An unconfirmed report citing Israeli sources has indicated that President Obama has a specific agenda for his scheduled visit to Israel later this month. It would be his first as president.
Sources say Obama will demand that Israel provide a timetable for a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria in order to bring about a Palestinian state by 2014. The report also indicates if Israel doesn't acquiesce Obama plans to "act on his own."
Current plans for Obama's visit are clouded at the moment because Prime Minister Netanyahu is having difficulty forming a coalition. Previous reports indicate if no coalition is formed by March 16 Obama will likely cancel his visit. Should a coalition be formed, allowing Netanyahu to remain PM, discussions between him and Obama very well may get heated.
Most people recall Obama's 2011 speech while Netanyahu was airborne en route to meet with him, demanding Israel return to '67 borders, "with mutual land swaps." Many saw his speech, especially the timing of it, as a slap in the face of Netanyahu. While the two sat in front of the cameras, Netanyahu eloquently explained why Israel could not return to those borders, as they are "indefensible" with today's advanced military technology.
In a rare rebuke of the president, Republican leaders and Democrats publically disagreed with him. They underscored their disagreement by giving Netanyahu 30 standing ovations when he spoke to a joint session of Congress.
Eyeball to eyeball
However, President Obama, fresh from being re-elected for a second term, is now in a different position.
Since he won't be up for re-election, he is doing what many second term presidents do, which is further advance their personal views. Indeed we have seen this reflected by his choice for two critical cabinet positions - Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense and John Brennan as CIA director. Many see both as unfavorable toward Israel. Hagel is already confirmed.
With respect to demanding a timetable of withdrawal by Israel, if true, it seems Obama remains convinced the burden is on Israel to make unilateral sacrifices.
Why are there no demands from the other side? Keep in mind Mahmoud Abbas, who is considered a "moderate," is chairman of the Fatah movement. Fatah's charter includes numerous statements requiring the destruction of Israel. Yet we hear nothing from Obama demanding the charter be amended.
Some 21% of Israeli citizens are Arabs, who enjoy all the benefits of citizenship, including freedom of worship. Abbas has called Israel a "racist state," and says "there will be no room for a single Jew" if the Palestinians get a state. Has Obama reminded Abbas how hypocritical these remarks are?
Abbas is also on record of saying he "will never accept Israel as a Jewish state."
It seems there is more than enough Mr. Obama should be demanding from the Arabs, yet all we hear is his intent to pressure Israel.
Israel's unilateral withdrawal will not bring about peace. With no formal agreement in place it will only allow its enemies to set up camp within a stone's throw of millions of Israeli civilians, thus making them vulnerable to untold rocket attacks. Subjecting Israelis to more terrorist attacks is not going to bring peace.
If Obama wants to make his mark on history, he'll need to sit eyeball to eyeball with Abbas and give him a list of demands, with a threat that if there is no action Obama will "act on his own," as he is apparently threatening to do with Israel.
A short list of what Obama should be demanding from Abbas might include the following:
- Amend the Fatah charter
- Accept Israel as a Jewish state
- Give up the right of return
- Renounce all future land claims
- Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital
Agreements result from negotiations, and negotiations require compromise. Successful negotiations are when neither side gets what it wants, but both sides get what they need.
Thus far Obama has not proved himself to be a negotiator; he's shown himself to be the bidder of the Arabs. It's time for him to change. It's time for him to live up to his 2008 campaign slogan "change you can believe in."
Dan Calic is a writer, historian and speaker. See additional articles on his Facebook page