Three days after demanding Israel return to the 1967 borders, Obama now claims that his statements were “misrepresented.” Returning to the borders in place before the 1967 War would mean giving the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and old walled portion of Jerusalem (including the Temple Mount) completely to the Palestinians, who are led by the Muslim Brotherhood backed Hamas. This would leave Israel indefensible against likely attacks from those who seek her destruction and the extermination of Jews.
Following the President’s May 19th comments, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the demand, stating that Israel would not return to the 1967 borders. Many Americans expressed their shock, disappointment, and strong disagreement with the President’s demand. It seems that everyone understood quite clearly what Obama meant.
Now, after facing much criticism and backlash, Obama is claiming he didn’t mean what people claim he meant. A FoxNews.com report states, “Claiming his remarks earlier this week on borders for Israel and a future Palestinian state had been misrepresented, President Obama said Sunday that ’1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps’ means the two sides will ‘negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.’”
Sound like double-speak? Is he backpedaling? To help discover the answer, here’s the full speech (you can skip to the controversial statement by going to time index 42:07):
Also, you can read the full text of the speech (the controversial statement is in paragraph 64, and is quoted below): “Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa”
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, 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. 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. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
Having read (or heard) the comments in their full context, things are much more evident. Either President Obama was completely unclear in his statement, leading to misunderstanding, or he was very clear, and he is now backpedaling. While he does talk about “negotiations” and states that the borders must include “mutually agreed swaps” (whatever that means), the President said quite explicitly that “the borders . . . should be based on the 1967 lines.”
Now there’s two things to keep in mind (there’s many more, but that would result in a post hundreds of pages long). First, a central rule in communication is be clear. The only times to be intentionally unclear are (1) when you want to obscure what is meant, or (2) when you want to make a statement without taking a definitive stand. Was Obama unclear in his statement? No. He called for Israel to return to the old borders, and the whole world unmistakably understood that message. However, Obama now argues that he was misrepresented and his statement misunderstood. In other words, “1967 borders” means “completely new borders” and not “1967 borders.” Why? Because of the phrase “with mutually agreed swaps.” All cleared up now, right?
Second, this statement was buried 42 minutes into a 50 minute speech (88% of the way through it). It was placed in the 64th paragraph of a 73 paragraph speech (74 if you count the “thank you” line as an actual paragraph). Everything that came before would counter-effect a double-shot of No-Doz and a gallon of Starbucks espresso; it was a snooze-fest of the nth degree! This little controversial nugget was buried very deep in a dull speech, most likely to hide it from the public. Nice try, Mr. President.
The President’s demand that Israel return to the indefensible 1967 borders was clearly understood and rejected. Now, in order to win back Jewish vote, the support of lost Democrats, and many others (remember, he’s seeking re-election), Obama backpedals, blames the media, and portrays himself as an innocent victim. One might say, “If you had said what you mean at the outset, there would have been no problem.” Except that he said what he meant, and it is a problem.