20 May 2011

Two States

photo:  Doug Mills, NYT
President Obama said exactly what needed to be said in his speech yesterday at the State Department.  He carefully acknowledged the reality on the ground throughout the Arab world, delineated where American values emerge alongside those fighting for the dignity of freedom and democracy, and hit the right tone about America's stalwart commitment to those values.  One might even say that he ripped a page from the book on American Exceptionalism, pridefully articulating our country's unique commitment to these values, despite a cynical world which sees us as acting only in our self-interest.  It was a full three-quarters of the speech that spoke broadly to the Arab world before the President came around to the issue of Israel and Palestine--the section of speech we in the Jewish community had been waiting for.

We ought to feel proud of our President and greatly heartened by the courage and honesty of the speech.  As many commentators said in the immediate analyses following the Presidents talk, he said exactly what everyone thought he say, most important, that Israelis and Palestinians must return to the negotiating table and use as a starting point 1967 borders with assumed land swaps.  That means, very clearly, that the intent is to create a viable, demilitarized Palestine alongside a secure Israel, with "land swaps" meaning certain settlement areas will stay in exchange for territorial concessions elsewhere (parts of the Negev, the Galilee).  There is nothing new here.  This has been the foundation of negotiations for decades.  The President also called the Palestinians' attempt to get the UN to vote for a Palestinian state in September a symbolic action "to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state."  About Hamas, the President said, "Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist."

Netanyahu could have delivered the speech himself--or so it seems.

The dramatic difference is that the relationship between the two leaders, as numerous journalists have pointed out, is not a warm relationship.  And the Israeli Prime Minister's attempt to play American electoral politics by mentioning President Bush's 2004 negotiation starting points as well as brazenly accepting the chance to address Congress without coordinating with the President was, in my view, more than justifiable cause for President Obama to preempt Prime Minister Netanyahu and deliver the speech he delivered yesterday.

The creation of a Palestinian state, with viable borders, demilitarized, next to a secure Israel, is going to happen.  President Obama took the bold and necessary step of laying out the groundwork for the incredible and historic efforts it will take to get there.

I endorse the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine; I endorse President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton's vision for the 1967 borders with land swaps as starting point.  And I will continue to hope and pray that together with Israeli leadership and Palestinian leadership, they will take every advantage in this historic time and make peace.

1 comment:

Larry K said...

Yasher koach, to you and to President Obama.