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The gang that couldn't negotiate straight

By Michael R. Shannon
web posted May 30, 2011

It was somewhat disconcerting recently to witness the man our mainstream media assures us is the essence of cool, calm and collected resorting to the Redneck Philanderer's defense.

Yet there was President Barack Obama on May 22 — at the AIPAC conference — defending his latest Mideast stumble by essentially asking the 10,000 member audience if they were going to believe him or their lying eyes.

This is what happens when your governing style tends toward pronouncements from on high. Obama sabotaged his latest peace plans by making the unprecedented declaration that any final agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority "should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."

Government by edict is very popular under this administration and remains a big hit with unelected, unresponsive regulatory agencies, but it is markedly less popular outside Obama's amen corner.

During a White House meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed Obama that the '67 lines were indefensible and he has no intention of agreeing to Obama's pre–condition.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama on May 20The photos from that meeting are priceless. While Netanyahu was dissecting Obama's latest fantasy–based initiative, Obama stares at him like a petulant, sulky adolescent. You can almost see him thinking, "Yeah, well wait 'til I tell Hillary, then we'll see who's the big talker."

Which is why Obama was at the AIPAC conference explaining that what he said didn't really mean what he said.

An excellent rule of thumb for evaluating the sincerity of any Obama statement is this simple test: if his position would garner a unanimous vote of approval in the Harvard faculty lounge, Obama really means it.

AIPAC attendees take note.

In an earlier AIPAC speech during the 2008 campaign, Obama proclaimed to wild applause that "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." That firm commitment lasted until he left the building and was criticized by leftists and pro–Arab pressure groups. Now Jerusalem will be part of a joint custody arrangement — the kind where both parties have restraining orders.

Arabs are just as pleased with this new pre–negotiation condition as they were over Obama's last edict that instructed Israel to ban any new "settlement" construction.

The 1967 lines are not actually like the border that exists between say the US and Mexico. (For one thing, Israel guards its border, even though Arabs are willing to do the exploding Jews don't want to do.)

These boundaries represent where the Arab attack in the 1948 war stopped and where the Arabs intended to renew their attack in 1967. Obama's endorsement of these lines serves to fix the total number of square miles of territory each side will possess in a final agreement even before negotiations start.

If Israel needs to annex so much as a truck garden on the right side of the '67 line it has to give up an equal amount of land on the left side of the line on a one–for–one basis.

Size matters when it comes to security and unfortunately the pro–Israel side has made a mistake in metaphors. Supporters in the US often compare Israel's size to that of New Jersey. Conservatives hear that startling fact and realize Israel has no margin for error. In the event of an attack the Israelis can't trade space for time to organize a defense.

People like Obama hear that and conclude that since New Jersey is protected by a handful of state troopers, Israel can be, too.

And that's not the most bizarre of Obama's fixations.

It's amazing he believes you can have negotiations at all. Successful agreements require two sides to negotiate in good faith. Yet the Palestinian Authority does not even recognize the existence of Israel and has just formed a coalition government with Hamas, a group who's charter also refuses to recognize Israel and further calls for the destruction of both Israel and the Jews. There is even a question whether the US can have any dealings with the new coalition, since the State Department lists Hamas as a terrorist organization.

It could be that since Obama says many things he does not mean, he assumes the PA and Hamas do likewise, but cemeteries in Israel prove him wrong.

Back in the 90's then Secretary of State James Baker – no friend of Israel – gave some advice that could prove useful to Obama. In testimony before Congress he said, "Everybody over there should know that the [White House] telephone number is 1–202–456–1414. When you're serious about peace call us."

The President just needs to make sure it's a conference call. ESR

Michael R. Shannon is a public relations, advertising and political consultant with experience around the globe. He is also a popular speaker and can be reached at michael–shannon@comcast.net.

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