The Mideast History Lesson Obama So Desperately Needs

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After President Obama surprised Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week with a now-infamous statement of principle about the 1967 lines, Netanyahu responded with what news outlets characterized as a “history lecture.”

Though the outlets—ranging from the French Press Agency to the Chicago Sun-Times—meant the phrase derisively, a history lesson on the 1967 lines was exactly what the moment called for. And a lesson on the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and the early negotiations that led to the Oslo process would, for instance, enlighten the president on just why his strategy for Mideast peace is backwards, and doomed to fail.

Anwar Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem to address the Israeli Knesset in 1977 immediately entered the history books as a moment of triumph for political courage and for the power of diplomacy. It held the promise of a Middle East where Israel’s existence is a recognized reality, and it offered a glimpse of what Arab statesmanship could accomplish. Grand gestures weren’t meaningless after all.

But there was one prominent American who disagreed. After the Egyptian president’s dramatic visit to Jerusalem U.S. President Jimmy Carter said, “a separate peace agreement between Egypt and Israel is not desirable.”

In retrospect, of course, it has been very “desirable” for Carter’s otherwise dismal foreign policy record. Historian Arthur Herman explained in the Wall Street Journal in 2009 how that came to be:

“But by the autumn of 1978, the rest of Mr. Carter’s foreign policy had crumbled,” Herman wrote. “He had pushed through an unpopular giveaway of the Panama Canal, allowed the Sandinistas to take power in Nicaragua as proxies of Cuba, and stood by while chaos grew in the Shah’s Iran. Desperate for some kind of foreign policy success in order to bolster his chances for re-election in 1980, Mr. Carter finally decided to elbow his way into the game by setting up a meeting between Sadat and Begin at Camp David.”

When it became inevitable, Carter took the credit. It should be noted that there is much value in a White House reception for such a deal. It communicates the notion that American moral and physical power stand behind the agreement, giving it extra weight in the international arena. But the fact remains that because Carter wanted a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, he actually opposed the Egypt-Israel deal.  Against it before he was for it, so to speak.

The agreement was the result of diplomacy and negotiation undertaken by the Israelis and the Egyptian government. Only after it became a formality did the U.S. get involved.

A similar path took shape on its way to the Bill Clinton-endorsed Oslo process—the declaration of principles of which were signed at the White House in 1993. As Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin write in Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography, what became the Oslo process began in earnest in 1991, when Israeli scholars Yair Hirschfeld and Ron Pundak met with Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi in Ramallah to discuss Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation. Ashrawi suggested the Israelis meet with PLO economist Ahmad Qurei in London in December of that year. Arafat approved.

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  • Dispozovdaburka

    Israel should not make any more concessions to

  • Dispozovdaburka

    PS. Great caricature!

  • StephenD

    I would like to nominate Netanyahu for President of the United States in 2012! I think the balance of the world could use the same history lesson and what better pulpit than that of the POTUS?

  • zsqpwxxeh

    Grades will be posted in November 2012. All grades are final. No retests are allowed.


    Obama, Barack H. ……………………………………………… F

  • Raymond in DC

    This isn't the first time that Israel's leader had to "school" a naive president about Mideast realities. The story is told (I believe by Dennis Ross who was present) of a meeting with Clinton and his team in which then PM Netanyahu, behind those closed doors, tried to present what Obama today calls "hard truths". After the meeting Clinton angrily said to his team, "Who the hell does he think he is!"

    Clinton subsequently sent some of his political operatives to help Ehud Barak defeat Netanyahu. (Talk about blatant interference in another country's affairs!) Barak's prime ministership proved a disaster. Any dreams Obama may have had about a more pliant Tzipi Livni defeating Netanyahu have evaporated. Polling after Netanyahu's visit show a positive 30 point shift in his favorable/unfavorable ratings.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Put the Israeli in a can with Palestinian terrorist like Arafat, shake the can, open it
    up and pour it out and imagine this, you wind up with what you put in. Now to add
    American politicians, Carter or say Clinton to the can, shake the can forcefully,
    (media exposure) open the can and pour it out, results, Israeli, Terrorist and
    and Idiot, no change. Do the foregoing enough and the idiot and terrorist will
    ultimately have rolled the Israeli, over and over and over again. Netanyahu
    understands the game, put Obama in the can and the Israeli, the terrorist will
    not be necessary………………………………………………………………William

  • Houyhnhnm

    Mr Mandel, Carter's sponsored agreement is falling apart. What are your recommendations??

  • Ghostwriter

    Most Americans already knew that President Obama was a fool. Mr. Netanyahu just proved it to the whole world.

