(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/03/mcdonoughdenis_032315gn.jpg)White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough continued the Obama administration’s relentless series of verbal fusillades against Israel, declaring on March 23rd that “an occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end.” Mr. McDonough added that “Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely,” as if the present state of affairs were something most Israelis yearned to maintain indefinitely. His speech offered no practical suggestions as to how to allay Israelis’ legitimate security concerns. His underlying assumption is that Israel must simply take another chance by giving up more land for peace no matter what, when its prior unilateral withdrawal from Gaza literally blew up in its face.
President Obama’s chief of staff offered up his simplistic tripe to the left-wing J Street group, which claims it is pro-Israel but more often than not sings the Palestinians’ tune.
Mr. McDonough lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election pledge that an independent Palestinian state would not be permitted under his watch. “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made, or that they don’t raise questions about the Prime Minister’s commitment to achieving peace through direct negotiations” he said.
President Obama’s functionary dismissed Mr. Netanyahu’s post-election attempt to clarify his remarks. The prime minister explained that he did not think the establishment of a Palestinian state under present circumstances is sustainable. He reached this conclusion because there is nothing being proposed to prevent radical Islamists from following Hamas’s Gaza model and using any territory they gain as a launching pad from which to attack Israeli citizens.
President Obama confirmed during his joint news conference with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on March 24th that his administration was re-evaluating its overall approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We believe that two states is the best path forward for Israel’s security, Palestinian aspirations and regional stability,” Obama said. “And Prime Minister Netanyahu has a different approach.” Again, facile rhetoric replaces nuanced analysis of the roots of the conflict and the difficulties in resolving it as long as the Palestinians miss every opportunity to achieve a state of their own, going back more than six decades.
Last week, Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Josh Ernest, gave a preview of what changes in policy towards Israel such a re-evaluation may produce: “Steps that the United States has taken at the United Nations had been predicated on this idea that the two-state solution is the best outcome. Now our ally in these talks has said that they are no longer committed to that solution.”
It is a gross distortion of the truth on the part of President Obama and his minions to assert that the Israeli prime minister rejects the fundamental approach of a two-state solution out of hand. The difference in approach is over exactly how a viable two-state solution should be defined.
Mr. McDonough reiterated in his speech the terms of a final peace agreement as the Obama administration, the Palestinians and their friends at J Street would like to see it: “The borders of Israel and an independent Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has good reason to be very concerned over the outside imposition of this particular version of a two-state solution. Israelis in major population centers will be even more vulnerable to Iranian-supplied rockets launched from the West Bank than they are today from the more distant Gaza Strip.
The Obama administration is so intent on securing any nuclear deal it can with the Iranian regime that it has overlooked Iranian leaders’ outrageous threats to arm terrorists in the West Bank. For example, Ayatollah Khamenei himself warned last year: “We believe the West Bank, too, should be armed just like Gaza and those who are interested in the fate of the Palestinians must work in this respect so that the pains and miseries of the Palestinian people will be decreased due to their mighty hands and the weakness of the Zionist enemy.”
In August 2014, Brigadier General Massoud Jazzayeri, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, stated that “the holy Quds [Jerusalem’s] occupiers’ fear from arming the people and the resistance movement in the West Bank shows how deeply Tel Aviv is vulnerable to the start of a new phase of (Palestinians’) fight and resistance.”
Mr. Netanyahu has not changed his fundamental position since 2009, when he outlined his vision of two peoples living “freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect,” with each having “its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government.” Obama knew then that there were certain conditions the prime minister required in order to be confident that a formulaic two-state solution would not turn into a prescription for the destruction of the Jewish state. He asked for “ironclad” guarantees from the United States and the international community to ensure Israel’s security by requiring that any future Palestinian state be demilitarized and that it recognize Israel’s Jewish character. He also said that the Palestinians’ refugee problem could not be solved by allowing potentially millions of Palestinians to move to the area encompassing pre-1967 Israel under the so-called Palestinian “right of return.”
Even New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, who has harshly criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu and called for his defeat, had to admit that the Palestinians, not the Israeli government under Mr. Netanyahu, were primarily responsible for the breakdown in the peace talks last year. He had interviewed Tzipi Livni, Israel’s lead negotiator, who joined a party running against the prime minister in this year’s election.
As Roger Cohen reported, Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated his willingness, despite some reservations, to proceed on the basis of an American framework for an agreement that set out the Obama administration’s “views on major issues, including borders, security, settlements, Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, however, “remained evasive on the framework.” The Palestinians missed an important opportunity, Roger Cohen reported Mr. Netanyahu’s political adversary Tzipi Livni as saying, “not least because to get Netanyahu’s acceptance of a negotiation on the basis of the 1967 borders with agreed-upon swaps — an idea Obama embraced in 2011 — would have indicated a major shift.”
Then Abbas pulled the rug out from under the negotiations completely by signing letters as part of a process to join 15 international agencies before the negotiations deadline, which he had said he would not do. A reconciliation was announced thereafter between Abbas’s Fatah party and the terrorist Hamas organization, making further negotiations impossible in light of Hamas’s continued violence against Israeli citizens and vows to destroy the Jewish state.
“Palestinian children deserve the same right to be free in their own land as Israeli children in their land,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told his J Street audience. That’s fair enough, as far as it goes. However, he omitted to say that the terrorist organization Abbas wants to partner with sent over 17,000 Palestinian boys to 18 new military training camps this past January to be trained as killers. And where is the outrage with the following declaration by senior Hamas official, Fathi Hamad, which reflects Hamas’s crimes against its own most vulnerable people, including its children? “For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry… This is why [we] have formed human shields of the women, the children, [and] the elderly.”
Palestinian children are taught in their schools and from Palestinian Authority TV programs to hate and revel in the murder of Jews. Why didn’t Mr. McDonough acknowledge that Israeli children deserve to be free in their own land from Palestinian terrorist attacks aimed at killing them?
The Obama administration, starting with President Obama himself, is cynically demonizing Prime Minister Netanyahu while distorting the truth about the comparative records of the Israelis and Palestinians when it comes to good faith negotiation of a viable two-state solution. It has targeted Mr. Netanyahu and sought to discredit him because he had the temerity to speak the truth about the dangerously flawed nuclear deal that the administration is reportedly trying to complete with Iran.
It is time for the Obama administration to stop the pettiness and demagoguery and show at least as much respect for the duly elected leader of the only real democracy in the Middle East as it apparently does for the leaders of the Iranian dictatorial regime.
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