Obama’s shocking speech on the Middle East

Jeff Goldberg says he is amazed at the amount of insta-commentary on Obama’s speech on the Middle East that sees something radical and new in what the president said about 1967 borders. This is what Obama said:

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.

What’s new? Not much, says Jeff.

I’m feeling a certain Groundhog Day effect here. This has been the basic idea for at least 12 years. This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba. This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. So what’s the huge deal here? Is there any non-delusional Israeli who doesn’t think that the 1967 border won’t serve as the rough outline of the new Palestinian state?…

Here is what Hillary Clinton said in 2009: “We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

I too was mystified by the instant reaction claiming to see a bold new departure. I haven’t been paying close enough attention, I thought. But now I’m reassured. If Jeff finds it puzzling, I feel entitled to be puzzled as well.

In a later post Jeff links to this note by Charles Johnson, which is also worth reading. I think the three-paragraph AP story Johnson complains about was where this all started: it was immediately picked up by a hundred other sites and set the “Obama shocker” story moving.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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