The remarkable clarifying powers of Obama

posted at 7:20 pm on May 21, 2011 by J.E. Dyer

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an international issue clarified in as little time as the 26 hours or so it took to get from “1967 lines” to “No way.”  And we have President Obama to thank for it.

In all the discussion of how he was schooled and taken to the woodshed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, there has been little recognition of the fact that Bibi had no choice but to say what he did in the press conference on Friday.

Some pundits with specialized knowledge of the “peace process” rushed out after the Obama speech to insist that the president was merely articulating a negotiating position long accepted by both the US and Israel.  With all due respect to them, that’s not the point.  Negotiation itself is a process with rules dictated by human nature.  The substance of a particular negotiating position isn’t the only thing that matters; it matters equally, and very often more, that one party to negotiations have leverage, or bargaining chips, to get the other party to meet him halfway.

By proclaiming a US position on the pre-1967 armistice line, as a starting point, Obama removed any leverage Israel had in negotiating the “land swaps” he referred to, as well as in bargaining over the other conditions at issue.  There is a big difference between accepting an Israeli negotiating position, and announcing that the US will tolerate only that specific negotiating position.

As to why Obama did this, I believe it was largely an effort to make a bold, galvanizing announcement – one designed to prod the parties back to the table – without straying outside the boundaries of what his team regards as the tacit understanding achieved since Oslo.  The president threw bones to everyone in his speech, in a sort of score-keeping attempt at tending all constituencies.  In offering a catalyst to his anti-Israel base, he did not want to alienate pro-Israel constituencies in the US.  He needs more than his base to get reelected.  The speech reflected this, checking off a series of constituency-appeal blocks while ultimately offering almost no specifics.

But of the few real specifics it contained, one was a condition Netanyahu knew he could not reenter negotiations under prejudice from.  If you’re negotiating for a new car, and you’re haggling at $20,000, you don’t tell the salesman you’re willing to go to $22,000.  You hang in there and make him “incentivize” you to go higher with add-ons or other concessions.  If he simply won’t come down from $25,000, you may even walk away, because that deal just doesn’t work for you.  But if your wife is there giving you “spouse eye” and audibly whispering, “Honey, I want this car, give the man $25,000,” does that aid your negotiation or hinder it?

If Obama had merely recommitted America to seeking a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, without staking out a specific parameter for the negotiations, I doubt Bibi would have made the statements he did in the press conference on Friday.  It all could have been left unsaid, for who knows how many more months.  But Obama backed him into a corner by announcing a US position based on the pre-1967 armistice line.  Failing to address that prejudicial announcement – appearing with the American president in seeming accord – would have made Israel look weak and out of options.  Israel can’t afford that; indeed, no nation in that part of the world can.

So Bibi said what had to be said.  Where Obama had stepped in and outlined a position the US has no business delineating, Netanyahu said what only the prime minister of Israel is in a position to say.  It was not Obama’s place to say any of these things – that the “right of return” demand is “not gonna happen,” that the pre-1967 armistice line is not acceptable as a border – any more than it was his place to impose the pre-1967 line as a condition.  The purpose Obama served – however inadvertently – was getting Bibi to say these things.  And say them from the White House, sitting next to the president of the United States, to boot.

Obama served this purpose by hearkening to his particular muse: the Muse of Campaigning.  I’m not sure he has ever heard from the Muse of Negotiation, but in the case of his Middle East speech, the two muses had conflicting advice.

Obama isn’t the first American president to give short shrift to the fundamentals of negotiation; most of our presidents know little about it.  As a superpower, we are essentially a continent-size island with only two land borders, and our chief executive is his own separate branch of government, intended to counterbalance the legislature rather than emerging from it after years of parliamentary sausage-making.  It is rare for our presidents to enter the office with any meaningful experience in negotiation, and even rarer for them to appreciate it as a political discipline and be good at it.

