Thursday night, President Obama angered both the Israelis and the Palestinians when he officially stated his support for a Palestinian state within the borders of the land Israel seized during the 1967 war. The two-state solution is nothing new, but many Republicans are using this as an opportunity to capture the Jewish vote and support from the powerful lobby group AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
According to potential 2012 Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Obama "threw Israel under the bus."
The position appears to be controversial to many on the right who vehemently oppose the two-state solution because they fear Israel will never be safe. On the more left, many are angry that Obama essentially admitted that Israel needs to be protected from Palestine, not the other way around. Obama proved one thing Thursday night: Talking about the Middle East is never light.
But he didn't lose the entire Jewish vote over this.
Obama reiterated US support of Israel in the United Nations and said we wouldn't tolerate one-sided criticism of Israel in the UN. According to Obama:
As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it's important that we tell the truth: The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
The fact is, there is a high likelihood that the UN General Assembly will recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders it falls in anyway, and that is far worse for Israel than anything Obama said in his Thursday speech. Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about as right wing as they come, there are many in Israel who support the two-state solution.
Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni praised President Obama’s Middle East policy speech and warned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was opening a rift with the United States by criticizing it. She said:
An American president that supports a two-state solution represents the Israeli interest and is not anti-Israeli. President Obama's call to start negotiations represents Israel's interests.
The fact is, it's a tough crowd. Some Israelis are unhappy with Obama, many Palestinians are not happy with Obama, the Egyptians and most other Arab nations weren't happy with his speech, and even the UN probably isn't happy either.
A return to the 1967 borders at first glance may seem unfair given Israel seized that land during the 1967 Six-Day War. And while many feel that Israel attacked unfairly, they were heavily provoked by Egypt.
As of now, Netanyahu is overreacting because he favors Republicans, and his government is even further right than he is. But that is just grandstanding. Left to his own devices, Netanyahu would do nothing to advance peace.
And while talks with Hamas -- the governing party in Gaza -- are pretty much impossible until they recognize Israel's right to exist, this could be a step in a peaceful direction with nods to both sides, which is more than any past Presidents have done.
If Obama loses part of the Jewish vote, it's likely the part he could have lost anyway. AIPAC isn't the only game in town when it comes to supporting Israel and J-Street, the pro-Israel, pro-Peace lobby, also has sway over many lefty Jews in the US.
No one was thrown under the bus Thursday night. Peace has to start somewhere.
Did you think Obama threw Israel under the bus?
Image via Jonathon Narvey/Flickr