Numerous Republicans have hit President Obama for his call for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps - an explicit way of stating what has been implicit in U.S. policy since Bill Clinton's administration.
Which leads to the question: exactly what are the critics for?
Do they support those in Israel and the small minority in the American Jewish community who say Israel has a right to the West Bank and Gaza and should not give them up, period?
Do they believe Israel will someday have to give up the West Bank and Gaza, but that now is not the time, and that U.S. peace efforts should be put on hold until conditions dramatically change?
Do they think the U.S. role in the Middle East should be confined to cheerleading for Israel? (And would their opinion change if Israeli voters elected a government much more interested in pushing for a two-state solution?)
Do they have something else in mind that they are not telling us?
Or is this just a matter of partisan politics, stirring up a constituency already hostile to this president on the eve of a major reelection fight with implied promises – ie “we'll let the Israeli government do whatever it wants to do if we win next year” - everybody knows they won't keep?
Middle East policy is a piece of cake when you can just take political shots from outside; it's not so easy when you actually have to make it, which involves balancing myriad diplomatic interests, all with a risky political overlay.
Lest you think this is partisan, I haven't heard any good suggestions from those Democrats who were critical of President Obama's speech on Thursday, either.
And I'm not defending Obama, not by a long shot. True, he broke no new ground on Thursday and the fuss his comments caused smacked of hysteria or political manipulation, or both.
But the timing of his comments and their purpose remain a mystery to me, and the whole thing suggests diplomatic naivete – a really big problem in this unforgiving part of the world. It also suggests a complete lack of any coherent strategy. President Obama still seems to believe a few well chosen words will change things in the Middle East. You'd think after two and a half years, he'd have learned better.
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