But I don’t know that we’ve ever had a president who seemed, as much as Obama does, to live in a galaxy far, far away from “negotiation,” the human concept.  It’s not that he appears to dismiss the ramifications of his actions for ongoing negotiations; it’s that they don’t even seem to occur to him.  In one of the most counterintuitive episodes in a long time, it took an attitude this blunderingly dysfunctional to corner the consummate statesman Benjamin Netanyahu and induce him to say, bluntly and unequivocally, what had to be said about Israel’s irreducible requirements for survival.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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The Chicago street hustler has met his match!

MaiDee on May 21, 2011 at 7:24 PM

To involve the US in any “peace process” at this point would prove fatal. Let Jordan give up an equal amount of land on the other side of the Jordan River if there is to be a Palestinian state. I doubt Fatah is about to give up their raison d’etre for peace, and Hamas is a non-starter. Israel should have never surrendered Gaza to these thugs.

AshleyTKing on May 21, 2011 at 7:29 PM

Phew. I need a cigarette after that, J.D.

Well said.

The one thing that has always concerned me about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is the tacit approval that the Israelis seem to require in order to act in defense of their own sovereignty. If missiles are flying, it seems as though they need to hop on the phone to Washington to ask if it is OK with us to fight back.

That is not to say that they are not superb fighters – I’m glad they are on our side and not vice versa.

I just wish they would give one of those infamous Bronx arm gestures that indicate that the person is through with you more often.

Like Bibi did at the White House Friday.

turfmann on May 21, 2011 at 7:30 PM

J.D. = J.E.

Sorry.

turfmann on May 21, 2011 at 7:30 PM

Gad, what a bunch of rambling nonsense.

Obama has no idea what he is doing, OR Obama is deliberately trying to destroy Israel to make it easier for the one world types to bring down America.

Take your pick, it is one or the other.

Don’t put any nuance or finesse into what Obama is doing.

karenhasfreedom on May 21, 2011 at 7:33 PM

THIS PRETTY MUCH SAYS IT ALL.

Courtesy of our friend, Gary.

NoNails on May 21, 2011 at 7:36 PM

Gary’s pictorial is hilarious. Loved it.

Dayum, Allen West is HAWT, HAWT, HAWT in that Tshirt on a motorcycle. I am swooning!!!!!!

karenhasfreedom on May 21, 2011 at 7:41 PM

But I don’t know that we’ve ever had a president who seemed, as much as Obama does, to live in a galaxy far, far away from “negotiation,” the human concept. It’s not that he appears to dismiss the ramifications of his actions for ongoing negotiations; it’s that they don’t even seem to occur to him.

-
When you’re use to calling out the unions goons and astro-turfers by the bus load… negotiations are more the like the art of wielding a sledgehammer… than they be akin to the delicate persuasions of the matchmaker.
-

RalphyBoy on May 21, 2011 at 7:42 PM

THIS PRETTY MUCH SAYS IT ALL.

Courtesy of our friend, Gary.

NoNails on May 21, 2011 at 7:36 PM

-
LOL! and thank you… Indeed.
-

RalphyBoy on May 21, 2011 at 7:44 PM

The substance of this article is: Netanyahu said what he said because Obama said what Obama said.

GaltBlvnAtty on May 21, 2011 at 7:46 PM

I disagree about American presidents and compromise.Most of ort POTUSs have been governors where compromise and negotiation is a constant.Neither of the 2008 candidates had such experience.Senators deal in their own visions and unless they’re senior shakers and movers like LBJ they’ve no part in negotiations that make govt work

xkaydet65 on May 21, 2011 at 7:53 PM

“… it took an attitude this blunderingly dysfunctional to corner the consummate statesman Benjamin Netanyahu and induce him to say, bluntly and unequivocally, what had to be said about Israel’s irreducible requirements for survival.”

That statement alone, should be written in stone…

… and placed along the current Israeli border.

Seven Percent Solution on May 21, 2011 at 7:56 PM

Boo hoo Bibi’s big hissy fit was the problem. Not the content of the speech. Time for Israel to find a new PM who understands the relationship better.

lexhamfox on May 21, 2011 at 8:01 PM

Obama is doing nothing more than stirring up the Arab street ( not hard to do) by forcing Israel to loudly and clearly say “no”.

