Anyone who watched Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their May 20 press conference must have been struck by the contrast between the two men. Netanyahu led an elite combat unit and fought in the Yom Kippur War. He worked as a business consultant and as an executive for a furniture company and he has served his country for almost 30 years in several different government positions, including ambassador to the United Nations, foreign minister and finance minister. He is a polished statesman who is passionate about supporting and defending his country.
Obama, on the other hand, was a community organizer and a lawyer. Military experience? None. Business experience? None. Statesmanship? Apparently none, after his performance at the press conference, where he insisted that Israel, our major (and sometimes only) supporter in the Middle East, should retreat to indefensible borders in order to pacify its neighbors. The Palestinians have been clamoring for a return to the borders that existed before the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel took control of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. A return to those borders would split Israel in half, leaving it even more vulnerable to attack than it already is.
Why is it important that the United States support Israel? We gave Israel about $3.1 billion in foreign aid in 2010, which is comparable to the combined total for Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority. While those other entities have given us nothing but grief and ingratitude, Israel is an extremely important strategic ally, with the strongest military force in the region. Supporting Israel lets us protect our interests (including access to oil) without committing our own troops. The Israelis are standing strong against Iran’s nuclear threat. They also provide us with intelligence gleaned from their network of agents all over the Arab world. In short, we need them as much as they need us. Apparently, Obama hasn’t figured this out yet.
As the only democracy in the region, Israel isn’t the country to blame for the conflicts in the Middle East. Israel is ready to recognize a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians and their supporters refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. How can you negotiate with people who want you dead?
We shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, and that’s exactly what Obama is doing – trying to appease Hamas and its allies by throwing Israel under the bus. The U.S. has agreed that the Palestinians should have an independent state, but demanding a return to pre-1967 borders is giving them a new starting point in negotiations without asking anything from them in return.
In addition, Obama’s diplomatic blunder necessitated Netanyahu to respond from a position of strength in defense of his country, which gave the radical Palestinians just the ammunition they wanted. They claimed that since Israel was rejecting their demands, the only solution left was violence. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu’s reaction was “clear evidence that the negotiations option was a waste of time.” Now that Hamas, which controls Gaza, has allied itself with Fatah, which controls the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority, the stage is set for a multi-pronged attack against Israel.
Even Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who’s been one of the President’s most ardent supporters, publicly disagreed with Obama over this issue. In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he explained, “A fair beginning to good-faith talks means that Israel cannot be asked to agree to confines that would compromise its own security.”
I thought I’d never publicly say this, but I agree with Senator Reid on this occasion. Obama made a major mistake and we can only hope that we don’t all have to pay for it.
Originally published in Nevada Business Magazine: