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So why has Obama been hammering Israel for so long?

04426574Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to President Obama deliver remarks to members of the news media in the Oval Office of the White House last year. (The Washington Post)

Well, this takes the cake. After nearly seven years of haranguing Israel and blaming the Jewish state for the failed “peace process” — not to mention threatening to leave Israel unprotected at the United Nations — President Obama confesses to Al Arabiya that there will be no peace so long as the Palestinians won’t recognize the Jewish state. Exactly as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said — and was vilified by the administration for daring to acknowledge the obvious.

He told the interviewer: “I’ve said to the Israelis you cannot remain a state that is both a democracy and Jewish if you continue to have this problem unresolved. And with respect to the Palestinians, I’ve said that you cannot expect to have a state of your own and the full dignity and respect that is inherent for all human beings if you also don’t recognize Israel, because Israel is not going anywhere.” Asked whether there would be a summit with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama said there was a lack of trust that made that leap impossible.

As for a possible summit between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Obama said: “Well, you never say never. So we’ll see how it unfolds. But the U.S.’s commitment to both a secure Israel and a sovereign Palestinian state, that remains our policy.” Good to know. It is, by the way, a remarkable confession that the peace process obsession was a colossal waste of time and that you can’t blame Israel, or at least not Israel alone, for the failure to obtain peace.

Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, served when Israeli-U.S. relations were extremely warm and Israel agreed to voluntarily leave Gaza, take down some West Bank checkpoints and not expand settlements beyond the existing footprint. Reading the president’s comments, Abrams tells me: “The President has now acknowledged both that PLO chairman Abbas is not able to move forward to peace and that there will be no peace until Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel.” Obama nevertheless is not candid about his own role in creating enmity. “He says there’s a lack of trust, but what he doesn’t say is that there was plenty of trust in 2008 and his administration dissipated it with partisan, ideological attacks on Israel’s government,” Abrams says. “He is asking Palestinians to be realistic, but that’s advice his own government has rejected in six years of hostility toward Israel’s government.”


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