Now the ME has a starting point. Israel say “NO” to peace…

katy on May 21, 2011 at 8:02 PM

I think Osama was a trade off to do this sort of thing, the bambinator just wants to screw the world.

bbz123 on May 21, 2011 at 8:03 PM

So he is good for something!

ncborn on May 21, 2011 at 8:07 PM

BiBi is a true hero, especially having put up with whistle-tooth’s pap.

PaCadle on May 21, 2011 at 8:09 PM

lexhamfox on May 21, 2011 at 8:01 PM

I believe it was last year that the Democrat controlled Congress sent off a nasty letter to the 0bama Regime for their LOUSY treatment of Netanyahu. All you are witnessing is more of the same from lil 0 as he NEVER learns his lessons. ;o)

DannoJyd on May 21, 2011 at 8:10 PM

Well written, J.E. Dyer. Thank you.

Sunshein on May 21, 2011 at 8:11 PM

lexhamfox on May 21, 2011 at 8:01 PM

Did you forget the sarcastic tag?
If not, you are a joke!

Bambi on May 21, 2011 at 8:12 PM

Muslim sympathizer in the White House sets up Israeli PM. Israeli PM defends his own country and says it’s a non-starter (which BHO knew).

This is all just a setup to force Israel into a situation where “HamasPalestine” gets nation status in September and the U.N. recognizes them and then dares Israel to respond.

The U.N full of Jew Haters?………who knew,right?

God help America survive this Chicago/Kenya/Hawaii/Indonesian disaster.

PappyD61 on May 21, 2011 at 8:12 PM

Spot on JE

AH_C on May 21, 2011 at 8:13 PM

Boo hoo Bibi’s big hissy fit was the problem. Not the content of the speech. Time for Israel to find a new PM who understands the relationship better.

lexhamfox on May 21, 2011 at 8:01 PM

Ahh, no. Bibi did the right thing, obama didn’t.

tinkerthinker on May 21, 2011 at 8:18 PM

Just watch the evil eye the o give Bibi! He thinks he can sit there and embarass Bibi and all his sicofants will love him! Well, the truth is there are so many Jewish haters in this country, I can’t imagine why any of the Jews vote for the dems. They will march themselves to another holocaust if they don’t get their head on straight!

Bambi on May 21, 2011 at 8:19 PM

School was in session yesterday. That was for sure.

Tasha on May 21, 2011 at 8:25 PM

But if your wife is there giving you “spouse eye” and audibly whispering, “Honey, I want this car, give the man $25,000,” does that aid your negotiation or hinder it?

Lol. This is why my husband has now band me from any “negotiations.”

sammypants on May 21, 2011 at 8:30 PM

Bambi on May 21, 2011 at 8:19 PM

Why is still my question. Why did little Bammie allow this press conference to go ahead knowing Prime Minister Netanyahu had no choice but to btch-slap him into next week. He could have cancelled it, or had the foresight to not schedule it in the first place.

Not only why did little Bammie allow it, why did his White House staff and the State Department not intervene? Bammie might be dumb as a post, but all the rest of them too? In terms of little Bammie’s reelection prospects, the outlook for peace in the ME, and America’s reputation, this was a disaster. Why did they stumble into it?

slickwillie2001 on May 21, 2011 at 8:37 PM

The remarkable clarifying powers of Obama
/

Uh. That’s what he’s tawkin ’bout. Uh.

Key West Reader on May 21, 2011 at 8:38 PM

Barack Hussein Obama made a terrible mistake.

Let’s just get that out in the open.

Key West Reader on May 21, 2011 at 8:40 PM

The president threw bones to everyone in his speech, in a sort of score-keeping attempt at tending all constituencies.

He’s just a common fool and idiot, nothing more. He threw Israel under the bus because he’s anti Semitic, pro islam.

Nothing too complex there. Though he may deny it, he’s a racist.

dogsoldier on May 21, 2011 at 8:47 PM

karenhasfreedom on May 21, 2011 at 7:41 PM

I’m swooning, too! Love Allen West’s tee “IDF”! And those pics of W are goodto see again… that’s how a POTUS should look on a bike!

