Most of the fury over Barack Obama’s speech yesterday has focused on his statement about the US position on the borders of Israel, but as Jeffrey Goldberg noted, that’s hardly a change. The 1967 borders have formed the basis of American peace proposals for years, and two years ago Hillary Clinton explicitly made the same statement of American policy.

Supporters of Israel should find this more puzzling, though:

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.

Huh?  Did Obama just specifically say that the US won’t defend Israel if attacked?

Israel has long said that it will fight its own wars, and that all they need from America is our friendship. However, it has been rather clear that the US takes its alliance with Israel very, very seriously, and that an attack on Israel by its neighbors could very well provoke a reaction from the world’s superpower. That kind of strategic ambiguity serves our interests well by deterring anyone from initiating an attack on Israel, which apart from attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas have not taken place in decades. Obama’s emphasis on “by itself” seems to send a much different signal, one a lot more potentially dangerous than a restatement of the obvious American approach to peace proposals on the two-state solution.

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