Standing Strong with Israel
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits President Barack Obama at the White House today for three hours of meetings, he will likely ask the President a very important question: Do you stand by the long-standing U.S. commitments to Israel's future as a Jewish state?
He's right to ask the question. In a speech yesterday on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East following the "Arab Spring" uprisings, President Obama broached the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Notably, he stated that, as part of finding peace between Israel and Palestine, the two parties should return to their 1967 borders. The Heritage Foundation's James Phillips explains that the President's proposal is a "misreading of the past" and an "underestimation of the terrorist threat" that Israel faces:
Israel’s 2005 withdrawal to its 1967 border with Gaza led not to peace but to expanded terrorism after Hamas staged a bloody coup in 2007 and transformed Gaza into a base for launching rockets against Israeli civilians. Israel cannot afford to return to its 1967 border with the West Bank unless it has ironclad guarantees that any territory relinquished will not again be transformed into a base for future terrorist attacks. This is impossible as long as Hamas, committed to Israel’s destruction, remains a potent force.
Understandably, President Obama's statement yesterday drew a sharp response from Netanyahu, who said, "The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel's existence." What's more, the prime minister's office requested a "reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress." Those affirmations reference a letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from President George W. Bush, which stated that under the circumstances, returning to the 1967 borders would not be possible "in light of new realities on the ground" -- specifically, already-exiting major Israeli population centers in the West Bank.
House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), too, sharply condemned President Obama's position, stating, "This approach undermines our special relationship with Israel and weakens our ally's ability to defend itself." And given Palestine's track record, Israel has legitimate cause for concern over its security and defense. Heritage foreign policy experts explain in a recent paper, "After bin Laden: Top Five Agenda Items for Obama’s Middle East Speech":
Palestinians are hardly the best partner for peace—they have partnered with Hamas, a terrorist group that denies the right of the Israeli nation to exist and mourns the demise of Osama bin Laden.
President Obama's commitment to Middle East peace is admirable, but unfortunately his speech yesterday evinces a misunderstanding of the realities that our ally, Israel, faces. There is a long record of failed agreements with the Palestinians, and there are continuing questions regarding the security of Israel's borders as well as Palestine's commitment to enacting concrete policies to fight terrorism.
Now is not the time to turn our back on the region's strongest democracy. Instead, the United States should reaffirm its commitment to strengthening its alliance with Israel -- a partner in freedom that shares common cause with the United States.