  • tanstaafl

    And the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day……

  • SeaMystic

    The Concession Game: When will we see demands of Concessions by the Democracies. It's all been a one way strategy for Islam's benefit, to undermine various Democratic societies. There is no PEACE to be had from Islam, as per Mohammed's words.
    Their dedication to WAR against all other societies, demands that we must go into Total War activities or eventually succumb.
    For starters sign the "Ban Islam" petition at:


  • Gamaliel Isaac

    The people who need to learn the lesson here are the Jews not Obama and the lesson is that Obama wants to mollify the Arab world by sacrificing Israel. Obama has accepted that Iran will be armed with nuclear weapons. Pakistan already is and is extremely hostile to the U.S.. The only way to prevent a nuclear attack in Obama's mind is to give the Muslims what they want and that's Israel. Obama knows full well that the 67 borders are suicidal borders. Netanyahu explained that to him in front of millions of Americans. Did Obama change his policy? Of course not.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    The lesson here is that the American administration can play a productive role in the peace process, but not an overwhelming one.

    Actually, you haven’t learned anything buddy, the so-called peace process has never been anything other than a political ploy to weaken Israel and to dupe useful idiots. Study Islam, the jihad of conquest being waged against the Jewish unbelievers perpetually in Israel is permanent, just like the jihad of conquest being waged against the Hindu unbelievers in Kashmir, Jammu, and India, the Buddhist unbelievers in Thailand, the Christian unbelievers in the Philippines, etc., etc., etc., and too many other places to mention without becoming too redundant.

    Indeed, the jihad of conquest being waged permanently against the Jewish unbelievers in Israel is part and parcel of the greater global jihad at large that is being waged permanently against any and all unbelievers around the world and will continue to be waged perpetually for as long as unbelievers continue to exist that haven’t been forced to submit to the authority of Islam. And if you don’t know it by now, then I suggest you wake up from your slumber.

    History has shown time and again in the Mideast that negotiations must be done quietly and be free of outside interference.

    Nah, not really, history has shown that negotiating with Muslims is a fool’s game, as Muslims never make treaties (hudnas) with unbelievers they don’t fully intend to break as soon as the situation is ripe per the dictates of Muhammad’s 10-year treaty with the Quraish, which he broke in just two years when he saw he had gained the upper hand. Indeed, Muslims divide the world between believers and unbelievers and apply one set of rules and ethics for believers and a completely different set of rules and ethics for unbelievers. Apparently, Mr. Mandel hasn’t figured that out yet.

    The more public the spectacle, the more it encourages the Palestinians to grandstand, stall, and manipulate.

    I hate to rain on the writer’s oblivious parade, but the so-called Palestinians are the proxies of the Islamic world. They couldn’t make peace with Israel even if they wanted to.

    Unfortunately, this is a lesson Obama has yet to learn. His version of American Mideast diplomacy is the reverse of what has worked, and the photocopy of what has failed.

    Uhm…what has ever worked with respect to Muslims? It’s not hard to figure out, nothing has ever worked other than brute force to render the Muslims too weak to wage jihad, per the dictates of Islam.

    History suggests the president should reverse course immediately to salvage the process. But this may be a lesson too far.

    Why would you want to salvage a process that has been used successfully as a political ploy to tremendously weaken Israel and to dupe gullible useful idiots like Mr. Mandel?

    • WildJew

      Both Camp David and Oslo have been unmitigated disasters for Israel. Thousands of Jews murdered and maimed, a PLO terror foothold in Israel is Oslo's legacy. Does the writer see the folly of giving up the Sinai now that Muslim Brotherhood is on the rise in Egypt? The 'peace' process is a charade.

      • ObamaYoMoma

        Obviously Mr. Mandel is a neo-con in the same vein that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and George Bush are neo-cons and his intention obviously is to berate Obama by exposing his stupidity with respect to foreign policy. However, in the process of berating Obama he also exposed at the same time that as a supposed authority on the Mideast, like a typical neo-con, he also doesn’t have the first clue.

        Indeed, how can you understand the Mideast if you completely ignore the biggest motivating factor that controls the Mideast? Which is what unfortunately GWB also did in both Afghanistan and Iraq and which is also why both those missions inevitably turned into unmitigated disasters and the two biggest strategic blunders in US history. It is also the reason why John McCain and Lindsey Graham continue pushing both fantasy based nation-building missions today.

        Indeed, as a traditional conservative both leftists, like Obama, and neo-cons, like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and George Bush, are clueless as hell and should be avoided like the plague.

        Anyway, if Mr. Mandel wants to understand the Mideast he needs to put his political correctness aside and study Islam and not some liberal myth called radical Islam that doesn’t exist except for in the deluded minds of leftists and neo-cons.

  • scum

    The 'unpopular' giveaway of the Panama Canal'? Whether it was popular (popular for whom, anyway?) is not the question. The Panama Canal is in . . . (wait for it), Panama. The canal was built when T.R. bouht a revolution in Colombia, literally paying gold and silver to the Colombian military to not suppress a secessionist movement; in other words, he bought a revolution. Panama's doing quite well with the Canal: major improvements underway. More on my next post.

