Obama Draws the Line

The president got it right in his Middle East speech. Let the political fight begin.

Comments: 50

  1. Conventional wisdom states that time is on Israel's side. As Roger Cohen writes, "Process without end favors Israel." If they can just kick the can down the road and wait out Obama, they will be fine.

    But, the events of the last two several months have shown the conventional wisdom to be wrong. Time is NOT on Israel's side. They need to make a deal as quickly as possible.

    First, Israel's international standing has never been worse. They are quickly losing friends, particularly in Europe where major powers are starting to grow impatient with them. Boycott and divestment campaigns are slowly becoming common. The term "apartheid" is increasingly gaining currency.

    Add to this the fact that a wave of countries across Latin America have recognized Palestine, while others in Europe are upgrading Palestinian missions to embassy status. It's only a matter of time before Israel and the United States become the lone voices holding back the tide of history.

    Second, consider the impact of the Arab Spring. What happens when the revolution knocks on Israel's door (indeed as it already has begun to do so)? Do you really think that images of a hundred thousand peaceful protesters standing at the wall facing Israeli tanks is going to help Israel's image?

    My advice: make a deal NOW before Israel descends into complete pariah status. I say this as someone who cares abouts Israel's future and wants to see it thrive.

  2. Well now it can be told. Obama’s speech today changed the dynamics of the Muddle East to one where the current US administration is trading its most favored loyal ally from Israel to the Palestinians and the Arab states. Obama’s exhortations about the survival importance of Israel should ring hollow and bring back memories of how the US dropped the Shah and history has shown the damage of that US foreign policy decision.

    It will be interesting to learn tomorrow of how many of the loyal members of the administration and of the wealthy backers Obama who will hand in their resignations and requests to end their association with the new best friend of the Arabs. For all of the supposed smarts of the president he certainly doesn’t know or care anything about the history of the British mandate of Palestine, the UN decision to partition Palestine and the history of the years of all the Arab nations provoking their Palestinian brothers to continue their base desire to end the presence of Israel in their midst. Today they have achieved a giant step forward in achieving their goal by the statement of Barack Obama. The act that Israel returned all of Sinai, Gaza, the Philadelphia Rd. and lands to Jordan it is not enough for Obama as he further endangers Israel which may be bled yet, by those who wish to see it eliminated.

    If Obama believes that he will garner real friends amongst the Arabs he is only fooling himself. They will use him knowing that his rhetoric about democracy is only talk, as he is ready to live with the likes of Saudi Arabia and let Communist China be our countries banker as we borrow from them to finance jobs and debt forgiveness for the Egyptians, probably Tunisia and then Libya, as the wealthy Arab kingdoms look the other way as we dig ourselves deeper into debt trying to gain Arab friends. Obama is just setting us up to be hit where it counts by the Chinese as they go for Taiwan.

    Tomorrow is a new day. I await the message from Netanyahu and the fireworks which will follow.

  3. I agree fully. Pres. Obama must stand firm and not allow himself to be intimidated. World opinion is with him, and Netanyahu knows it. It seems Pres. Obama has found the courage to stake out positions and hold his ground. Moral courage! Bravo! Now he is a "complete" leader!

  4. It's hard to understand the unpatriotic comments made by Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich about President Obama's statements on Israel and Palestine. How can these people in any way consider themselves qualified to run for President when they don't even know that President Obama's position is essentially identical to President George W. Bush's on the decades long stalemate of suffering that exists between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

  5. Mr. Cohen is absolutely right that the first step is "Fatah and Hamas committing irrevocably to nonviolence, with Palestinian acquiescence to a nonmilitarized state".

    If it were at all clear that withdrawing from Gaza and the West Bank would result in peace, then Israel would jump at the opportunity. Unfortunately, Hamas, along with its newly-powerful ideological supporters in neighboring states, makes no such promise of peace. Israel would be giving away militarily important land to people that are bent on its destruction.

  6. If the Palestinians take a clue from the Libyans and Syrians, and stage protest rallies, what will Israel do? Will the leadership behave like Qaddafi and shoot them? What will Israel do if the Syrian protesters prevail and a militant Islamic majority takes over the country, and at the same time the Muslim Brotherhood takes the reign of government in Egypt?

    Unless Israel can make peace with the Palestinians, it only chance of survival will be with massive help from the U.S. They will not get the kind of help they will need from Europe, or Russia. Turkey will not intervene and Iran will be pushing all the hostility it can muster from the adjacent countries.

    The Islamic countries will more or less stick together. Saudi Arabia does not want Iran to be the most influential country in the area, but they will have to find a way to keep them from doing so. The Saudis are not friends of Israel, who will find itself completely isolated.

    That is the consequence of claiming the right to take over a land because it has a biblical heritage, and is considered the Jewish homeland by them. No matter they were not the first people to populate what is now Israel, very influential Jewish sects believe God gave them that land, and no facts can tell them otherwise.

