Barack Obama on Israel
Throughout the 2008 campaign and in previous campaigns, Senator Obama was a strong supporter of Israel's right to defend itself. He repeatedly asserted that he supported a two state solution and that both the Israeli's and the Palestinians needed to do what was necessary to achieve that objective. Shortly after winning the election, President-Elect Obama expressed support for a 2002 Saudi plan to base Israel on 1967 borders with land swaps between Israel and Palestine to make the two countries more contiguous and defensible. The plan gave Israel the ability to control the right of return.
By May of 2009, the Obama administration had begun to publicly assail the Israeli government for continued settlement expansion. Secretary of State Clinton noted that the President sought for Israel to end all settlement expansion - this included halting the typical expansion granted for normal population growth.
In September of 2009, President Obama delivered a speech to the UN General Assembly that critics called the most anti-Israeli speech to date by a US official. The President called for Israel to end the "occupation that began in 1967," stated that the US did not recognize the legitimacy of continued (not new) Israeli settlements, supported a two state solution, and called for a "contiguous" Palestine. These statements led critics to state that the Obama Administration was calling for a return to pre-1967 borders.
US - Israeli relations were further tested in March of the following year when the Israeli government announced new settlements around Jerusalem while Vice President Biden was there to negotiate the start of talks. This led to condemnation by President Obama and a statement during a Fox News interview where he called Israel's actions not helpful.
Shortly after that interview a number of news sources reported that President Obama had delivered a 4 point ultimatum to Israel calling for an end to settlement building, actions of good will which may have included prisoner release, and negotiations on post 1967 borders and possible right of return for Palestinians.
Days after those reports, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the White House and left humiliated when President Obama refused any public forum with the envoy and broke off discussions early and abruptly.
In July of 2010, negotiations concerning the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) ended with a paragraph added encouraging Israel to join the accord and calling for a nuclear free zone in the middle east. Israel is know to have nuclear weapons, but the US has chosen to avoid any discussion on the issue and blocked previous attempts to call out Israel by name.
In February of 2011, the Obama administration blocked a UN Security Counsel resolution condemning settlement building in Israel. After casting the veto vote, the UN Ambassador was highly critical of Israeli settlements and noted that the action did not indicate a change in US opinion on the matter.
In May of 2011, President Obama gave a major policy address on middle eastern policy. In this address he formally asserted his support for a peace plan that returned Israel to it's pre-1967 borders with land swaps between the two countries.
Chicago Jewish News Interview
In March of 2004, State Senator Obama was interviewed by the Chicago Jewish News and asked 5 questions. Two of those questions were about Israel.
AIPAC Policy Forum
In March of 2007, Senator Obama gave a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and discussed Israel and it's relationship to Iran and it's right to defend itself.
Israel Campaign Policy
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Senator Obama put forth the following policy.
Support for 2002 Saudi Plan
In November of 2008, just after the election, President-Elect Obama expressed support for a 2002 Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League. The plan would require Israel to return to it's pre-1967 borders, and would give Israel a veto on the right of Palestinians to return to Israel. President-Elect Obama was quoted as stating that the Israeli's would be crazy to turn down any deal that got them peace.
The Israelis would be crazy not to accept this initiative. It would give them peace with the Muslim world from Indonesia to Morocco.
Stronger Stance on Settlements
In May of 2009, President Obama met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to promote the pan-arab peace plan. Not long after those meetings, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that President Obama's opinion was that settlements needed to stop.
With respect to settlements, the president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is the best interests of the effort we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease.
UN General Assembly Meeting
In a speech to the UN on the 23rd of September 2009, President Obama spoke about the Israeli settlements by stating that he did not support continued settlements. Supporters of Israel were fearful of this statement as it did not state the the US did not support new or expanded settlements, but rather that he did not support any of the settlements. He also referred to the "occupation that began in 1967." This seemed to indicate that President Obama desired to see the lands won in the 1967 war given away. The phrase "contiguous territory" in referring to Palestine further contributed to this fear.
We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel. And we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. The time has come to relaunch negotiations without preconditions that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. The goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security. A Jewish state of Israel with true security for all Israelis, and a viable independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.
For several months, the Obama administration had pushed for the Israelis to end the settlement building with no success. At the UN Assembly, President Obama made it clear that he supported a two state solution which would give Palestine it's own country, and that now was the time to achieve that goal. President Obama stated:
It is past time to stop talking about starting negotiations; it is time to move forward. Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. So my message to these two leaders is clear: despite all the obstacles, all the history, all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward.
Biden Visit to Israel
In March of 2010, Vice President Biden traveled to Israel in attempts to initiate talks between Israel and Palestine. After he arrived, the Israeli government announced that they were starting a new settlement in recently annexed West Bank land. Vice President Biden reacted strongly to the news.
It is incumbent on both parties to build an atmosphere of support for negotiations and not to complicate them. Yesterday the decision by the Israeli government to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem undermines that very trust, the trust that we need right now in order to begin ... profitable negotiations
New Settlements Not Helpful
On March 17, 2010 President Obama was interviewed by Bret Baier of Fox News. During the interview President Obama was asked about recently announced plans to build new settlements in Jerusalem and his response was that he was attempting to start peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine and that the new settlements were not helpful to that process.
