I'm sure I misinterpreted the power-politics aspect of Obama's speech yesterday. For players this speech boiled down to one word, Obama's reference to the 1967 lines, and the signal he has sent with that word that he will not back Israel through thick and thin in days to come. The New York Times has a shocking story this morning saying that the speech was delayed 35 minutes because Netanyahu angrily called Hillary Clinton to try and jawbone 1967 out of it. So a foreign leader had a copy of the president's speech. And Netanyahu failed. "No wonder Hillary looked pleased," says a friend.
The evidence of 1967's significance is the outright blitz from the right over this issue today. "The Auschwitz borders," the Simon Wiesenthal Center affirms today in a crazy post. John Podhoretz in the Post: "he is an Israel-basher."
And Obama is taking up the battle. Ben Smith reports that the Obama people are "furious" at Netanyahu.
What is this all about? What stand did Obama take yesterday? What is being signalled? Is it about the alleged two-state solution? No. I think it is the warning that when the Arab spring comes to Israel, as it has already, with Nakba Day, that Obama will not support Israel all the way. Obama saw the ugly Israeli response and knows that he is dealing with Mubarak redux. The Israel lobby wanted an outright affirmation of support. It wanted "the only democracy" language and even explicit condemnation of the demonstrators and support for Israel's facts on the ground. It didn't get that. The speech contained no praise for Netanyahu, it gave Israel no assurance on the continued occupation. Haaretz sees the writing on the wall: the American climate is changing, and thanks to Netanyahu we are on our way to becoming "a pariah state."
The game is on in the U.S., the Arab spring is thawing our frozen discourse. Says Ed Moloney: "His remarks measure the change in the debate about the Middle East that has come about in the last few months and years. although they may well be undermined by lobby money, or its threatened absence, in 2012, the words '1967 borders' cannot be unsaid. 'Auschwitz Borders' is desperate language for a desperate situation and surely a sign of how much things have changed. The iceberg is cracking.... What's important here is the size and symbolism of the gesture, the acknowledgement of where the settlement lies, the fact that he has said what no other US president has dared say and what every sensible person knows is the way forward. For evidence of the significance of this look at Bibi's reaction and that of his disciples - all going ballistic because they know they are losing the PR game and the balance is tipping away from them. Although i have little faith in Obama's willingness or courage to put rhetoric into practice and that the devil is truly in the detail, it is now out in the open in a new way. and if he set out to frustrate any effort at the UN to recognise a palestininan state, that goal was immediately undermined by the 1967 stuff. Who could object to the UN recognising what the US president now says should be?! What would be really wonderful now would be if he won 2012 in the face of AIPAC hysteria."