Monday, October 19, 2009

Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for "appeasing" our enemies and a "pacifist agenda"? Nonsense.

A series of smear emails and blog posts claim that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for a “policy of abject capitulation to our enemies” (Erick Erickson), weakening and neutering the U.S. (Rush Limbaugh), following a Chamberlain-like “pacifist agenda” by engaging in Middle East diplomacy (Dennis Prager and the Republican Jewish Coalition),[1] and “siding with the Palestinians against Israel” (Congressman Gresham Barrett, R-SC, who is running for governor of South Carolina).[2] “Perhaps they should change the award's name to the Neville rather than the Nobel,” critics sneer, implying that all negotiations are like Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler, and all countries in conflict with the US or Israel are like Nazi Germany, requiring the same response: preemptive war.

1. In reality, talking with repressive governments has often enhanced U.S. and Israeli national security.

Engagement with “rogue” regimes has been used effectively by American presidents, Republican and Democrat. Nixon and Kissinger opened diplomatic relations with Mao’s China to help counter the Soviet Union. Nixon and Reagan also negotiated strategic nuclear arms limitations treaties with the Soviets. The Clinton administration brokered peace accords in Northern Ireland (where one side, the IRA and Sinn Fein, had supported or engaged in terrorism against Britain) and in Bosnia (where Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic led a genocidal regime). The Bush administration successfully arranged the elimination of Libya’s weapons of mass destruction.

With President Carter’s help, Israel negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, the largest Arab country, ending a cycle of multi-front Arab-Israeli wars which had plagued the Jewish state during its first 25 years. The Egyptian-Israeli treaty has saved thousands of Israeli, and Arab, lives, freeing the Israel Defense Forces to focus its resources on defending Israel from other threats. Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan has bolstered its security on its long eastern frontier. Israeli Military Intelligence and the IDF top brass support peace talks with Syria,[3] and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Republican originally appointed by Bush, has long favored direct U.S. talks with Iran.

2. Obama’s conservative critics charge that he won the Nobel because he’s “sided with the Palestinians against Israel.” They accuse him of being anti-Israel for “calling on Israel to retreat to the indefensible 1967 borders” in his speech at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly. In fact, Obama did nothing of the kind: he used the same language as President George W. Bush when he promised to work for “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…” Even Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken out against these wild and outlandish charges.[4]

3. Who’s naïve about evil? Prager mocks the left and the Europeans as “naïve about evil” because they believe that “dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts,” as the Nobel Committee put it in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. Prager calls this a “pacifist agenda,” the dogma that “War is not the answer.”

Time for a reality check. In fact, it’s the neoconservative right that has consistently blundered in responding to the threats facing America and our allies. They subscribe to the reckless notion that once we recognize a regime as tyrannical, we automatically know what our policy must be – sanctions and isolation, then war and regime change, avoiding all diplomatic efforts to modify its behavior. They would embroil the U.S. and Israel in endless war. Americans now widely recognize that the Iraq war was a strategic blunder which strengthened Iran, trading Saddam, Iran’s main adversary, for a pro-Iranian Shiite regime. The American invasion and occupation of Iraq were a gift to Al Qaeda, helping to “spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism” and worsening the global terrorist threat, according to the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate.[5]

4. Pursuing direct talks with potential adversaries as a first resort isn’t pacifism, as Prager charges. Pacifism is opposition to war under all circumstances. Obama is no pacifist; he recognizes that military force is sometimes necessary and just. “In his 2002 speech opposing an invasion of Iraq he emphasized that he was only against ‘dumb war.’”[6] He has backed Israel’s right to retaliate against rocket and missile attacks from Lebanon and Gaza. But unlike many of his bellicose critics, who fervently believe that the most aggressive military response is always the right answer, Obama holds that military force should be used selectively, smartly and judiciously.

Hitler and Nazi Germany are irrelevant to many of the security challenges Israel and U.S. face today. The world isn’t stuck in 1933, in an endless loop.

President Obama’s commitment to engagement has given Americans and people the world over new hope for a more peaceful and secure world.[7]

[1]Republican Jewish Coalition email, October 15, 2009, Dennis Prager, “Why President Obama Was Awarded the Nobel Prize,”, October 13, 2009
[2]"Statement from Gresham Barrett on the Nobel Prize,", October 9, 2009
[3]"Head of Israel’s Military Intelligence Research Division supports Obama’s approach to Syria," ObamaSmearBusters
[4]“Obama ‘sold out’ Israel and put it on the ‘chopping block’ at the UN? Ridiculous.”
[5]Mark Mazzetti, “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” The New York Times, September 24, 2006
[6]Michael Powell, “Tracing the Disparate Threads In Obama's Political Philosophy,” The New York Times, August 25, 2008
[7]“The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 Press Release,” October 9, 2009; “Building a World that Gives Life to the Promise of Our Founding Documents,”, October 9, 2009

Obama “sold out” Israel and put it on the “chopping block” at the UN? Ridiculous.

Obama’s conservative critics are accusing him of “selling out” Israel at the U.N. by calling on Israel to retreat to the “indefensible 1967 borders.” In fact, Obama did neither. Obama is being labeled “anti-Israel” for using the same language as President George W. Bush. Even Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken out against these wild and outlandish charges.