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on May 21, 2011 at 8:47 PM

Hopey’s Community Organizational Grand BackFire!!!!

canopfor on May 21, 2011 at 8:51 PM

J.D. = J.E.

Sorry.

turfmann on May 21, 2011 at 7:30 PM

Not to worry, turfmann. They both work. :-)

J.E. Dyer on May 21, 2011 at 9:10 PM

@ dogsoldier on May 21, 2011

You nailed it. And the jug-eared one never did run a successful street hustle either. Way, way above his pay grade.

MayorDaley on May 21, 2011 at 9:26 PM

It’s not that he appears to dismiss the ramifications of his actions for ongoing negotiations; it’s that they don’t even seem to occur to him.

Did they not occur to any of his staff? The State Department? The DoD? Michelle? Anybody? Is Obama truly running this Presidency by winging it as a one-man show; caught up so thoroughly in his own hubris as to dismiss or ignore other counsel?

ss396 on May 21, 2011 at 9:31 PM

Boo hoo Bibi’s big hissy fit was the problem. Not the content of the speech. Time for Israel to find a new PM who understands the relationship better.

lexhamfox on May 21, 2011 at 8:01 PM

LOL, you were much funnier at Captain’s Quarters.

Del Dolemonte on May 21, 2011 at 9:42 PM

Is Obama truly running this Presidency by winging it as a one-man show; caught up so thoroughly in his own hubris as to dismiss or ignore other counsel?

ss396 on May 21, 2011 at 9:31 PM

He surrounds himself with people who think just like he does; he only reads columnists and thinkers whose perspectives are the same as his. He doesn’t like to be challenged, a sure sign of a weak intellect and an ideologue.

ProfessorMiao on May 21, 2011 at 9:42 PM

This needs to be a major campaign issue,enough of
this Progressive attitude,that its Isreal,thats the
problem in the Middle East!

canopfor on May 21, 2011 at 9:47 PM

Excellent observations by J.D. and laugh of the week from Gary. My entire family laughed when they saw the pictures….

dddave on May 21, 2011 at 9:48 PM

Boo hoo Bibi’s big hissy fit was the problem. Not the content of the speech. Time for Israel to find a new PM who understands the relationship better.

lexhamfox on May 21, 2011 at 8:01 PM

lexhamfox:Ya,thats the talking points I heard last night
on the news breaks on Talk AM Radio,where the
news guy stated,BiBi is playing to his political
base!

Oh ya,the PM of Isreal is going to put his politi
cs first,over his country!!

Btw,Obama is clearly insane on the border issue
in Isreal!!!

canopfor on May 21, 2011 at 9:52 PM

Why would Obama state out loud that the starting point of negotiations should be the pre-1967 armistice lines? The only answer has to be that he is a foreign policy dunce. Let’s just give the haters of Israel a do over after 40+ years. His prescription would not result in peace. There would be but a short time from implementation to all out war.

Please USA, do not reelect this incompetent.

stefano1 on May 21, 2011 at 10:13 PM

Well J.E., I fundamentally see the hand of Samantha Power at work here.

Also, you mention the articulation of a ridiculously one sided starting point by President Obama, and wonder why he would do such a thing. Recall that this has essentially been Democratic party SOP in their negotiating strategy for years; with the Palestinians cast as the Democrats and the Israelis playing the normal role of eeeeevolll, hated conservatives.

And as usual, compromise is defined as the left getting most of what they want, and the right sacrificing their principles in the name of said compromis.

Great essay
My Regards

RocketmanBob on May 21, 2011 at 10:43 PM

Just more of that ‘smart diplomcay’. Note to Barry: What worked on your homies in ChiTown ain’t gonna work on the world stage.

GarandFan on May 21, 2011 at 10:45 PM

He surrounds himself with people who think just like he does; he only reads columnists and thinkers whose perspectives are the same as his. He doesn’t like to be challenged, a sure sign of a weak intellect and an ideologue.

