The press is expressing marvel/shock at a speech by Philip Gordon, a White House adviser, saying that Israel’s ongoing “occupations” and settlements are driving its international isolation and the boycott movement.
“Philip Gordon blasted Israel,” says PowerLine. “[H]is oration read as though Gordon is a recent arrival from Planet Zog who has mistaken the Middle East for Finland,” says David Horovitz. His paper captures the story:
“Top Obama official blasts Israel for denying Palestinians sovereignty, security, dignity.
“‘How can Israel have peace if it’s unwilling to delineate a border, end the occupation?’ asks White House Mideast chief, Phillip Gordon, in blistering Tel Aviv speech”
Talk about the changing narrative.
Gordon’s full speech is up at the White House site. Gordon is White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region, and he spoke at Haaretz’s international conference. Here are key excerpts, including the inability of the U.S. to defend Israel against international “pressure… building” because of Israel’s failure to define its borders and end the “occupations.” The plural is Gordon’s.
It is true that the last round of negotiations did not succeed and we find ourselves in an uneasy pause. We have not hidden our disappointment that the parties could not bridge the gaps that divide them. At the same time, we have no interest in a blame game. The unfortunate reality is that neither side prepared their publics or proved ready to make the difficult decisions required for an agreement. Trust has been eroded on both sides. Until it is restored, neither side will likely be ready to take risks for peace – even as they live with the dire consequences that result from its absence.
We understand that. But the United States did not invest so much effort into brokering peace talks because we believed it would be easy, or even that the gaps between the parties are narrow. It isn’t, and they’re not. The reason we have pursued this relentlessly – the reason Secretary Kerry devoted so much of his precious time and unparalleled energy to the pursuit of peace — is because of our firm belief that as hard as it is, peace is the only path to security for Israel and self-determination and dignity for the Palestinians. We have pursued it because all the alternatives, for Israel and the Palestinians, are worse. We have pursued it because time is on nobody’s side….
Peace will also mean finally having Israel be broadly and universally accepted among the community of nations, reversing the growing international frustration about this conflict and undercutting the risk of Israel’s isolation.
Israel confronts an undeniable reality: it cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. Doing so is not only wrong but a recipe for resentment and recurring instability. It will embolden extremists on both sides, tear at Israel’s democratic fabric, and feed mutual dehumanization.
As the President has said, neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a sovereign, free, and secure people in their own land. Or to quote one of your own leaders, Ariel Sharon: “It is impossible to have a Jewish democratic state, at the same time to control all of Eretz Israel. If we insist on fulfilling the dream in its entirety, we are liable to lose it all.”
Reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians would help turn the tide of international sentiment and sideline violent extremists, further bolstering Israel’s security. We know all too well the troubles that can arise for Israel internationally when there is no movement on the political track, especially when settlement activity continues to make the potential peace map more difficult and to undermine international support for Israel. On this, I should also be clear of the United States’ longstanding position: we consider settlements illegitimate and an impediment to progress on peace negotiations. Settlement announcements would be a counter-productive reaction to the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers.
Ehud Barak once warned of a ‘tsunami’ [of international sanctions] in New York, and as we speak here today, we’re seeing signs already that pressure may be building. Progress on peace holds international challenges at bay. But it also opens up new possibilities for Israeli participation across the international system, particularly with Israel’s Arab neighbors, who face common threats.
In contrast, if we fail to come back to peace talks, renewed efforts to isolate Israel internationally and legitimize Palestinian statehood unilaterally are all but certain. The United States will do all it can to fight boycotts and other delegitimization efforts. But in many of these realms, particularly outside the Security Council, our ability to contain the damage is limited, and becoming more and more challenging. This is what American friends of Israel mean when they express concerns about the potential for Israeli isolation if peace talks do not succeed. Let me be absolutely clear that these are not threats. The United States will always have Israel’s back. That’s why we fight for it every day at the United Nations, where we have worked diligently to ensure Israel is treated fairly and on par with all other states.
But as Israel’s greatest defender and closest friend we owe it to you to ask fundamental questions—which in fact many Israelis are asking themselves: how will Israel remain democratic and Jewish if it attempts to govern the millions of Palestinian Arabs who live in the West Bank? How will it have peace if it is unwilling to delineate a border, end the occupations and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security, and dignity? How will we prevent other states from isolating Israel or supporting Palestinian efforts in international bodies if Israel is not seen as committed to peace?
We also believe that the growing turbulence in the wider Middle East is not a reason to downgrade the priority of peace with the Palestinians, but quite the opposite. Not only would a viable peace agreement boost Israel’s standing internationally, it would provide the platform for Israel to be an integral and active part of a regional strategy and solution. It would boost trade and expand business and investment opportunities with Arab states…
Given where we find ourselves, it is understandable that some on both sides are looking at other options, some of which were presented at this conference today. But most of these are stop-gaps at best. At worst, they are a recipe for continued or increased conflict or isolation. A “one-state solution” is implausible, and would effectively mean an end to the Jewish and democratic nature of your state. Unilateral annexation of West Bank territories populated by Israelis is wrong, illegal, and a recipe for Israel’s isolation. The United States could never support it, and I doubt any of Israel’s other friends would. Other unilateral or interim measures may appear tempting alternatives, but they do not solve Israel’s and the Palestinians’ long-term problems. In fact, they could deepen them. The fact remains, only a negotiated solution – two states for two peoples – can give Israelis and Palestinians the futures they need and deserve.
Israel should not take for granted the opportunity to negotiate that peace with President Abbas, who has shown time and again that he is committed to nonviolence and coexistence with Israel.