Sarkozy is closer to Israel’s position than Obama

French President Nicolas Sarkozy with PM Netanyahu in Paris, 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy with PM Netanyahu in Paris, 2009

This is interesting, but probably will make no difference:

At a press conference in Madrid last week, [French] Foreign Minister Alain Juppe publicly declared that “there will be no solution to the conflict in the Middle East without recognition of two nation-states for two peoples. The nation-state of Israel for the Jewish people, and the nation-state of Palestine for the Palestinian people.” Then, lest anyone overlook the statement’s significance or think it a mere slip of the tongue, his ministry yesterday circulated copies of it.

This is truly groundbreaking. Until now, no EU country has been willing to state publicly that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement must recognize Israel as the Jews’ nation-state, though the EU routinely details the concessions it expects Israel to make…

So what made Sarkozy get off the fence and approve Juppe’s public declaration of support for a Jewish state? It’s not that he suddenly joined the Zionist movement; neither have most of the countries favoring such language. Rather, they have finally grasped that no agreement is possible without satisfying Israel’s minimum requirements. No Israeli government will ever sign a deal that mandates full withdrawal to the 1967 lines, lacks adequate security provisions or doesn’t acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. The major Israeli parties differ on precisely where the border should run and precisely what security arrangements are required, but they all agree on these basics.

Sarkozy, however, has now gone one step further: He’s realized since Israel won’t sign a deal without such provisions, Europe does need to start publicly  demanding these concessions of the Palestinians. Otherwise, they will keep deluding themselves the world will eventually force a complete Israeli capitulation.

Evelyn Gordon, Commentary

You will recall that President Obama also referred to “Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people” in his May 16 proposal. But he did not insist that the Palestinians agree to it before Israel withdraws to pre-1967 lines! This makes his statement no more than window-dressing.

Gordon notes that Sarkozy does intend that recognition must be part of any agreement — putting him closer to Israel’s position than Obama — but so far the rest of the Europeans have not gone along. She writes that

According to Israeli officials, EU foreign policy czar Catherine Ashton adamantly opposes any mention of Israel as a Jewish state, as do Spain, Portugal, Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Slovenia, Austria and Luxembourg. In contrast, such language is favored by Germany, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The Palestinians have explicitly rejected Sarkozy’s initiative, as I wrote on Thursday. They think that they have already made a great concession by agreeing that they will permit something called Israel to exist at all, at least until they can change it into an Arab-majority state by settling the descendents of Arab refugees there. And the Quartet did not accept Sarkozy’s formulation either, in deference to the Arabs.

There is a gulf between Israel and the Arabs that cannot be crossed by any creative compromise, because it’s simply the question of will there or won’t there be a Jewish state. This has always been true — recall President Clinton’s unsuccessful struggle to get Arafat to fulfill his Oslo commitment to remove parts of the PLO charter calling for the destruction of Israel — but now it is clearer than ever.

Expect, therefore, that the Palestinians will pursue a unilateral path to statehood. If this train isn’t derailed by unilateral Israeli action — for example, the annexation of part or all of the territories — it will ultimately get to the Security Council, and President Obama will have to decide to cast a veto or not. Either course will be difficult for him, and I don’t think a veto is a forgone conclusion.

There is another possibility, which is not to be discounted. That is that the next war — most think that a conflict between Israel and at least Hizballah and Hamas is inevitable — will be of such character as to significantly change the facts on the ground. The settlement of that war will then determine whether 1)  there will remain a weak, attenuated Israel with a Gaza-like terror state next door, or instead, 2) there will be a healthy Jewish state in control of its historical homeland, with Hizballah and Hamas finally broken, without the capability to threaten it.

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2 Responses to “Sarkozy is closer to Israel’s position than Obama”

  1. Robman says:

    Everybody around me, even who could be characterized as “right wingers”, is so sure that Obama is going to veto the Palestinian statehood gambit on the UNSC.

    They are sure of this because he said he would. As if Obama saying anything is worth the paper it is written on.

    I’m heartened to see that at least you Vic, are realistic enough to try to fathom the bottomless antipathy for Israel that seemingly oozes from Obama’s every pore.

    I’m not making any predictions right now that I’d put money on, but my gut tells me that between now and September 20, Obama is going to “manufacture” an excuse to abstain, as long as one condition is met. And that is this: He has to have the same conditions he had last February on that vote concerning the legality of Israeli communities east of the Green Line. That is to say, everybody has to vote for it, or at least abstain, except him.

    If even one SC member is a sure veto besides the U.S., then there is no point in Obama committing political suicide with an abstention or a supporting vote. Perhaps France is going to play that role.

    But here’s another scenario. And I think this is equally plausible.

    Maybe Obama even this doesn’t matter to Obama, as much as currying favor with the Islamic world and fortifying his domestic hard left liberal base here, who despise Israel. Under this calculus, it doesn’t matter whether anyone else vetoes or not. Obama will manufacture his excuse to abstain or support the Palestinians in the UN, just to rally his far left base here in preparation for the elections, and also, so as not to miss yet another opportunity to kiss Islamist booty. Or, if by then, he starts to realize that he isn’t going to get re-elected anyway, he’ll support the Palis just to thumb his nose at Israel.

    Nothing would surprise me from him. Nothing at all.

  2. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is one instance where I most disagree strongly with Robman. It would be political suicide for Obama to not veto a one- sided anti- Israel pro- Palestinian U.N. resolution. Given the state of the U.S. economy I do not think Obama will be playing the anti- Israel card very soon.
    As to the overall situation between Israel and Hizbollah, Hamas, Syria , Iran it seems to me that the element likely to induce a radical turn is the situation in Syria. I do not think Assad is capable of killing every Sunni in the country. He is daily making more enemies for himself and alienating more and more of the population. Israel has to be alert to all possibilities including a general war. But it would be far preferable if the Hizbollah- Syria- Iranian axis is dismantled by internal elements alone.