Obama’s Middle East Mandate?

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A speech on the Middle East was destined to ruffle feathers and spur a rush of insta-analysis and insta-complaining. And that’s what happened with President Barack Obama’s address on Thursday. For Obama’s GOP foes, the speech, of course, had to mark nearly the end of the world—or, perhaps literally, given Israel’s role in the Book of Revelation. (Anyone notice the speech came days before the Day of Judgment?) NBC News’ First Read daily newsletter this morning included a useful summation of the over-the-top response. It notes that, once again, Republicans are trying to turn a middle-of-the-road Obama position into a sign of the apocalypse. Don’t they get tired of that? (That’s a rhetorical question.) Here’s First Read‘s take:

*** Throwing Israel under the bus? For longtime chroniclers of the Middle East peace process, the most surprising part of President Obama’s speech yesterday was the reaction to his call for the eventual Israel-Palestine borders to be based on the 1967 lines. Israeli PM Netanyahu said it was “indefensible.” Romney fired off this statement: “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace.” Pawlenty followed by saying it was a “mistaken and very dangerous demand.” Why was this reaction surprising? Because, as the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg writes, the 1967 lines have been the basic Middle-East-peace idea for at least the last 12 years. “This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba. This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.”

*** The ’67 borders have become the new individual mandate: So in that respect, you could compare the 1967 lines to the individual health-care mandate or cap-and-trade — ideas that weren’t really controversial before Obama proposed it. Also, note the difference between the tough Romney/Pawlenty statements and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s. In his statement, Rubio began by praising the president, and then he said this on the ’67 borders: “Unfortunately, the President’s reference to Israel’s 1967 borders marks a step back in the peace process, as the U.S. must not pre-determine the outcome of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.” That’s a fair point — Obama was negotiating publicly in his speech by mentioning the borders. But it’s hard to see how the president was throwing Israel “under the bus” when he also used his speech demanding that the eventual Palestinian state be “non-militarized” and questioning the Hamas-Fatah agreement. “How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama asked. That’s a “get out of negotiations” card for Israel, but apparently no one heard THAT? A truth about people who are passionate about this Middle East debate: They only hear what they don’t like.

Has any GOPer yet said that Obama is proposing a “death panel” for Israel? Well, don’t suggest this talking point to Sarah Palin. She just might use it.


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