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A week after President Obama’s Middle East speech, it has become increasingly evident that although there was much talk, little will result. President Obama’s proposal to go back to 1967 borders, a day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, will have less to do with creating new borders and more to do with damaging old friendships. Ultimately, the United States made a proposal. Israel said, “No,” and Iran was victorious.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for “wiping Israel off the map,” pointed out on several occasions that instead of singling out Arab dictators or the Iranian government, President Obama should condemn the actions of Israel’s “Zionist regime” against the Palestinians. And so he did.
In his speech Thursday, President Obama put forth a new approach to facing turmoil in the Middle East. He promised economic relief and investment to Tunisia and Egypt and briefly denounced government crackdowns in Libya, Syria and Iran. The keystone of his talk came unexpectedly at the very end as he proposed a Palestinian state based on Israel’s 1967 borders as a way to settle the conflict.
The President’s proposal quickly intensified the already fiery debate of Israeli-Palestinian relations and provoked bipartisan criticism from politicians in Washington. President Obama repeated and clarified his remarks at the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Sunday, calling the status quo in Israel “unsustainable,” and repeating his proposal of a two state solution, “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed (land) swaps.”
President Obama has proven himself to be an idealistic leader, attempting to repair the ills of the world through quick and implausible orders. He sets deadlines, changes appointments and calls together meetings. He is now calling upon Israel, or more accurately stated, threatening Israel, to take action immediately. As he calls for facelifts on half a dozen Middle Eastern countries, he believes he must do the same to Israel.
It might be easy, or maybe overly simplistic, to assume that President Obama is just that unseasoned politician.
Yet in the midst of the post-election uprisings in Iran since 2009, President Obama—widely criticized for his delayed and understated condemnation of the regime and lukewarm support for the protestors—nonetheless extended a hand in friendship to their radical government, hoping to encounter a willing partner on the other end.
After receiving pressure from critics and the Iranian American community, President Obama finally condemned the Iranian government publicly for their brutal attacks against peaceful demonstrators, their inhumane transgressions of human rights and their dastardly evasion of international non-proliferation policies. Typical of the Iranian regime, they masterfully diverted the condemnation and instead pointed to the close relationship between Israel and the United States; Little Satan and Big Satan.
Perhaps, as President Obama sought to engage the Iranian government, he believed they would willingly come to the negotiating table, hoping, at the very least, to find a willingness in the Palestinians to do the same, and at best, become the victorious two-term President who succeeded in reconciling the half- century long rivalry between the Israelis and Palestinians.
But the timing of his proposal was too uncanny. Regardless of one’s views on how the Israelis and Palestinians should come to terms, the topic and explicit plan to return to previous borders were an irrelevant and untimely finale to comments directed at the current status of Mid East affairs.
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