    Israel must find a way to give the Palestinians a stake in keeping Israel an independent nation. It has to be in the Palestinian's interest to see that they become friends of Israel or the hostilities will be forever. Israel has to find a way to befriend the Palestinians, and possibly the best way to do that, is to improve their lives. Schools could be built, industries created, water and power brought to the Gaza Strip, tourism allowed, and make the Palestinian economic and living conditions equal to any western country. They have to give the farmers their land back by removing the walls, they have to give them freedom of movement, and allow them to travel like any other free people.

    Unless Israel can bring those changes about, its survival will be questionable for hundreds of years; it will be another Balkanized state; separated by feuds between it and its neighbors, and only sustained by use of military force.

    That is no way for anyone to live. It is not secure; it is not what people are entitled to. It does not give anyone freedom.

  7. If the Palestinians are really smart, they will now turn to peaceful, non-violent protest. Yes, there will still be crazies among them who resort to blood-curdling rhetoric and suicide bombings, but the Palestinian leadership--and here I emphatically include Hamas--must disavow them.

    If the Palestinians emulate Egyptians, Syrians, and Bahreinis in embracing non-violence, then no posturings of Netanyahu and his American enablers, the GOP and AIPAC, will avail for long in overcoming Israeli intrangience. The moment is at hand. This is not utopian dreaming: it is the path of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.

  8. God Bless you, Roger, you have the extraordinary courage to stand up for what is truly right. We are Israel's friends and friends need to show that by telling the truth to one another. Mr. Netanyahu talks about peace being based on reality - he's correct but doesn't seem to understand what is reality. No nation can occupy another and colonise the nation with 500,000 of its people at the expense of the other. Now that Israel is asked to de-colonise their PM speaks of "demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years". What he is speaking about are the illegal settlements that Israel has made in the West Bank. Israel has been cautioned by every administration since Richard Nixon's not to colonise these territories but they have refused to listen. Now they say they cannot possible give up the teritories because of "changes that have taken place on the ground|! What chutzpah! It reminds me of Abe Loncoln's joke about the boy who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court asking for leniency as he is an orphan! No, the time has come to be bold and tell our friends, enough. The Arab spring has revealed a new group of people - those who were oppressed want their right, as human beings, to self-determination. The Palestinians are no different than the Israelis - they deserve their rights. Israel, do the right thing.

  9. I think Mitt Romney and the Republicans have it wrong: Americans have had Israeli exceptionalism up to their nostrils, and by that locaution I mean they smell a swindle.

    All that American blood and treasure spent in Iraq, a war that would not have been waged without the fanatic urging of the Israel Lobby, and all America's expenditure of its political capital with other nations on behalf of Israeli expansionist interests rather than on our own economic future, no longer wash with the American people.

    Netanyahu today played his old intimidator role in the Oval Office -- but Americans no longer feel sorry for Israel, much less intimidated -- they realize that we have no reason to buy the West Bank for Israel, a country that does nothing for America yet expects obeisance from us at every turn.

    No, Americans expect Israel to act responsibly in returning lands taken from its neighbors and to become a non-exceptional, self-sufficient country able to pay-up and make real concessions to find peace.

  10. If moving back to the 1967 lines truly leaves Israel "indefensible", then we should stop subsidizing with billions of tax dollars the second most powerful, modern and lethal military force on the planet.

    For if this is true, our money is truly being squandered.

  11. There is much I agree with in this piece, including Cohen's statement that the greatest threat to peace in this conflict is Israel's domination over another people. But I also find things to disagree with. First, why must the new Palestinian state be demilitarized? I generally oppose the existence of anything but essential military, but it is a bit much for the leader of the world's largest military power to demand that Palestine be demilitarized, especially when next to a country with an advanced military and nuclear weapons. And second, I do not believe the declaration of Palestine as a state by the UN would be an empty, symbolic gesture expressing victimhood. Indeed, the possibility of such a resolution is making Israel very nervous, as it should. If such a vote should happen, it will also test the real position of the United States: does it really believe in Palestinian sovereignty, or will it, alone in the world, continue to play the part of Israel's protector?

