May 19, 2011

There Goes Florida

That soft thudding noise you hear in the background is the sound of a million bagels hitting television screens all along South Florida's Jewish Riviera. (I have special dispensation to make such ethnically-stereotypical remarks, the provenance of which I am not at liberty to divulge.) In one of his less meaningful of a whole series of utterly meaningless speeches, President Obama has told the world that in exchange for Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist (plus a voucher good for dinner for two at one of Tel Aviv's nicest restaurants), Israel will agree to the creation of a Palestinian state based on "pre-1967 borders."

I have found it useful to employ the Bush Decoder Ring when analyzing an Obama speech these days. I'm a little rusty in its application, but the essential idea is that the actual position taken by Bush/Obama does not relate to the "merits" of an issue (if any), but can be understood only in terms of domestic politics. President Obama, like Ol' W before him, does not have any actual principles, which is why the many, many differences between his campaign rhetoric and his actual policies in office afford Glenn Greenwald a daily opportunity to catalogue the 180 degree reversals on virtually every campaign promise that Barack Obama ever made. (I saw a good bumper sticker the other day: "Change It Back.") It's simply too much work at this point to keep reciting the flip-flops. It isn't so much that Obama "tacks to the right," seeks common ground, splits the difference, or anything else. It's that he doesn't really take a position on anything. He sort of does stuff that he thinks might look pretty good. If that can be called a "governing principle," then I guess that's it.

That's what is so mysterious about this "pre-1967" stuff. To which domestic constituency is Obama playing? Clearly it cannot be the Jewish voters of South Florida, that perennial swing area in national politics. The Arabs of Dearborn, Michigan? Not enough voters to make a difference. Does Obama realize that Jewish settlements have been built in areas that would be affected by a reversion to pre-1967 borders? Does he know about Israeli missile complexes in that area, or the effect on water rights that occurs when land around the Jordan River is converted to new ownership?

I suppose the key caveat is the phrase "based on" pre-1967 borders. In 1998 in the Wye River Memorandum, a different Barak (Ehud, this time, the Israeli Prime Minister) agreed to cede about 95% of the West Bank to Palestine, with East Jerusalem remaining with Israel and the "right of return" of displaced Palestinians settled by reparations. Yasser Arafat appeared to go along with the deal, then realized it was a deal, and the Intifada of 2000 followed. A post-Deal Yasser would have no fun at all. So the ever-original Obama may be thinking that he can follow the Bubba-Hillary script and get Bibi Netanyahu to agree to the same deal, based on the pre-1967 borders, in exchange for a "recognition" of legitimacy, which worked out so well in 2000.

I think I'm getting closer to the answer to the riddle. This is Obama's Conciliation Disorder in florid manifestation - he's thinking that he can get the hardliner Netanyahu to come around to his way of thinking in much the same way that he thinks he can get the Republicans to support his domestic policy initiatives. If he can pull off that miracle, then he can add Settlement of the Israel-Palestine Issue to the impressive achievements of his first term, none of the others of which immediately leap to mind. In other words, this is another example of President Barack Obama really having absolutely no idea why he's doing what he's doing, other than trying to curry favor on all sides while he fails.

I don't suppose they're going to televise the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama tomorrow. That's a crying shame. One culinary note: don't serve bagels.

1 comment:

  1. Machipongo John8:22 AM

    As I understand it, when the Brits took over Palestine after WWI and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine consisted of what is now Israel plus what is now Jordan. Then, in 1920, Palestine was partitioned, with the line of separation at the Jordan river. The Transjordan part was to be the homeland of the Arabs and the Israel part (which included what is now the West Bank) to be the homeland of the Jews. For some reason, in 1922, the Brits allowed the Hashemite Arabs to take over Transjordan as a monarchy that they promptly named "Jordan", and the Palestinian Arabs were left out in the cold. In 1947, the UN partitioned the Israel part into a crazy patchwork of Arab and Jewish sections, Israel proclaimed itself to be an independent state, and everyone fell to fighting. In the ensuing confusion, Jordan took over the West Bank.
    So there is no real reason why the West Bank should become the Arab Palestinian state. Doing so would make Israel impossible to defend, as your map demonstrates. What should be done is to kick king Abdullah out of Jordan, rename Jordan "Palestine", and pay all the Arab Israelis to move to Palestine. Case closed. End of story.