When one looks at what President Obama had to say overall in the address he delivered last Thursday, it is unfortunate that one remark in which he stated that “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” should have received so much attention, particularly since it is really not the key issue at this time.
As Obama quite rightly observed, “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.”
He went even further by stating that “the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”
The onus at this time, therefore, is upon the Palestinians to demonstrate that they are interested in peace and are prepared to recognize the State of Israel.
However, when President Obama remarked that “the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace”, it was as if he expected Israel to take the initiative in reaching an accord with an enemy committed to her destruction.
When he remonstrated that “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome”, it was as if he had chosen to ignore his own earlier rhetorical question: “how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist.”
It’s not clever for an Israeli Prime Minister to risk souring relations with the US administration by arguing over terminology relating to borders at a time when final status issues are not on the table. At the same time, President Obama must surely recognize that Israel is no more able to reach a peace accord with Hamas than the United States is with al Qaeda.