Barack Obama appeared before AIPAC yesterday to try to calm the tempest he created with his remarks on Thursday. If clarity is what Obama sought, he has a funny way of getting to it, as his remarks on Hamas demonstrated. Philip Klein reported that he started off fine:

Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties.  And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace.  No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements.  And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.

Well, that’s just straightforward common sense, right?  No one’s going to argue that Israel has to negotiate with terrorists whose charter includes a call for Israel’s destruction.  That would just be — er, what?

And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under the current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable. That is why, on Thursday, I stated publicly the principles that the United States believes can provide a foundation for negotiations toward an agreement to end the conflict and all claims – the broad outlines of which have been known for many years, and have been the template for discussions between the United States, Israelis, and Palestinians since at least the Clinton Administration.

So, we can’t expect Israel to try to negotiate with Hamas, but we can blame them for a failure to try to negotiate with Hamas?  Is the US position that Israel has “no option” but to negotiate with terrorists that no one expects them to negotiate with?

Somewhere in these two statements is an explanation of smart power, I’m sure.

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