  12. It is obvious that any compromise will be met with disdain by a large sector of the Israelis or Palestinians. Sixty years of vilification of the other cannot be swept aside with the stroke of a pen. Perhaps it is time to look at the kind of solutions proposed by my grandfather in the 1920s to finding a Jewish homeland.
    Here in North America we have vast tracts of land that are under utilized and could support the high tech economy that is now Israel. If indeed the intransigence that affects both sides is knowing and understanding what is truly the will of God. The time has come for a coin toss winner takes Israel loser establishes either a Jewish or Palestinian state in a welcoming location somewhere else on the planet.
    In the 20s my Grandfathers village established Jewish communities in Israel, Costa Rica, Canada, USA, Brazil and Argentina why can we not stop wasting valuable resources trying to find a solution to what is clearly an unsolvable problem. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are homogeneous societies to expect any government to speak for even a majority of Israelis has not occurred in 60 years and I suspect the same holds true for the Palestinians.
    The USA and Canada has many square miles of sparsely inhabited underutilized land that could that could easily be turned in to the technologically advanced Palestine or Israel that could nourish and sustain a 21st century population. Building the cities and infrastructure could very well be the salvation of the North American economy and I am sure that a Palestinian controlled Israel would welcome Jewish pilgrims and Israel would welcome Palestinian pilgrims.
    I sympathize with both the Palestinians and the Israelis but I am certain that no mutually satisfactory solution can arrived at before there is another vast expenditure of human blood. The time has come to decide which party keeps the house at for the other to find a new abode. The shame of the holocaust is that no country was willing to provide a safe haven for the Jews, I hope that in the 21st century someone will step forward and provide land for a Jewish or Palestinian State. Expecting Israelis or Palestinians to forego their enmity and find a solution that agreeable to both sides would confound Solomon.

  13. Ww need to stop exporting billions to our spoiled brat children and maybe then they will all behave- Arabs and Isrealis alike- or at least we wil have our billions. .

  14. I hope that President Obama whispered something like this in Prime Minister Netanyahu's ear:

    "Benjamin, I understand that you have to maintain a public posture. But while you do so, please bear in mind that, besides giving your country moral support all these years, the United States has also subsidized Israel, and that cannot be limitless. I would appreciate your agreeing to negotiate with your adversaries - behind the scenes if necessary."

  15. The Palestinians are afraid. They hear of peace talks, then they hear the lunatic fringe of Israelis speak of have both banks of the Jordan. They see the colonists, and are afraid. They hear of 'Greater Israel', and are afraid. They hear of Muslim homes being destroyed in east Jerusalem, and are afraid. I listen to Israeli politicians jockeying for position in the near Italian style of liquid government, and I am terrified.

  16. Roger Cohen just does not get it. Israel has tried concessions in the past; The Oslo Accords, ejected by Arafat, land for peace, withdrawing from Gaza. The result has been more death and destruction from Hamas, the PLO and Hizbollah who have vowed to destroy Israel and the Jews. Where are the concessions form the Palestinians?

  17. Cohen:

    "The president got 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. Perhaps those words will cost him some of those votes — although sentiment toward Israel among American Jews is slowly shifting."


    "The American Jewish Committee's Survey of American Jewish Opinion is usually conducted annually to gauge American Jewish attitudes towards Israel. The surveys refute claims disseminated by some in the media that Jewish support for Israel is waning in America. 3 out of 4 respondents felt very close or somewhat close to Israel, a figure slightly up from ten years ago." (http://blog.camera.org/archives/2011/05/poll_reveals_strong_support_fo.h...


    "As Obama noted, occupation is 'humiliation.'”


    If occupation is "humiliation", what then are suicide bombings? If occupation is "humiliation", what then are some 10,000 mortar rounds, rockets and missiles fired from Gaza at Israeli towns and cities, after Israel unilaterally evacuated Gaza? If occupation is "humiliation", what then is the firing of an anti-tank missile by Hamas across the border last month at a yellow Israeli school bus?


    "Obama got it right. The essential trade-off is Israeli security for Palestinian sovereignty. Each side must convince the other that peace will provide it.

    Israeli security begins with a reconciled Fatah and Hamas committing irrevocably to nonviolence, with Palestinian acquiescence to a nonmilitarized state, and with Palestinian acceptance that a two-state peace ends all territorial claims."


    Here it is again in full bloom: The equivalent of "Iran is not totalitarian." Sorry, Roger, but the Hamas charter irrevocably binds this organization to violence, i.e. the rejection of a negotiated solution with Israel, a refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist, and a call for the murder of all Jews (not just Israelis). Indeed, Obama did get it right in his speech: "In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel - how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognise your right to exist."


  18. Wrong. The Prime Minister went straight to our President today and was as clear as anyone could envision. No "kicking of the can" took place.

  19. Roger, you got this one dead right. And when you say: "These threats exist. But I believe the most corrosive is Israeli dominion over another people. That’s the low road," you are echoing what Ben Gurion told Yitzhak Rabin on the eve of the '67 war. He warned that seizing territory and ruling over its inhabitants would eventually destroy Israel's moral standing. He was right.

    As for Netanyahu's fury at Obama's call for a settlement based on the May '67 borders, it is the fury of a spoiled child who finally, and for the first time, cannot have what he wants. For more than four decades, Israel has been effectively immunized from well settled rules of international law by the steadfast support of successive U.S. Presidents. That land taken by force cannot be kept by the occupier is one such basic rule; that population cannot be moved into (or out of) occupied territory is another.

    Some of us have long felt that Israel was on a path of self-destruction, and that only by changing its attitude both to Arab population of the occupied territories, and to world opinion,would Israel stand any chance of being secure. I am delighted that President Obama agrees with that.