ProfessorMiao on May 21, 2011 at 9:42 PM

One of the liberal elites’ favorite slanders of conservatives is that they are ‘intellectually incurious’, yet it is they who are exactly that, and little Bammie to a fault. They tolerate no discussion of other philosophies on their college campuses. In the White House and in the old liberal networks, they ridicule other points of view. They accuse conservatives of illiteracy, yet would not think of reading someone like Sowell.

Little Bammie is the worst of them; from childhood his parents surrounded him with communist radicals. Of course he is now a communist himself, but he is so ignorant that he knows nothing else.

His narcissism is another factor entirely, which further insulates him from reality.

slickwillie2001 on May 21, 2011 at 10:53 PM

Obama has clearly acquired the negotiating skills of Hitler, Stalin, Castro, and Chavez.

Obama feels that the act of stating his position is a concession, and you should therefore accept it.

landlines on May 21, 2011 at 11:35 PM

As to why Obama did this, I believe it…

is because that it was the teleprompter said to say.

Dingbat63 on May 22, 2011 at 1:58 AM

RocketmanBob on May 21, 2011 at 10:43 PM

Yeah, Powers and Susan Rice principally, and others for reinforcement including Valerie Jarrett.

By his own estimate, Obama also attended services at Rev. Wright’s church about every other week for 20 years. That’s over 500 sermons . . . how many do you think were filled with hate-the-Jew-devil-bastards stuff? Maybe all of them?

Obama’s world view envisions a diminished role for the USA and the West, subservient deference to islamic theocracies, and no Jews to speak of.

Adjoran on May 22, 2011 at 6:22 AM

The author is projecting onto Obama what he wants Obama to be, not reality.

If one goes into any situation with the basic fundamental realization that “Obama is over his head”, then all further discussions about any Obama actions are closer to reality.

albill on May 22, 2011 at 7:21 AM

Boo hoo Bibi’s big hissy fit was the problem. Not the content of the speech. Time for Israel to find a new PM who understands the relationship better.

No, it was the content of the speech that was the problem. Bibi was right to tell the Jugeared Nitwit to pound sand. The way he did it shows what a statesman and leader he is.
We’re the ones who need to finder a leader who understands the relationship better and knows better than to bow to Muslim potentates.

single stack on May 22, 2011 at 7:45 AM

The only negotiation techniques Øbama knows are bullying and intimidation, the ‘negotiation’ of the community organizer.

He expected Bibi to cower. What he didn’t expect was Bibi standing up to him.

petefrt on May 22, 2011 at 8:24 AM

Boo hoo Bibi’s big hissy fit was the problem. Not the content of the speech. Time for Israel to find a new PM who understands the relationship better.

lexhamfox on May 21, 2011 at 8:01 PM

You’re willing to give up for the sake of peace concessions on your own property so that your sword-bladin’, Bible hating neighbors whose only goal is to seek you and your family dead with pics posted on their online media. They’ll rejoice and bake cookies.

No problemo, amigo!

ProudPalinFan on May 22, 2011 at 8:27 AM

And oh the irony, we were attacked and Obama STILL wants to give Israeli lands to those folks. (US Embassy)

ProudPalinFan on May 22, 2011 at 8:29 AM

This needs to be a major campaign issue

canopfor on May 21, 2011 at 9:47 PM

Indeed it does, both for matters of principle and politics. Israel has support in this country far beyond what Øbama represents. Betraying a long-time ally like Israel is unconscionable.

petefrt on May 22, 2011 at 8:34 AM

Obama would probably give up the southwest border states of California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico to solve the immigration problem in the US….

albill on May 22, 2011 at 9:18 AM

Obama’s idea of neutrality as a broker of peace in the high-stakes poker game of “Middle-East” is to invite Netenyahu to take the seat against the wall on upon which hangs the mirror . . .

tpitman on May 22, 2011 at 9:24 AM

Obama doesn’t have the first clue what negotiations are. He is an authoritarian leftist community organizer, and his idea of a negotiation is using ACORN’s obnoxious noisemakers to force concessions with extortionist demands, and to use union thugs to kneecap the opposition.

