Obama’s declaration of U.S. independence
Amazing how little it takes to get Bibi Netanyahu in a lather. All President Obama did Thursday was speak the obvious and the truth: that the territorial boundaries of a future Palestinian state and Israel must be based, in general, on Israel’s borders before the 1967 six-day war. Nothing new. Nothing not obvious. Nothing not fundamentally fair.
But Netanyahu went ballistic, declaring that a return to 1967 borders would render Israel “indefensible.” And on Friday, following his two-hour meeting with Obama, Bibi made no secret of his disdain for Obama’s peace proposal and, it was clear, for Obama himself.
Given the modesty and the utter lack of novelty of Obama’s proposal, what can explain Netanyahu’s vehement reaction?
The best explanation, I suspect, is that Obama actually dared to say what he said without Israeli permission. In years past, the kind of fulminating that Bibi reportedly did with Secretary of State Clinton on Thursday before Obama’s Mideast policy speech would have caused an American president to hastily amend his planned remarks so as not to offend the Israeli government. Indeed, under George W. Bush there would have been no need even to fulminate, since Bush’s notion of what ought to happen in Israeli-Palestinian relations was whatever the Israelis said it ought to be.
Obama, however, has always had a mind of his own on this most intractable of American foreign policy challenges. This American president has always believed–mirabile dictu!–that a Palestinian might actually have some rights that an Israeli is bound to respect. And on Thursday, in his extremely modest speech, he dared to say as much.
Bibi may not have appreciated it. His Amen corner here in the United States may not have appreciated it. But by declaring the United States’ diplomatic independence from Israel on Thursday, Obama may taken the first and most necessary step to create a genuine new peace process. As long as the U.S. was Israel’s vassal, there could be no progress. With a diplomatically independent U.S. committed to Israel’s security and a fair deal for the Palestinians, peace may have a chance.