  20. Difficult it would be to put back Israel to 1967. So proposing it is like proposing the return of Jesus Christ to make a peace conference with Muhammad.
    Ultimately the best solution, if not sole solution, may be something completely different, through a Mediterranean Union as superstate. I know it sounds far fetched. But so is a return of the past.

  21. Same old, stale, uncreative nonsense from both Obama and Netanyahu. Camp David, Wye, Oslo,Camp David II, Wye II, so on and so forth and now this! What's new here that we haven't heard before?

    It's insane to keep doing things the same way and expecting a different result.

    Here's how you solve the refugee issue: If someone's land was taken, give it back or pay Just Compensati­­on for it. End of story.

    You know what you get when you take someone's land for no money? 63 years of war!

    What makes sense is for the UN, (the entity that took land from Arabs and gave it to Jews to remedy the problems cause by the Germans), to invoke something like the legal Doctrine of Eminent Domain and award Just Compensati­­­­­­on in exchange for a Release of Claims to those who lost property.

    Simultaneo­­usly, sensible borders should be drawn enabling the Palestinia­­­­­­ns to establish a state, should they choose to.

    Establish a Middle East Compensati­­­­­on Commission where people, Arabs and Jews alike, who lost property as a result of its creation of Israel, can come, present their claims, sign a Release and walk away with a check. That would be fair.

    Isn't it better to Justly Compensate people than fight for another 63 years? Wars and oil embargoes also cost money. Plus, no more bloodshed.

    As far as the Jewish settlers go, they should be permitted to stay where they are. If they find themselves in Palestine they'll be Palestinia­­­­n citizens. Jewish Palestinia­­­­ns. Israel has Arabs. Palestine can have Jews. It's the same thing. No artificial borders for them. The fact is, once the settlers come to grips with this, most of them will leave voluntaril­­­­y. If some zealots chose to stay and become citizens of Palestine let them.

  22. Israel was established with a United Nations resolution. There was no negotiation. There was no accommodating of other affected parties. There was no disarmament or commitment to never use military force. There was no veto by any member of the Security Council. Why shouldn't the Palestinians get equal treatment?

  23. "And the American and Israeli national interest do not lie in the poisonous Israeli-Palestinian status quo." Baloney! There are no American and Israeli national interests. You act like Israel is one of the United States.

    The Middle East is a Biblical idea gone wrong. If you did genetic testing on all the Arabs and all the Israelis the difference in their make-up wouldn't be greater than 1%. Yet they thrive by trying to destroy each other, even though under the skin they are the same.

    The best thing for Obama to do is wish a plague on both their houses and get to work on the economy.

  24. I find Mr. Cohen's analysis disturbingly devoid of reality. The paramount issue in Israel is security. There will never be peace until every single Israeli feels that his/her peace is secure. Ceding land that is vitally strategic to the viability of a secure state for literally nothing in return is foolish. It simply doesn't mesh with the facts on the ground.

    In six months Israel could be staring at enemies across every single one of her borders, depending on how things go in Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Does Mr. Cohen honestly believe that before the Arab spring's narrative ends Israel should simply give away land it won in a war it didn't start? That Israel should gamble with it's security so that the rest of the world can go to bed, "satisfied" that there's finally "peace" in the Middle East?

    There will never be TRUE peace until the Arab world recognizes that Israel and the Jews are there to stay. If that ever were to happen, it's clear Israel would be willing to give up sizable pieces of territory. But, there it is impossible to to imagine giving away so much for nothing BEFORE the true negotiations start.

  25. No matter what Obama might have said, the Republicans would have characterised it as "throwing Israel under the bus," because whatever they say is strictly for political advantage. He could have said that Israel should annex all of the Palestinian territory and the GOP would have condemned him. Actually, if they were given the franchise to vote, that might be the best deal the Palestinians could ever get, since they would greatly outnumber the Jewish residents in any "Greater Israel" and might actually reallise some political power. The Israelis definitely don't want that. What Netanyahu, the Likudniks and their ultra-right evangelical Christian GOP supporters really want is 90% of the Palestinian territories going to Israel with the remaining 10% to function as a concentration camp for Palestinians. They've been slowly but surely approaching this over the past 44 years with the unceasing displacement of Arab landholders and their replacement with Jewish settlers. A map of the West Bank now looks like a Swiss cheese with the holes representing the remaining Arab enclaves. Jimmy Carter was correct in his characterisation of the matter--which remains unmentionable by the American media. Basically, the Israelis just adopted you-know-who's plans to find his Lebensraum in Poland and the other eastern lands occupied by Germany. Just barge in, settle your people, exploit the natural resources and crowd out the natives. It's the plan that also worked for Europeans in America. Probably done a thousand times before in human history, and back then people would have been honest enough not to deny it, or care.

  26. The outcome of the inevitable and long overdue show down between the USA/President Obama and Israel/AIPAC will take some time to materialize.

