It's no surprise that some politicians and wealthy Israel supporters were angered by President Obama's Mideast peace speech yesterday, which called for a Palestinian state based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War. But at least nobody's distorting Obama's message with overheated hyperbole to score cheap political points. Take likely GOP candidate Mitt Romney's circumspect reaction: "President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by your friends." Romney must have seen the Director's Cut of Obama's address, because we seem to recall him saying, "Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakable." Of course, when it comes to the Middle East, everyone's a critic:
- Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind: "In trying to force Israel to return to the 1967 borders, Mr. Obama has effectively condemned the State of Israel to a slow and painful death."
- Rep. Michele Bachmann, via Twitter: "Obama's call for 1967 borders will cause chaos, division & more aggression in Middle East & put Israel at further risk...Once again, President Obama has betrayed our friend and ally Israel."
- Pro-Israel hawk Rep. Anthony Weiner, on Twitter: "Remind me again, why did the '67 borders change? #IsraelAttacked."
- Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver "The idea of constantly putting out preconditions for Israel to meet is not the way to be an honest broker."
- "The substance of those will be deemed as essentially more pro-Palestinian than previous presidents' positions at a time when Hamas has entered the Palestinian government," said Michael Singh, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- Rep. Jerry Nadler: "The president mentioned that, but of course didn’t say how we were going to do that, and I would have been happier if the president had addressed the other issue."
Why can't Obama make everyone happy like he promised to do during his campaign?! Reacting to the reactions, John Podesta, former chief of staff for President Clinton and an ally to the Obama White House, told CNN, "It's almost unprecedented to see such incendiary rhetoric that tries to drive a wedge between the United States and Israel and use it for electoral gain. It's a reflection that this is clearly a [Republican] party that, on security issues these days, lacks a lot of coherence. So they'll go to sort of ...the lowest political common denominator and haven't really thought through the possible strategic consequences of comments like that."
Obama's plan contained no major surprises and is essentially unchanged from President Clinton's, but, as the LA Times puts it, Obama is the first to "publicly announce the 1967 formula, which is the equivalent of touching the third rail in Israeli politics." There's idle speculation this could hurt Obama's re-election chances (78% of Jewish voters backed him in the last election), and not-so-idle speculation in the Wall Street Journal that this is going to cost Obama big fundraising bucks from affluent Israel supporters. But of course many Jews also embraced the plan; the Anti-Defamation League applauded Obama's address.
Obama is meeting today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was deeply dissatisfied with Obama's speech, dismissing it as "indefensible" as he boarded a flight to Washington.