Obama on Israel

At a fundraiser for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign yesterday, President Obama warned that possible “tactical” disagreements may be in the near future between Israel and Washington. He was speaking on the complex peace process between Israel and Palestine at the fundraiser, which gathered Democratic friends of Israel.

Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been on pause since September 2010, when the partial freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank expired. Israel declined to renew the freeze and continued to build settlements, provoking the Palestinians to refuse to negotiate until the freeze is reinstalled.

What has been the history of the U.S.’s involvement? The recent trajectory of the relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been tumultuous. The latest series of arguments erupted last month when Obama announced publicly a formerly private U.S. policy: that Israel should return to 1967 lines (map above) in order to delineate what property is Palestine and what is Israel. In response, Netanyahu scolded Obama during a following visit to the White House and stressed that the idea of returning to 1967 lines was “indefensible.”

Obama did assert today that the bond between the U.S. and Israel “isn’t breakable.” He also spoke about the Arab Spring, suggesting it has changed the “landscape” of Middle East diplomacy. He vowed to bring his administrations “creative powers” to the forefront to achieve peace.

“It’s not going to be sufficient for us just to keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing and expect somehow that things are going to work themselves out,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to be creative and we’re going to have to be engaged. We’re going to have to look for opportunities where the best impulses in the Middle East come to the fore and the worst impulses are weakened.”

What do you think about what Obama said today, or about his actions towards Israel in general? Should his presence in the conflict be greater, lesser, or is it appropriate as is? How will this issue affect his chances in 2012?

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2 Comments

Filed under Middle East, U.S Foreign Policy

2 responses to “Obama on Israel

  1. I eagerly await The New Republic’s reasoned and nuanced assessment of this development.

  2. More seriously:

    Tough(ish) rhetoric coming straight from the top is good to hear, considering Israel’s bad-faith negotiations during the Obama presidency. But as you say, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff. The Obama administration has been PO’ed at Netanyahu for quite some time–even longtime Israel stalwarts like Hillary and Biden have had stern words for some of the overtly aggressive tactics Bibi has been using. While it would be good for just about everyone if the US didn’t have an explicitly “special” relationship with Israel, this doesn’t seem like a particularly brave step towards that.

    In response to how this affects Obama’s re-election chances, I would say…not much. Beyond the (imo) relatively innocuous nature of the comments themselves, I think that people tend to overestimate the importance that Jewish-Americans place on Israel w/r/t policy preferences. Considering that just about every politician in the US holds the “unbreakable bond” sentiment, the stark differences between the parties on just about every other issue factor into peoples’ decisions far more, at least in my experience.

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