Published for The Council on Foreign Relations’ blog, May 20th, 2011:

I was unfavorably impressed by President Obama’s speech yesterday, and explained why both at the CFR web site and at greater length in National Review.

The President’s remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were off the mark.   As I noted in National Review:

“President Obama also said the “borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” It is worth comparing how President Bush described the agreed, negotiated borders he sought for the Israelis and Palestinians in that 2004 letter: “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.” The Obama language is a shift away from Israel and toward the Palestinians.”

My friend Rob Satloff, who leads the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, made a powerful commenton the speech:

“Perhaps more than anything else, the most surprising aspect of the president’s peace process statement was that it moved substantially toward the Palestinian position just days after the Palestinian Authority decided to seek unity and reconciliation with Hamas. Indeed, the president seemed nonplussed that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has opted for unity with Hamas, a group the United States views as a terrorist organization. This reconciliation with Hamas “raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel,” the president noted — but evidently not questions so profound and troubling to the United States that they would impede a shift in U.S. policy that advantages the Palestinians.”

Full post here

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