Earlier today, I got interviews with two of the speakers at the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem. I spoke first with Elliot Abrams, the former adviser to both Ronald Reagan (on human rights and Latin America) and George W. Bush (on the Middle East). Abrams discussed his issues with Barack Obama’s declaration of the 1967 lines being the template for a Palestinian state, criticizing Obama for a significant change in direction at the presidential level in the US. Beginning with Lyndon Johnson, every President refused to publicly demand the 1967 lines of Israel — until Obama. “You can say he’s reflecting reality,” Abrams said about the 1967 lines demand, “but what I think he’s doing is undermining the Israeli negotiating position.”
That’s had a big impact on the conflict, although not the outcome Obama foresaw. Abrams points out that Obama’s policy has been obviously ineffective, measured by the fact that there have been no negotiations at all between Israelis and Palestinians, which he blames on Obama’s insistence on settlement freezes and 1967 lines as preconditions. But another development, the Fatah re-alliance with Hamas, threatens to keep talks derailed. Abrams thinks that the US acquiescence to Hamas’ participation in Gaza elections was “a mistake of principle.” At the time, keeping Hamas out was seen as a delegitimizing move for the elections, and the US insisted that Hamas end its terrorism if they won the elections. Now Abrams says that the US position should have been — and should remain — that terrorist organization should be barred from elections entirely.
It’s an interesting discussion, so be sure to watch it all. Abrams was the only American I interviewed here at the conference.
Note: The Israeli Presidential Conference paid my travel expenses for this trip.