Ultimatum to Israel
Days after the interview with Bret Baier, a story appeared in the Jerusalem Post and Real Clear Politics claiming that President Obama had delivered a 4 part ultimatum to the Israeli government.
- First, Israel must cancel the recently approved housing units in Ramat Shlomo.
- Second, Israel must prohibit all construction for Jews in Jerusalem neighborhoods built since 1967.
- Third, Israel must make a gesture to the Palestinians to show them we want peace such as prisoner release
- Fourth, Israel must agree to negotiate all substantive issues, including the partition of Jerusalem, the Jewish neighborhoods constructed since 1967, and the immigration of millions of hostile foreign Arabs to Israel under the rubric of the so-called “right of return,” in the course of indirect, Obama administration-mediated negotiations with the Palestinians. To date, Israel has maintained that substantive discussions can only be conducted in direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Just days after unofficial stories broke that the US had given an ultimatums to Israel, the Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu visited the White House in late March of 2010. During his visit, no photographer other than the official White House photographer was allowed access to the two men while they were together and no public event of any kind was held. Numerous sources also indicated that the President and his staff broke off talks with the Israeli envoy and did not return. Reports indicated that Prime Minister was humiliated by the treatment.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
It is one of the worst kept secrets that Israel has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons. The US has chosen not to acknowledge or discuss the issue, and has previously prevented the issue from being addressed through the NPT or at the UN.
In July of 2010 at a meeting of the NPT signatories, language was added in review to encourage Israel to sign the NonProliferation Treaty. Israel did not attend the meeting as it is not a signatory. A similar attempt was blocked in 2005.
The inclusion of the paragraph marked a new evolution in Israeli nuclear weapons and calls for the creation of a nuclear free zone in the middle east which would include Israel.
UN Resolution Veto
In February of 2011, the US vetoed a UN Security Counsel resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements. After casting the veto of the resolution, the U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice was still harshly critical of the settlements.
On the contrary, we reject in the strongest possible terms the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. For more than four decades, [Israeli settlement activity] has undermined security ... corroded hopes for peace and security ... it violates international commitments and threatens prospects for peace. (However), this resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides.
Middle Eastern Policy Address
On May 19, 2011 President Obama gave an address on middle eastern policy. In that address, he called for an Israeli peace plan in which Israel's 1967 borders were used as a basis for new borders with land swaps being given by both sides. Presumably, these land swaps would involve the Palestinians giving claims to land on which Israelis have already built settlements in exchange for land of equal amount an quality elsewhere, and exchanges to make Israeli and Palestinian border more defensible and contiguous. In his speech, President Obama stated the following:
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and 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. 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 potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
These statements caused a controversy as many people felt that President Obama's urging of Israel to return to 1967 borders was without concessions from Palestinians and without precedence. President Obama responded to critics by emphasizing the "with mutually agreed swaps" portion of his address. President Obama did not cite precedence of the 1967 border plan.
By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.
It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.
Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation
A resolution condemning Hezbollah and Hamas and their state sponsors and supporting Israel's exercise of its right to self-defense.
 Website: About.com Article: Barack Obama on Israel, Iran and Iraq Author: NA Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: ABC News Article: Israel Pressured by Obama's Tough Stance on Settlements Author: SIMON MCGREGOR-WOOD Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: The New York Times Article: White House Pivots in Mideast Peace Bid Author: HELENE COOPER and MARK LANDLER Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: USA Today Article: Obama: Israel must halt West Bank settlements Author: David Jackson Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: The Guardian Article: Obama and Netanyahu play hardball over Israeli settlement plan Author: Rory McCarthy and Ewen MacAskill Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: Reuters Article: Biden scolds Israel over settlement plan Author: Adam Entous and Mohammed Assadi Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: Fox News Article: Obama: Israel's Announcement of New Jerusalem Housing Not 'Helpful' Author: NA Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: Jerusalem Post Article: Column One: Obamaís war on Israel Author: CAROLINE GLICK Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: BarackObama.com Article: Israel Fact Sheet Author: Obama / Biden Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: Real Clear Politics Article: Obama's War on Israel Author: Caroline Glick Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: Chicago Jewish News Article: THE FIVE QUESTIONS Author: NA Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: The Huffington Post Article: Netanyahu Humiliated After US Trip Goes Awry Author: Adam Taylor Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: Politico Article: U.S. vetoes U.N. settlements resolution Author: Laura Rozen Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: The New York Times Article: Nudge on Arms Further Divides the U.S. and Israel Author: MARK LANDLER Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: Frum Forum Article: Obama Bails on Israel Author: David Frum Accessed on: 03/08/2011
 Website: Haaretz.com Article: U.S. envoy: Arab peace initiative will be part of Obama policy Author: Yoav Stern and Barak Ravid Accessed on: 05/23/2011
 Website: The Times Online Article: Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal Author: Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv and Sarah Baxter Accessed on: 05/23/2011
 Website: LJWorld.com Article: Obama: Israelís 1967 borders reflect longstanding policy Author: Bradley Klapper Accessed on: 05/23/2011