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Obama's Shock Therapy on Israel

After First Shocking Israel With Specter Of Indefensible 1967 Border, President Obama Now Reassures That New Border Must Be Different

IsraCast Conclusion: President Obama Exercising Shock Tactics Against Jewish State By Raising Specter Of Return To 1967 Lines But Now Reassuring Jewish State That If It Promotes New Palestinian Peace Process, U.S. Will Support New 'Secure & Recognized Borders'

Barack Obama

 In one speech, U.S. President Barack Obama spread dismay and consternation in Israel by inferring that the old 1967 lines that at some points left only nine miles between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. Then in the next, Obama clarified that the new Israeli-Palestinian border could not be the same 1967 and that was what he meant by 'mutually agreed land swaps'. Was this just sloppy speech-making by Obama or was it a deliberate ploy? Analyst David Essing believes the President has been practicing political shock therapy on Israel.

 It looks as if U.S. President Barack Obama has tried to shock Israel into a new approach; time will tell if he has succeeded. In his speech to the Middle East on May 19th, Obama startled Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and many Israelis by seeming to say that the new border on the West Bank would be, more or less, along the old 1967 line. The next day, a thunderstruck Netanyahu told Obama in the White House that an Israel of only nine miles in width was indefensible and 'was not going to happen!' Obama had triggered deep soul-searching inside Israel. Not only was the Jewish state about to lose the battle for West Bank settlement blocs, but also UNSC #242, that stipulated 'secure and recognized' borders that would be different from 1967. After two years in office, Netanyahu had endangered the crucial political backing of the U.S. To put it crudely, Barack Obama was kicking ass throughout the Arab world as well as Israel. In effect, the result was that the U.S, President had shifted the focus from Israeli settlement building, that Netanyahu has insisted upon, to whether Israel was losing America's backing for defensible borders that the vast majority of Israelis think is absolutely vital for future survival.

Then came the second dose of Obama's shock treatment. After spreading dismay in Israel, Obama then appeared before AIPAC to elaborate on what he had meant by his State Department speech. He wanted to clarify some misinterpretations of that address, while noting that he did not need 'Rahm or Axelrod', two former top Jewish aides, to tell him that he was taking a chance by trying to crack the Israeli-Palestinian logjam. So much for any conjecture that Obama may not have realized the negative reaction in Israel to his reference to the '1967 border with mutually agreed land swaps'. The President could just as easily have added what he later said at the AIPAC convention. And his AIPAC appearance was fluent and flawless, not missing a beat and did not appear to be a cover-up for any gaffe at the State Department.

On the contrary, Obama was replying not only to Netanyahu, but also to the people of Israel and his Democratic supporters declaring he was realistic about Israel's future security. And reading between his lines, if he had appeared to have throw overboard UNSC # 242, that was not the case. Nevertheless, in my view that was exactly the impression that Obama wanted to create. It can be said that Obama took a page out of Netanyahu's book by seeming to tell the Israeli leader: 'If you give, you'll get!' At the same time, he warned that time was not on Israel's side in the diplomatic or security arenas. But for his part, the President would stand by Israel's side against the campaign to delegitimize the Jewish or the drive at the UN General Assembly for recognition of a Palestinian state on the lines of 1967. Obama's message to Netanyahu and the Israeli people seemed to be: 'This may be your last chance, this is the best peace deal you're ever going to get so take it because you won't anything better in the future'.

Now, it will be up to Netanyahu. Will he return to Israel with his Right wing supporters praising him for taking on Obama or will he try and adopt a new approach that focuses on a security border which means giving in on settlements, except for the settlement blocs adjacent to the 1967 line. Obama's shock therapy has signaled the consequences if Israel refuses to make the compromises necessary to revive a peace process with the Palestinians. Another question is what impact Obama's tactics will have on the Israeli public. The next opinion polls on what Israelis now think will likely have a telling impact on Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party.

David Essing

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