel and its neighbors of “secure and recognized boundaries.” The resolution does not call for Israel to return to the pre-war armistice lines, and the resolution’s authors asserted that this omission was intentional, that those lines were an invitation to further aggression against Israel and the future borders ought to be elsewhere.

Lord Caradon, Britain’s ambassador to the UN at the time and the person who introduced Resolution 242 in the Security Council, told a Lebanese newspaper in 1974:

“It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers of each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They were just armistice lines. That’s why we didn’t demand that the Israelis return to them, and I think we were right not to…”

Lyndon Johnson, then President, stated that Israel’s retreat to its former lines would be “not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities”; and he advocated new “recognized boundaries” that would provide “security against terror, destruction, and war.”

Subsequent presidents have endorsed Israel’s need for “defensible borders,” and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments at the White House on May 20, to the effect that Israel is indefensible within the pre-1967 armistice lines and cannot return to those lines, are more consistent with traditional American policy than is Obama’s new stance. In addition, Congress has likewise backed Israel’s right to defensible borders. For example, an April, 2004, letter from the United States to Israel stipulating that the nation was not expected to return to the pre-1967 lines but, rather, was entitled to “defensible borders,” had the endorsement of a bipartisan consensus in both houses of Congress.

Israel’s vulnerability within the pre-1967 lines goes beyond its being reduced to a nine-mile width at its center, as mentioned by Netanyahu. Those boundaries also mean forces on the other side would control the hills that totally dominate Israel’s coastal plain, home to 70% of its people.

Despite this longstanding American support for new, defensible boundaries for Israel, and the obvious threats represented by the pre-1967 lines, there are some who insist on characterizing Netanyahu’s strong opposition to a return to those lines as reflecting his being “right-wing.” But Yitzhak Rabin, Labor prime minister in the first years of the Oslo process, articulated Netanyahu’s position in even stronger terms. In his last speech in the Knesset, shortly before his assassination in November, 1995, Rabin declared:

    “The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

    And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

    A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev — as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.

    B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.

    C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the ‘Green Line,’ prior to the Six Day War.

    D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria…”

Obama, in promoting Israel’s retreat to the pre-1967 lines, did throw in the sop of a reference to “mutual agreed [territorial] swaps.” The meaninglessness of this with regard to Israel’s self-defense is illustrated by Obama’s reference in the preceding sentence to “permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt…” Here he dismisses the necessity of Israel retaining control of the Jordan Valley, without which hostile forces east of the Jordan would have easy access – whether for invasion or for smuggling arms – to those heights that, again, render the vast majority of Israelis ready prey for attack, both by regular forces and by terrorist rockets and mortars such as those that currently target Israeli communities near Gaza. Obama reinforced this element of his undermining Israel’s self-defense by calling as well for “the full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces,” rejecting even some limited Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.

On the territorial front, as if this were not enough of an assault on Israel, Obama threw in that the Palestinians have the right to – in keeping with Palestinian demands – a “contiguous” state. But there can be no contiguity between Gaza and the West Bank without splitting Israel in two, and the President had nothing to say about Israeli contiguity.

Beyond demanding suicidal territorial concessions from Israel, the President then insists that these concessions, and the accompanying “security arrangements” with the “non-militarized [Palestinian] state” – a largely meaningless, unenforceable flourish, as the Oslo experience dramatically demonstrated – should be spelled out in detail before two other key issues, “the future of Jerusalem” and “the fate of Palestinian refugees” are addressed. But, of course, the President has already defined the Administration’s stand on the future of Jerusalem in his call for Israel’s return to the pre-1967 armistice lines. And Israel is to surrender its essential bargaining chip, the extent of its territorial concessions, before the Palestinian demand for the so-called “right of return,” the plan to flood and overwhelm Israel with descendants of refugees from the 1947-48 war, is even addressed. Moreover, there is nothing in Obama’s speech calling for the Palestinians to give up this path to Israel’s dissolution.

The insistence on both pushing Israel back to the pre-1967 boundaries and establishing the territorial dimension of an agreement before other issues are addressed, as well as the President’s refraining from taking issue with the “right of return,” reflect his embracing demands made by the Palestinians while ignoring consideration of the untenable situation in which they place Israel.

The president’s agenda also entails an abandonment of the Roadmap. For example, in the Roadmap territorial issues only begin to be addressed in Phase II, and then only in terms of creating provisional borders and testing Palestinian intent and preparedness for statehood before there are any steps toward definition of permanent borders. On the other hand, in Phase I, indeed at its very outset, the “Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.”

May 23, 2011 | Comments »

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