Meanwhile, Ottowa tells Obama to pound sand:

The Harper government is refusing to join the United States in calling for a return to 1967 borders as a starting point for Mideast peace, a position that has drawn sharp criticism from Canada’s staunch ally Israel.

At a briefing ahead of the upcoming G8 summit in France, federal officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon.

Buy Danish on May 22, 2011 at 9:31 AM

Obummer pulled a fast one with this hurried speech so he could neutralize Israel in the negotiations. Obummer just doesn’t know the American people.
They can’t have it both ways. 1. He’s soooo intelligent and sooo far ahead of people. or 2. He just didn’t realize the impact of what he said. My point is; He knew exactly what he was doing, he is just ill informed about the American people and probably the Israeli leaders.

Herb on May 22, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Good article but the fact is that even considering the 1967 borders is literally INSANE and IRRATIONAL. Going to the 1967 armistice line, which by the have no basis in the international legal regime, would inevitably lead to war and massive death of Israeli.

Listening to Obama now, he specifically excluded calling Hamas a terrorist group…that is not a causual mistake.

Obama now lying about the position of the US on the 1967 borders…We have never set the 1967 armistice lines as a basis for actual borders. He is plainly lying, tore up the Bush letter

Now he is lying about the demographics of Judea and Samaria…see Caroline Glick

A new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region and they are making it worse…they support the Muslim Brotherhood and the islamist agenda…

Obama just failed to affirm that the US would veto any establishment of a new Arab state.

Now he is lying about giving up Israels negotiating position.

georgealbert on May 22, 2011 at 11:18 AM

The really idiotic think aboout Obamas suggestion that Israel go back to what are in effect armistice lines from 1949/1967 is that Israel ALREADY DID THIS…In Gaza…and what was the result????? WAR.

No one has to guess what would happen, it has been empirically proven what would happen. Gheesh!!!

georgealbert on May 22, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Boo hoo Bibi’s big hissy fit was the problem. Not the content of the speech. Time for Israel to find a new PM who understands the relationship better.

lexhamfox on May 21, 2011 at 8:01 PM

What relationship might that be?

Seriously.

BigAlSouth on May 22, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Moonwalk at AIPAC this AM

Hussein inflames the arab street for openers and destroys the trust with Jews and Arabs alike for his main act, then closes with a moonwalk at AIPAC. Assad must go for a sideshow. Worst president ever, and this is just campaign mode.

Rea1ityCheck on May 22, 2011 at 12:50 PM

If Obozo thinks he can intimidate Bibi with a scowl and a speech, he’s dumber than we thought. The Israelis have been at this a long time and know what they have at stake. BHO will be gone in another 18 months. Hamas will still be at their doorstep.

Kissmygrits on May 22, 2011 at 5:59 PM

And the Jews didn’t like George.

It’s amazingly ironic that there could not be any comparison to any recent, much less, current commie potus

there was never any doubt as to where Georges support lay between a lawful, productive and secure Israel and the murderous animals foisted by the muzzy world

I guess the Jews need that type of friendship

Sonosam on May 22, 2011 at 6:57 PM

It’s not that he appears to dismiss the ramifications of his actions for ongoing negotiations; it’s that they don’t even seem to occur to him.

Once again, Our Idiot President takes a close ally (Israel) and an inalienable natural constituency (Jews) and finds a way to completely fu*k up his involvement with them.

Another remarkable kick in the nuts to the imbeciles who worship O’Bozo as an intellectual God. He could could fu*k up a 5 year old’s birthday party.

Jaibones on May 22, 2011 at 8:08 PM

State governments are generally modeled after the Federal Government, so Governors have similar experience negotiating with their state legislatures.

Obama had no executive experience at all before getting elected. And he hasn’t done much negotiating since, either leaving things entirely up to Pelosi and Reid, or trying to dictate things.

LarryD on May 23, 2011 at 4:18 PM