The American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC] is the biggest pro-Israel lobby in the United States. They recently held their annual year-long convention where prominent people spoke, ideas were raised on American/Israeli relations, and progress was made. Some of the prominent speakers included President Barak Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Last Thursday, before the convention, Obama met with Netanyahu to talk about the American/Israeli relationship, and everything that goes along with that, including the peace-negotiation process between Israel and Palestine. Rumors had arisen after their discussion that it didn’t go as well as they’d hoped. The news media claimed Obama called to go back to the 1967 borders (meaning the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights would be given to Palestine), and Netanyahu said absolutely not to this idea. However, when Obama spoke to AIPAC he clarified exactly what he meant by this statement.
“But I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination. I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another. So I want to share with you some of what I said to the Prime Minister.
No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum. Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate. That is my commitment; that is my pledge to all of you.
The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”
He also said how he didn’t mean the exact 1967 borders, but instead spoke about mutually agreed land swaps. Personally I could see the West Bank and Gaza going to Palestine, but the idea of giving away the Golan Heights is something that I cannot and will not, ever be able to foresee happening.
One of the major annoyances I have with pro-Palestinian supporters is how they focus on all the Palestinians suffering, but they never think about the Israelis. Israel has done an absolutely tremendous job protecting itself, defending itself, and amongst all of that struggle becoming a power player in the world of technology, economics, politics, etc. Obama recognized this in his speech which I truly appreciated.
“We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel living in a very tough neighborhood. I’ve seen it firsthand. When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland. When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map — face of the Earth.”
People can say all they want that Obama may not be as pro-Israel as past Presidents such as Clinton and Bush. But I don’t really see there being a strong argument to that. First off, I think the Clinton/Rabin friendship was rare and typically unheard of. Secondly, Obama has come into Presidency when the Arab world has become an extremely powerful presence. He has come into office when for the first time the U.N. may be more Pro-Palestine than Pro-Israel. He has other factors to deal with in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and I think so far he has progressed beautifully. Yes, saying that a solution may be to go back to the 1967 borders was a strong remark to make. But at least he actually SAID a solution and forced progress to start being made.
On topic of the US/Israel relationship he said, “So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. When an effort was made to insert the United Nations into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it.”
In September the U.N. General Assembly is going to vote on whether or not to recognize a Palestinian state. As of right now there is a strong possibility that they will vote in favor of a state. This vote will be mostly symbolic; it will largely just give Palestinians more leverage during the peace talks. However, the symbolism is powerful enough to show how isolated Israel actually is internationally.
Immediately after Obama spoke to AIPAC John Roberts on Fox News spoke on the topic. To start he interviewed a member of the Knesset, Danny Danon, who is one of our clients at the PR Agency I am currently interning at. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to go to the Fox News studio in Jerusalem, meet Danon, and help see the preparation it takes for these kinds of interviews. It was an extremely rewarding and exciting experience for me, and I could not have asked for a better opportunity to motivate me for my own future career plans.
Also at the studios I met one of two Middle Eastern foreign correspondents for Fox News. After we left John Roberts interviewed him on the topic and this is what Leland had to say:
Before Danon went into the studios to be interviewed an Israeli news station interviewed him. After questions were asked and answers were given the cameraman shut off his camera and immediately started arguing politics with Danon. This would never happen in the states, if anywhere else in the world. But Israeli’s speak their mind, they’ve lived in this unjust world for too long, and no one, no matter how powerful, will stop them from feeling like they need to get their words out there too.