    In the mean time should the USA and President Obama be sincere about its/his support for Palestinian statehood ( which I doubt) the President will always have the option NOT to obstruct its consideration and affirmation at the UN this coming September as he threatened the USA will .

  27. It amazes me that two of the most powerful people in the republican party are Rupert Murdoch and Benjamin Netanyahu (both foreigners). Are there any issues where republicans would voice differing opinions from these two? I expect MY president's priority to be on what is best for AMERICA. I'm glad that Obama is speaking the truth, even when it is uncomfortable to hear.

  28. In all professions, but especially journalism, eloquence is uncommon; the tenacity and courage to speak the truth are depressingly rare.
    Roger Cohen consistently reflects each of those qualities.

  29. I, for one, feel that if Israel is going to demand that the Palestinians recognize THEIR Nation and right to exist, then Israel needs to acknowledge the Palestinian's right to exist and to have their own Nation, untrammeled by the Israeli military and unoccupied by the settler's enclaves, which have broken the West bank into small pieces.

    I also see that peace, true peace for the Israelis and Palestinians will not come until the Hardliners on both sides are removed from power. It is in the interest of the Hardliners, on both sides, to keep the conflict going, through any means possible so as to continue the artificial "State of Emergency" which has become a "Permanent Emergency." The Hardliners in Israel keep their own people SCARED of the Palestinians, and keep the Palestinians inflamed at them, thus giving a reason for the Israeli people to be scared. The Hardliners thus get their power, and keep it, by terrorizing both the opposite side as well as their OWN side and perpetuate the status quo for their own ends and profit. The Palestinian Hardliners mirror the Israelis for much the same reasons. There are no innocents amongst the Hardliners, on either side.

    In order for this to cease, the Israelis need to completely Leave ALL of their settlements that do not conform to the 1967 Border and the Palestinians need to acknowledge Israel's right to exist and forswear military action UNLESS THEY ARE THEMSELVES ATTACKED. Any Nation MUST have the right of self-defense, but the Palestinians MUST also NOT attack Israel, either with military force or through terrorism. Likewise, Israel needs to reign in it's own hardliners, Zionists and Colonial Settlers and ALLOW the Palestinians to live in peace. If you want safety and security, you have to assure the other side of their own safety, security and sovereignty. Without this, there will not be peace for either side.

    Israel has the Largest, Most Modern and Best Armed military in the area and also posses nuclear arms and now with their Iron Dome anti-missile defense they should be able to defend themselves from the home-made rockets and even the few of higher tech (still woefully behind anything that Israel has) rockets that Hamas or other agencies have smuggled in as well. To say that the 1967 Border is undefensible is a bunch of BULL, especially with the strength of the Israeli Military Machine.

    Please understand, I do not, and never have, condoned the terrorism, that is, the attacking unarmed women, children and non-combatants through bombings or rocket fire. However, it is also true that BOTH sides are conducting this type of operation, the Palestinians with what little resources that they have, and the Israelis with their vastly superior force. Look at the use of white phosphorus during the Operation Cast Lead and the fact that the Israelis kill OVER 100 Palestinians for every Israeli killed. This HAS to stop, from BOTH sides! It is not just one side making war against the other, the settlements are blatant military occupation of the Palestinian's lands and the Palestinians are rightfully mad about it and trying to fight back with any means possible, as they can plainly see that the Israelis are taking ALL of their best farm lands, their sources for fresh water and confining them to the desert areas and strictly limiting their movement while at the same time, exploiting them as a cheap source of labor that has no rights.

    At one point, while being threatened for it's existence, Israel was totally in the right defending itself. However, now it is the Palestinians who are in the right trying to defend themselves from a greatly superior military that is taking the best of what they have and leaving them the scraps, confining them to unsuitable lands and denying them the right to have a full, unfettered existence.

    You would think that the Israelis, who have continually guilt tripped the entire world about the Holocaust for generations that had NOTHING to do with that horror, would recognize that THEY are the aggressors now, that the Palestinians had nothing to do with that horror and to inflict similar horrors on an otherwise defenseless people is just as bad as what happened to them. No, there are no ovens and cyanide showers, but a slow lingering death on the other side of a wall that cut your farmland to pieces, roads that separate you from your family, the best lands and the water being taken by a military occupation and not being able to move about freely for over 60 years now, is just as bad in the scale of human suffering.

    Israel, if it TRULY wants a lasting peace, is going to HAVE to make the first moves and evacuate their settlements First and remove themselves back to the 1967 Borders and tear down the wall where it does not conform to that border. It is that or they will continue to be the aggressors in the situation that they now hold. It is up to them, continue to be the huge bully, or hold out the hand and make the true moves towards peace!

  30. In an address delivered on September 1, 1982 President Ronald Reagan said:
    “In the pre-1967 borders Israel was barely 10 miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel's population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again...”

    Jordan is the Arab Palestinian State, created from 78% of the territory of Palestine controlled by the League of Nations after WWI (September 26, 1923). In 1948 Jordan additionally captured the West Bank and Egypt captured the Gaza Strip. From 1948 until 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan and the Gaza Strip was part of Egypt. These are the “pre-1967 boarders”.

