It’s not wise to turn your back on a good friend, let alone to do so publically a day before the friend pays you a visit.  Unfortunately that’s precisely what our President just did.  Mr. Obama set himself up for a dressing down and got one in spades.

Yesterday the President gave a speech at the State Department titled, “A moment of opportunity.”  The majority of the speech dealt with the crisis that’s spread across the Middle East this year dubbed, “The Arab Spring.”  From Tunisia to Syria calls for democracy have seen protests and violence in every corner of the Arab world.  Mr. Obama’s speech was, for the most part, a summation of our views of the citizen movements in the Arab world.  Had he stopped there it would’ve been a much better Friday for the President.  However Mr. Obama went on to explore the divisive Israel/Palestinian conflict.  This is where the bottom fell out of the President’s week and demonstrated his myopic view of the key issue of the Middle East.

A firestorm swept through the media Thursday evening in reaction to the President changing the United States policy on Israeli borders that has been in place since the Nixon administration.  Needless to say, the Israelis were not pleased, nor should they be.

The following is an excerpt from the raw text of the President’s speech given at the State Department Thursday, one day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid him a visit:


So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.


In something never before seen in a Presidential photo-op, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seated beside President Obama and in full view of the media, completely rejected Obama’s call for a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders.

While Thursday evening’s news was more of a stunned world watching the President of the United States stab its only close friend in the Middle East in the back, Friday evening’s news is the egg dripping from Mr. Obama’s arrogant mug.  The Prime Minister explained that though he values the President’s efforts to advance the peace process and intends to work with him, the president’s call for Israel to pull back to the borders that existed before the Six-Day War is not tenable.

"We can’t go back to those indefensible lines. … I discussed this with the president," Netanyahu said. Netanyahu went on to explain that the pre-1967 borders were "borders of war, not borders of peace." The narrow 9 mile width of Israel encouraged other countries to challenge their sovereignty.

Mr. Obama was clearly furious at Netanyahu’s public declaration that the President’s views were, in not so many words, an vision of naivety.  Since Mr. Obama took office the relationship between the U.S. and Israel has been strained.  The President’s endorsement of Palestinian statehood with a return to pre-1967 borders was simply a bridge-too-far for the Israeli prime minister.

Netanyahu explained that return to the 1967 borders would leave Israel vulnerable and would not result in a lasting peace.

"We both agree that a peace based on illusions will crash against the rocks of Middle Eastern reality. … For there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities — the first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible" Netanyahu said.

Obama said Friday that differences remain between the United States and Israel over the Middle East peace process, but that their relationship is "sound and will continue" and differences will be worked out "between friends."  Yet by any measure the relationship is at an all-time low.  Though the U.S. government has previously endorsed the concept of a Palestinian state, never has any president suggested Israel return all land gained during the 1967 war; a war where Israel was attacked and achieved defensible borders as a result.  Prior to 1967 Israel was a mere 9 miles across and was a prime target for their Arab neighbors.  After the 1967 war Israel grew to approximately 35 miles in width, a much more defensible configuration.

The man who said words have meaning has announced a policy shift that would give Palestinians a new basis in negotiations without so much as a how-do-you-do to the Israelis.  He’s given away the farm before the first crop was even planted.  He’s cut off the Israel’s negotiating legs by throwing his support towards a position the Arabs have advocated for years, but is known to be untenable for the Israelis.

While Mr. Obama said that Israel’s right to defend itself will remain paramount, he advocates a position that can neither assure Israel’s security nor encourage negotiations.  One wonders if the President watches the news and is even aware that a unity agreement has been signed between Fatah and Hamas, a known terrorist group, which is a major impediment to future talks.  Mr. Obama’s action has not only widened an already growing rift with our closest friend in the region, it will likely cease any movement towards renewed negotiations for the foreseeable future.

The President has managed to kill two birds with one stick.  The Israelis now have to accept that Mr. Obama is a threat to their very security while he’s offended Jewish American’s that were already questioning the President’s commitment to Israel.  The volume is continuing to rise on this gaff and will almost certainly cost the President several points in his re-election bid.  Was Mr. Obama trying to soften anti-American sentiment in the Arab world after the killing of Osama Bin Laden?  If that was his intent it should a shortsightedness of epic proportions and threatening Israeli security will only give a victory to radical Islamists.

The Israeli prime minister made the President look like a buffoon and he knew it.  It was clear Mr. Obama was not happy as Mr. Netanyahu dressed him down for his lack of understanding of Israeli security.  Mr. Obama’s immature view of the dynamics of the Arab/Israeli conflict may well be one reason his Middle East envoy George Mitchell recently resigned.  Mitchell’s resignation was believed to be an expression of frustration over the lack of progress on the Palestinian situation, but it may well be that Mitchell knew that as long as Mr. Obama was president progress was impossible.

In the 2008 election, Republicans openly avowed the risks of placing someone with Mr. Obama’s complete lack of foreign affairs knowledge in the Oval Office and in case after case he has proven their point.  The President doesn’t understand the issues and his willingness to alter U.S. policy without a grounding in the challenges demonstrate why experience matters.  In lieu of real-world experience a president must surround himself with people who do understand issues beyond our borders and clearly in this area his staff is a bust.  While it might make sense to fire the speechwriter, ultimately the President has to stand behind his words and it’s very difficult to stand with one foot in your mouth.