Yet if there has been a distinguishing feature of Obama’s record on Israel-Palestine, it is that, unlike his recent predecessors, he has not a single achievement to his name.In the view of some top advisers, Obama’s final months in power are a unique opportunity to correct the record, and, more important, score an achievement that his successors could scarcely undo.
Unlike other presidents, Obama was able to relate personally to the Palestinian experience.
He could draw parallels with Britain’s colonization of Kenya, where his Muslim father was born, and the African-American struggle for civil rights that had culminated in his presidency.
In his wide-ranging Mideast speech of May 19, 2011 at the Department of State, President Barack Obama also referred to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
And in that segment of his address he urged the parties to negotiate the core issues, the basis of which, he said, is clear. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestine borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.” And then the President added a sentence that received the greatest attention: “We believe 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.” There is a great deal of history behind this last sentence.
Barack Obama entered the White House more deeply informed about and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than any incoming president before him.
He had attended and spoken at numerous events organized by the Arab-American and Palestinian-American communities, in which he had numerous contacts, and he had repeatedly criticized American policy, calling for a more even-handed approach toward Israel.Egypt controls the Suez Canal, through which 8% of all global maritime shipping passes annually. Demographically, Egypt, with its population of 94.6 million, is by far the most populous Arabic-speaking country.Although it may not play the same type of leading political or military role in the Arab world as it has in the past, Egypt may retain some "soft power" by virtue of its history, its media, and its positive and negative potential.President Obama's Middle East speech yesterday lasted for about 45 minutes, but one solitary line has generated a disproportionate amount of coverage and controversy: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps." And on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for a second time, rejected the 1967 borders as "indefensible" during a meeting that he and President Obama just concluded in the Oval Office (pictured above).Why has Obama's 17-word peace proposal proved to be such a lightning rod?To really unpack this sentence, we need to examine two terms: "1967 lines" and "mutually agreed swaps." 1967 Lines: These refer to the armistice lines from before the Six Day War, when Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, among other land, expanding its territory beyond the "Green Line" borders delineated by a 1949 armistice between Israel and its Arab neighbors.