    Gaza and the West Bank did not have boarders pre-1967, they were internment camps, part of and operated by Jordan (the Palestinian State) and Egypt.

    In 1994 Israel took action to create a Palestinian State (techically a second Palestinian State, Jordan being the first) within the teritory controlled by Israel. A phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place. Much of the Gaza Strip (except for the settlement blocs and military areas) came under the control of the The Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat.

    In reponse, there were bombings against Israeli military and civilians, many of them perpetrated by suicide bombers, and rockets and bombings of Israeli border localities by Palestinian guerrillas from Gaza Strip, especially from Hamas and Jihad Islami movements.

    In September 1995, Israel extended the Palestinian Authority control to most of the West Bank.

    In response, bombings and rockets hitting Israel from the Palestinian Authority controled areas increased.

    In August 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza and gave full control to the Palestinian Authority. Israel forcibly evicted all Israelis from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West Bank. This also included the withdrawl from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) installations in these areas. Israel continued to provide Gaza with water, communication, electricity, and sewage networks.

    Missiles continued to be fired out of Gaza into Israel, and the attacks increased in 2006 following the election of Hamas. Over 800 missiles launched from Gaza hit Israel in the less than 10 months between September, 2005 and the Israel Defense Force’s return to Gaza in June, 2006. There were also numerous bombings, armed attacks and kidnappings inside Israel by Hamas.

    The Palestinian Authority/Fatah (PLO) was created by the Arab League in 1964, with a charter that directed it to "prohibit... the existence and activity" of the State of Israel. This is also the organization that intentionally killed American citizens, hijacked American planes, planted bombs in New York and other US cities, advocate for terrorist organizations that attack the US and celebrate attacks on the US like 911.

    Hamas (Gaza/Iran), Hezbollah (Lebanon/Iran and Syria), The Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt) and Iranian leaders boast and their charters clearly state that they do not want peace. The only thing that they want is the elimination of the State of Israel and a world dictated by their interpretation of the Koran and form of Islam (and each intend to ultimately destroy the other). And they clearly and openly state that anyone who disagrees (including Muslims) must be killed. And that any and all means of murder are not only legal but required, and that the lives of everyone, except their top leadership, is expendable in their cause.
    And the Wahhabis (Saudi Arabia) are similar.

  31. It is very interesting to read the incredible variety and contradictions of the comments, here and elsewhere. To the Israel supporters; he has betrayed Israel, by demanding that they actually make some real compromises; stop building more settlements and make a real attempt at peace based on the previously agreed 1967 lines. This 'proves he hates Jews and is a naive man not following the word of God and abandoning the US's only true ally'.
    TO progressives and 'the Arab street; he has betrayed the Palestinians as he made no promises to specifically punish Israel and has made no comment on the question of cutting either funds to Israel or said he will not veto the coming vote on the creation of a Palestinian State in the UN.
    Just as he was 'Hitler' or Stalin to the right; he is 'worse then Bush' to those on the dreamy left who do not seem to understand the political realities of the US and its center right majority population or the Oil tanker qualities of our imperial Military Industrial Complex.
    Just as with Tony Blair in England; memories of past administrations catastrophic policies, seem fruit fly short and any imagination as to how much worse things would be under any of the other potential candidates; who unlike Obama would appeal to their partisan support.
    Obama has proven himself to be an intelligent, sober, hard working pragmatist. HE will not revolutionise the US or change it as much as many would like or perhaps it needs to in the long run. What he will do and has done is manage the complex situations as well as he can do; within the possibilities of the politics he comes from.
    Unfortunatly he is NOT Roosevelt (FDR) but he like G.H.Bush has shown he is willing to do the right thing and not merely do the obvious party line thing. Pappa Bush pushed for agreements with Gorbachov and more than Reagan helped bring down the wall. HE also put real pressure on Israels Yitzak Shamir; the Bibi of his day; proving himself to be the last responsible Republican senior politician.
    Obama is proving to be a very good if not great president. TO be great he will need to be tougher and more agressive but he has done more good than harm. THe same cannot be said for the majority of the politicians today; in particular the utterly immature and destructive T Party people and their megaphones of immature false patriotism on FOX like Hannity, Beck and the lady of Wasilla; Sarah Palin.
    I really hope Americans wake up to the fact that by creating a framework for dialogue between Israel and Paletine he Obama is doing the real work of necessary compromise; the painful work of attempting to do the right thing in a very hostile enviroment. All sides are unhappy because in this situation the president ; as in the operation against Osama bin Ladin; is doing the hard reasoning necessary to make a workable peace deal possible.
    We are VERY fortunate in our president; even if too few seem to understand this; As their own pet projects do not get the presidents unconditional support. No he is NOT behaving like a Liberal Democrat; nor is he a republican. He is doing his best to be what we need; At least for now; An American president trying to bind a fracturing nation back together. We need to renew our true patriotism; to this whole country and for it's and our own best and give our support to this flawed but good man; OUR president!