In a series of smear emails, blog posts, op-eds, and an interview on Fox TV News, former UN Ambassador John Bolton and other neoconservative critics have claimed that at the UN General Assembly opening President Obama “put Israel on the chopping block” by “calling Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegitimate” and “talking about ending ‘the occupation that began in 1967.’ That implies that he supports going back to 1967 borders…Obama…is frequently taking the side of the Palestinians...,” charged Bolton.[1]

“The president says America does not accept…‘the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.’ Not new Israeli settlements, continued Israeli settlements.…That calls into question, in my mind, all Israeli settlements…,” Bolton told Fox News host Glenn Beck.

“Beck and Bolton then took a map of Israel and the Palestinian Territories and used a big red magic marker to show how Israel could be sliced up if Obama’s nefarious plans were implemented. Needless to say, Beck and Bolton’s scribblings did not resemble any plan offered by anyone, ever,” notes national security researcher Matt Duss.

Beck closed his exchange with Bolton about Obama’s UN speech by insinuating that Obama’s Israel policy is a product of “Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Semitism.”
[3] “Did we sell out Israel today?” Beck asked. “I think it’s very close to it. I think it’s the most anti-Israel speech I can remember by an American president,”[4] replied Bolton.

Duss rightly calls this “blatant and dishonest fear-mongering on the president’s policy toward Israel….What Bolton failed to mention in his transparently dishonest attempt to scare Fox viewers is that President Obama’s language almost exactly reproduces language used by President George W. Bush in describing the opening point for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in 2008:”

BUSH: “There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized, and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent.”[5]

OBAMA: “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.”[6]

Obama’s description of Israel as a Jewish state, coupled with his commitment to two states for two peoples, reflects his support for Zionism’s central idea, giving the lie to wild inflammatory charges that he “sold out Israel.”

Not to be outdone by Fox, OneJerusalem distributed an email insisting that

“With the United States leading the way, the forces aligned against Israel are becoming bolder and brasher. One would expect the President of the United States to stand firm against America's enemies and support its allies. Today however, President Obama used the forum of the United Nations to abandon Israel and embrace the unfounded demands of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).”

On what do they base these outrageous smears against President Obama? Obama’s reference to the “occupation that began in 1967,” says OneJerusalem, “implies that Israel must retreat from its own land, return to indefensible '67 borders, divide Jerusalem, and capitulate to Palestinian forces bent on destroying Israel. A few weeks ago, One Jerusalem sent out a Red Alert warning that Obama was going to ambush Israel at the United Nations. He did it, today.”[7] OneJerusalem won’t let the facts interfere with its continuing rants against President Obama. Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is among those who are now claiming that Obama’s U.N. speech proves that he is “pushing” for a “full withdrawal to the 1967 lines.”[8]

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poured cold water on the fevered imaginings of Obama’s detractors:

“The things [Obama] said [at the UN] about the occupation are not new. He also said them in Cairo, and in fact that is the formula adopted by the [Bush administration’s] Road Map and it does not say we have to go back to the 1967 borders. This is the formula adopted by governments before the one I head, which did not agree to go back to the 1967 borders. We certainly would [also] not agree to that. In the matter of the settlements he also said nothing new...”

Netanyahu noted that “Obama, like other American presidents, reflected the deep basic friendship between the American and the Israeli people, and that ‘he stood in Cairo before the whole Muslim world and said this relationship would never be severed.’ Netanyahu added he believed the obligation of the United States to Israel's security was total.”[9]

Netanyahu is right that Obama’s statements on settlements are continuous with those of previous U.S. presidents. In fact, every administration since 1967, both Republican and Democrat, has criticized Israeli settlements as illegitimate and an obstacle to peace.

To suggest that by advocating a two-state solution to the conflict Obama “put Israel on the chopping block” or requires Israel to “retreat from its own land” assumes that the West Bank is part of Israel. Like the vast majority of Israelis, Palestinians and American Jews, no U.S. president has ever accepted this outlandish view of the “Whole Land of Israel” extremists who want only one state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Virtually the entire world rejects the idea that the West Bank belongs to Israel. But that doesn’t stop vocal supporters of the extremist fringe from opposing every American effort to resolve the Israel-Arab conflict and whipping up paranoia about the U.S. “selling out Israel.”

[1]Robert Costa, “Bolton: ‘A Post-American Speech By Our First Post-American President,’” National Review Online, Sept. 23, 2009
[2]Matt Duss, “Bolton: President Obama ‘Anti-Israel’ For Using Same Language as President Bush,” Wonk Room, Sept. 24, 2009
[3]“Glenn Beck Asks: ‘Could Obama Be Anti-Semitic?,’” Fox News, September 23, 2009
[4]“Glenn Beck Clips 09-23-09 Seg5- John Bolton: Obama Speech to UN Most Radical Ever by Pres.” Fox News, September 23, 2009
[5]“Bush calls for end of ‘occupation’ of Arab lands,” MSNBC, January 8, 2008
[6]To read the entire excerpt on Israel and Middle East peace from President Obama’s UN speech, see our debunking of the earlier smear “Obama planned ambush of Israel at the UN? Fat chance.”
[7]“President Obama Puts Israel on the Chopping Block,” OneJerusalem, September 23, 2009
[8]Dore Gold, “The Quartet’s Disturbing Shift and America’s New Direction,” Jerusalem Post, October 2, 2009; Lloyd Greif, “Obama’s Mideast Policy Endangers Israel: Israel Stands Alone,” Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, October 6, 2009
[9]Natasha Mozgovaya, “Netanyahu: No peace until Palestinians accept Israel as Jewish state,” Ha’aretz, September 24, 2009