  • scum

    OK, part two of the history lesson for idiots: The Sandinistas trace their roots back to Augusto Sandino in the 1920s, who properly led a resistance against the American military occupation and brutal repression suffered by peasants for years. The Sandinistas were not the proxies of Cuba. Moreover, what does it mean to say that Carter 'allowed' the Sandinistas to take power? Does that mean he should have authorized the illegal invasion of the country? Reagan illegally mined the harbors of Nicaragua, and has no one heard of Iran-Contra? Part 3 on next post…

  • scum

    Part Three of the history lesson for idiots: U.S. policy in Iran was failed from the beginning. The VERY FIRST illegal overthrow of a democratically elected government by the CIA was in Iran, with the ouster of Muhammed Mossadeq, when Kermit Roosevelt snuck in to the country with a briefcase full of cash. The ongoing support for the Shah, with the most effective torture apparatus in the world, no doubt had a LITTLE something to do with Iran's dislike for the U.S. Carter did attempt a daring rescue of hostages, which the Pentagon botched (they promised they could deliver, and failed). Let me know if you need some real history, not the silliness presented here as fact.

    • aspacia

      Scum, I am a patriot and Zionist, however you do state facts regarding our overthrow of the elected Mossadeq in favor of the Shah, because oil company's interests were at stake.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    Hey Scum,

    Part Three of the history lesson for idiots: U.S. policy in Iran was failed from the beginning. The VERY FIRST illegal overthrow of a democratically elected government by the CIA was in Iran, with the ouster of Muhammed Mossadeq, when Kermit Roosevelt snuck in to the country with a briefcase full of cash.

    You know you self-hating commie loons always insist that all Marxist governments the CIA helped to undermine way back when were democratically elected, and never mind the fact that the elections were all fixed and stolen with the help of the Soviet KGB. Moreover, regardless of your delusional utopian commie fantasies, how many of those commie countries wouldn’t have devolved into totalitarian utopian hellholes exactly like Cuba and North Korea?

    There wasn’t anything wrong with the ouster of Mossadegh, as he was usurping the government from the Shah, and with respect to the Shah, he was a loyal American ally until that self-hating commie loon, Jimmy Carter, like the unhinged fool he was pulled the Persian rug from out from under him, and as for as Middle East strong men go, the Shah was far more progressive and benevolent than any of the current crop of Middle East dictators are today, as he was trying to transform his country from 7th century Islamic barbarism to the 20th century.

    Of course, the devout Muslims in Iran waged jihad against the Shah and his government because they saw the Shah’s reforms to modernize Iran as being a war against Islam, which it was, and the delusional useful idiot Left in Iran joined forces with the devout Muslims to attempt to exploit the situation to their benefit and to feed their own silly utopian fantasies.

    While the Shah’s government’s actions may seem brutal to delusional unhinged useful idiot Leftists like you who don’t have the first clue about Islam, the Shah’s brutality was dictated by the Islamic foes he was facing and the nature of the vicious jihad they were waging, as Muslims are the most vicious and vile fighters in the world. Indeed, they invented suicide/homicide bombings and they violently torture to death all prisoners of war. Hence, obviously your ignorance’s have been exploited to the hilt.

    Anyway, the Khomeini Sharia state that replaced the Shah put 10 times more people to death in their first year than the Shah ever came close to in his entire career, including all of the Leftwing useful idiots that like fools were stupid enough to assist them to overthrow the Shah, and with respect to torture, they make the Shah seem like a rank amateur.

    The ongoing support for the Shah, with the most effective torture apparatus in the world, no doubt had a LITTLE something to do with Iran's dislike for the U.S.

    With respect to Iran’s hatred of the USA, it doesn’t really matter what unbelievers do or do not do, since all Muslims are obligated per the dictates of Islam to have nothing but enmity in their hearts for unbelievers no matter what. Hence, it doesn’t really matter what the USA does or does not do, it will be turned around regardless and used to incite hatred and violence against us as that is a fundamental manifestation of Islam.

    We [believers] disown you [non-believers, including family] and what you worship besides Allah. We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us—until you believe in Allah alone (Koran 60:4).

    Carter did attempt a daring rescue of hostages, which the Pentagon botched (they promised they could deliver, and failed).

    They failed because that pathetic commie loon had previously eviscerated the military.

    Let me know if you need some real history, not the silliness presented here as fact.

    The reality is you don’t have a clue as you have swallowed lock, stock, and barrel nothing but commie Leftwing propaganda and commie propaganda is hardly history. But thanks anyway for the entertaining amusement.

  • franz von fear

    Let's wait and see who is to learn what from who here. In this game, the cards will be revealed in September, when the Palis claim statehood. Obama has played his cards wisely, Netanjahu has called a bluff. Let's wait and see.

  • steven l

    With the Arabs and their proxy the Palestinians it is only about deception and to catch Israel off guard.
    Probably the majority of UN will support the Palestinians to no avail.
    No one will impose "peace" on Israel.