  32. When Netanyahu insisted yesterday that the pre-1967 borders were "indefensible," I swear a detected a slight smile on his face. If you haven't already watched the video of his White House appearance with Obama, look for that smile when you do.

    Apart from the obvious response –– Israel defended those very same "indefensible" borders just fine in 1967, and its military has only become stronger since then –– this stock "indefensible borders" argument has another defect less often noticed. Since 1967, Israel has placed Jewish settlements all through the West Bank, often far closer to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon than Israel-proper cities are to the West Bank. This can mean only one of two things: either Israel itself doesn't really believe its "indefensible borders" argument, or else Israel will eventually argue that it needs still more land -- parts of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, for example -- as buffers to protect its otherwise "indefensible" West Bank settlements.

  33. Netanyahu is simply looking for something left with which to negotiate. Little by little, Obama is taking that away from him.

  34. Liberals are still locked into the obsolete Peace Process paradigm. They haven't noticed the recent rise of radical Islam sometimes referred to as the Arab Spring. They haven't noticed that the Muslim Brotherhood, its Palestinian affiliate Hamas, and Fatah have just agreed on a final settlement of the conflict very different from "two states for two peoples". That was a nice fantasy while it lasted.

    Israel went the extra mile in bringing back from exile Arafat and his terrorist gang and giving them police power, but the Palies could never give up their revanchist fantasy. Obama even gave credibility Thursday to the mythical "right to return" of "refugees" who weren't even born in "Palestine". As Bibi said, it's not going to happen.

    No Palestinian leader could give up this fantasy of overwhelming the Jewish state with six million returning Arab "refugees" without being assassinated as a traitor, as Arafat no doubt concluded when he walked away from Clinton at Camp David. Pressure on Israel can't produce peace because there is no remotely credible peace partner. Instead, the Arabs are preparing for another war.

  35. A nation 8 miles wide in an area rife with rockets is insane. Anyone who has visited Israel knows how small it is and how vulnerable it would be back to the 1949 borders. If those borders had been secure, there would not have been the multiple wars since that time and lives lost. You don't start negotiations at such a point; any good negotiator would tell you that!! Here is one vote that Obama won't get next time.

  36. Mr. Cohen is the man who told us how well it is to live as a Jew in Iran. Enough said.

  37. Mr. Cohen says,

    "Israeli security begins with a reconciled Fatah and Hamas committing irrevocably to nonviolence, with Palestinian acquiescence to a nonmilitarized state, and with Palestinian acceptance that a two-state peace ends all territorial claims."

    Really?? And where does he say that Israeli security begins with Fatah and Hamas committing irrevocably to Israel's righ to exist? Am I missing something?

  38. Israel could have had peace decades ago if it would negotiate in earnest.

    Israel is running out of time, and right now is the ideal time for Israel to come to a solution with Palestine.

  39. "with Palestinian acquiescence to a nonmilitarized state"
    In other words a "state" unable to defend itself against the inevitable Israeli invasions and human rights violations.

  40. Events are quickly bypassing both the US and Israel. The region has shown the power of massed unarmed civilians and the Palestinians will resort to that. Israeli force will lose the PR battle. The rest of the world is working towards a September recognition of Palestine. The boycott of Israel movements are gathering pace.

  41. The script that circulates by way of this column brings this reader to be reminded of a blocked toilet that, when flushed, just spins the same dirty water round and round.

    First, this nonsense of having the Hamas, the PLO and the PNA renounce their intentions for the destruction of Israel. Mr. Cohen and the commentators of his column are adamant of this "condition" to Israel turning over land, ensuring she is secure.

    But assume, for a moment, Hamas does renounce its charter and the PLO recognizes Israel "immediately", and Israel agrees to yield territory, demilitarizing it completely.

    What mechanism is in place when Hamas or the PLO decides to again take up its stance to destroy Israel?

    No one speaks of how precisely Israel is to be made whole again. Will the Palestinians forfeit the right to the territory? Doubtful.

    Second, the notion that the pre-1967 borders somehow equate to giving the Palenstinians land they rightly are entitled to historically. This is factually false.

    As Howard from NJ (Comment #30) correctly points out Gaza and the West Bank were land of Jordan and Egypt proper - not the Palestinians. But no one seems to address this history because Mr. Cohen and the colorful commentators to his piece live in the present and have no background of history.

    Instead they consume the script Mr. Cohen distributes wholesale, and quite frankly, because of their own agenda which has little to do with fairness to Israel.

  42. Negotiating with a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas does entail risks for Israel, but also significant opportunity. Reports from Gaza suggest that the residents there have become disenchanted with the Hamas leadership. This is an opportunity to pull those residents into the democratic mainstream, effectively undermining that extremist leadership. In the last analysis, what those extemists SAY is less important than what the Palestinian people as a whole DO.

