Quotes of the day

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates were satisfied by US President Barack Obama’s clarifications during his address to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in Washington, Sunday…

“One of the associates told Ynet that the speech was ‘befitting,’ and that they were particularly pleased with Obama clarifications about considering the 1967 borders as the basis for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but not necessarily as the final ones.”

[S]ome Israeli media also asked if Netanyahu himself stoked an air of crisis.

Contrary to impressions that he was surprised by Obama’s speech [at the State Department on Thursday], reports on Sunday confirmed he was told over 24 hours ahead of time that Obama would propose a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, and had called Washington to try to get the president to change his mind and his text — without success.

When Obama went ahead, Netanyahu, who was about to board his flight to Washington, issued a strong statement rejecting the suggestion. Officials seemed taken aback and an aide, asked if Netanyahu had been forewarned, said: ‘No comment.’…

“In radio interviews on Sunday, … Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren on Sunday confirmed that Netanyahu was informed in advance. Asked by Israel Army Radio, ‘Why create a crisis?,’ Oren said: ‘We do not feel that there is a crisis. There are differences.'”

“George Mitchell, who stepped down as the Obama administration’s special envoy to the Middle East last week, said Sunday that President Obama’s call to base Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on pre-1967 borders is not a threat to Israel…

“‘A major objective of this initiative, among others, is to prevent a disaster for Israel from occurring at the United Nations General Assembly in September, when the Palestinians have said they will see a unilateral declaration of statehood,’ Mitchell said. “The president spoke out strongly against that. We oppose it. And the way to prevent that from occurring is to provide an alternative in direct negotiation that would foreclose or make not necessary that option.'”

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must accept U.S. President Obama’s vision for Mideast peace if talks with the Palestinian Authority are to resume, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Sunday…

“Speaking to the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA on Sunday, Erekat said that an Israeli acceptance of Obama’s guidelines was essential if stalled negotiations were to resume, saying that as far as the Palestinians were concerned peace talks ‘actually aim at realizing this [Obamas’] objective, the establishment of the independent Palestinian state with these borders, along with swap of territories.'”

“It’s no secret that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to lobby the U.N. General Assembly this September for a resolution that will predetermine the results of any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on borders. He made clear in a New York Times op-ed this week that he will insist that member states recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 lines, meaning Israel’s boundaries before the Six Day War.

“Unfortunately, even President Barack Obama appears to have been influenced by this thinking. He asserted in a speech Thursday that Israel’s future borders with a Palestinian state ‘should be based on the 1967 lines,’ a position he tried to offset by offering ‘mutually agreed land swaps.’ Mr. Abbas has said many times that any land swaps would be minuscule

“If the borders between Israel and the Palestinians need to be negotiated, then what are the implications of a U.N. General Assembly resolution that states up front that those borders must be the 1967 lines? Some commentators assert that all Mr. Abbas wants to do is strengthen his hand in future negotiations with Israel, and that this does not contradict a negotiated peace. But is that really true? Why should Mr. Abbas ever negotiate with Israel if he can rely on the automatic majority of Third World countries at the U.N. General Assembly to back his positions on other points that are in dispute, like the future of Jerusalem, the refugee question, and security?”

“That was a deeply unwise speech Obama just gave to AIPAC. The president did not ask himself the first question of political speechmaking: Why am I saying this? Instead he surrendered to his personal exasperation with Benjamin Netanyahu, and escalated a confrontation he had every reason to de-ecalate.

“The president did not merely restate his view on the 1967 lines. He added extra emphasis on a worrying point that was implicit in his big Thursday speech on the Middle East: that the future Palestinian state will have exclusive responsibility for security arrangements within its territory. So, if a rocket is fired at Israel from the West Bank, it will be the security forces of the Palestinian state that will deal with it – or not. If Hezbollah intrudes into the West Bank it will be the security forces of the Palestinian state that will react – or not. And since those security forces are to be non-militarized, they may well lack the means even if they have the will.

“The speech left me wondering: if the president is prepared to state now, in advance, that he has a view on the territorial outcome of negotiations, why won’t he state now, in advance, that he has a view on Palestinian refugee claims? Why won’t he state a view in advance on the non-division of Jerusalem? The thing most important to the Palestinians is now the official position of the Obama administration. The concerns of Israel have either been rejected in advance (security within the future West Bank Palestinian state) or else left for negotiation.”

“Now, it was my reference to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps that received the lion’s share of the attention. And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what ‘1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps’ means.

“By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

“If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance.”

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