Although it passed without much notice, according to Reuters, Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech Monday in which he laid out a vision for a future independent Palestinian state that contained "not a single Israeli."
How he proposes to achieve that is not clear but, coming as it does on the eve of renewed talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas' remarks have an ominous ring to them.
Briefing Egyptian journalists, Abbas said that, "In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands," a not unreasonable position to adopt if one believes the citizens of the new state need more living space or, as the German's used to call it, "Lebensraum."
Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama apparently have a shared vision for the new state, which would be crafted out of the 1967 borders, a move that would leave the Israelis vulnerable to attack by unfriendly Arab states, many of which have yet to accede to its right to exist.
Israel's security is endangered when the United States insists on basing such talks on the ill-conceived notion that protection can be achieved by trading land for peace, just as the French and British forced the Czechoslovakians to do in 1938. America's only stable ally in an increasingly unstable part of the world deserves better, but is not going to get it from the current occupant of the White House.
When Obama first began to entertain publically the idea of an agreement based on the 1967 lines, a bi-partisan hue and cry could be heard from New York to San Francisco. The idea was dropped after some debate, only to be resurrected now that he has won a second term in office. Indeed, the president also argued for a contiguous state linking the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip which, it should be noted, could hardly be achieved without dividing Israel into two geographically separate regions. This is not the way to treat a long standing ally and friend.
Like his immediate predecessor, Obama seems determined to end the status quo in the Middle East. Unlike George W. Bush, however, he does not seem to have a democratic outcome in mind. From Libya to Syria, from Egypt to Iran, the Obama administration has mishandled all the changes that are underway in the region. The rise of theocratic Islamic Republics on the Iranian model is not in the best interests of the United States in the long- or short-term. Fortunately, the Egyptian Army has intervened, tossing a spanner into the works – at least for the moment.
Whether by incompetence or through intent, Obama and his national security team have weakened America's national security through its mistreatment of our historic allies, old and new. So much of what is happening in the world, not just in the Middle East but in Europe and Asia, seems beyond their comprehension and their ability to deal with it. These are serious things, graver even than the historic period of unemployment here at home or the failure to pull the economy up from its near-recession levels despite many hundreds of billions of dollars in improperly accounted for spending. America is still trying to come to grips with the diplomatic failures of the Carter administration. The road to weakness on which Obama has steered the country makes those problems look small by comparison.
First, last and always, the United States has a political and moral obligation to stand by Israel. The president should not attempt to force a bad choice upon it. Its continued security is a key component of our continued security. As with our relations with Great Britain and Japan, the futures of our nations are inexorably linked. What weakens one weakens both.
"Never again" was supposed to last more than 60 years. If the United States is to throw its weight behind Abbas who, remember, is the moderate component among the Palestinian people's governing authorizes, it would be a betrayal of our obligations to Israel.