  43. I wish someone would write a column explaining why the Left is now so much in love with the Palestinian "cause" in this region. When one reads about the history of the violence against Israel by it's Arab neighbors, it is hard not to understand the current attitudes and wariness of the Israelis. Is it just the same naivety that the Far Left seems to exhibit toward everything, or is it something deeper? I would love to see this explained.

  44. Thank you, Roger Cohen, for your balanced, courageous article. It is NOT in America's best interest to keep cravenly following the "Israel right or wrong" policies it has been following for the past many decades.

  45. The Palestinians could have had their state in 1948 after the UN declaration, and they could've had it again in 2000 after Wye. I don't see how ANY Israeli government will ever be more reasonable and generous than Barak. Instead of accepting a deal, the Palestinians launched their second Intifada.

    I wish for peace, and I think that Israel will have to withdraw from most of the West Bank to achieve this, but you consistently and repeatedly neglect to the realities of this conflict.

    Settlements can be removed, but murder victims can never be brought back. For Obama to put 'settlement' at the top of the list of the problems in negotiation was, is, and will continue to be ridiculous. Israel has already demonstrated that she is willing/able to withdraw from settlements, first in Egypt and again in Gaza. But the hundreds of Israeli men, women, children, and babies murdered in the name of Palestinian Nationalism, they'll never be brought back.

  46. let me see. Since Israel's first problem is security, let us go back to pre-1967 borders where there was no security. Guns on the Golan Heights routinely shelled schoolchildren. And then we will ask Hamas to be nice and not attack Israelis, and they will listen? This is absurd. The solution is a two state solution which will keep Isarel geographically safe, and give the Palestinians an opportunity to build, as the Israelis have done, a prosperous land of their own. By the way, the Arab Spring outcome is not necessarily democracy, but possibly more of Islamic theocracy. That bodes well.

  47. Now is the time. Netanyahu should get on TV and say " If Hamas, Hezballah, Egypt, Jordan and Syria all recognize our right to exist and they agree that a return to the 1967 borders
    or something very close will be met with a permanent truce and the Palestians agree to be an unarmed country, then we can sign a treaty today. Otherwise I have no interest on creating another Gaza where rockets are aimed at my country; or another Southern Lebanon, where rockets are aimed at my country. Today can be THE day! Yes or no."

  48. Not surprisingly, Roger, you address NONE of the following.

    Full and unconditional diplomatic recognition of Israel.

    Full and unconditional recognition of Israel’s right to exist within secure borders.

    Full cessation of all acts of war against Israel, including but not limited to: full cessation of all economic boycotts and embargoes against Israel; full cessation of military action against Israel by independent states (Syria, Iran) AND their proxies: Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, ET. AL. (that is, EVERY single proxy).

    Netanyahu and Israel are right to say to Obama: NO DEALS until the above basic requirements are met.

  49. Comment poster, Montreal Moe, made an interesting suggestion; having the U.S. and/or Canada offer large tracts of land to the Israelis and/or to the Palestinians to re-establish their states in North America well distant from each other. Right now the entire landmass of Israel covers 7,992 square miles. The lands in America used for Indian reservations, none of which most Americans, except gamblers, have ever seen, cover 55,700,000 square miles. We have room for several additional countries in North America and with global warming the temperate climate areas are expanding rapidly. The fundamentally religious in both groups, of course, would reject such a move no matter how much it would improve their lives. If, indeed, it could happen, however, one might project the outcome of such moves a hundred years from now, we would doubtlessly find an Israel of Northern British Columbia harnessing geothermal power to provide total energy for a dozen cities, Eskimo subcontractor millionaires sharing fish stories with Talmudic scholars at an international airport cafe, a healthcare system, the envy of the world and scholars of all disciplines visiting this peaceful state to learn how to emulate their success. Three thousand miles East of this new Israel would be New World Palestine with exploding population, a bankrupt state, diseased, suing its benefactors for insufficient welfare payments, mullahs teaching youngsters how to hate, women who had been raped stoned for their sins and all the other goodies that come with the religion of peace.

  50. What Cohen says is right. This is not about "giving up to the Arabs", this is just saying loud & clear the ONLY blueprint of a deal ; Bibi is only trying to grab as much land as possible before the great swap. That he can bet to play the Congress against the President is actually a dire warning of a support gone too far. Whining about "indefensible borders" or "a govt with terrorists" is convincing no one, except the self righteous israeli right (the one that consider normal to bomb Gaza for a month in retaliation from a few death by palestinian rockets) and our crazy evangelists.

    The more I talk with jewish friends & representatives, the more I find them stuck in a hawkish mentality that expresses itself with unconvincing truism, like "One jewish state and 22 arab states", denying the singlest palestinian right to self determination. There where wars, of course, and enough to be defiant of the arab neighbors, but the global support for Israel is so low (while antisimetism is surging) than something must be done soon, before the third intifada, a peaceful one this time.