President Obama said one thing in his May 19 State Department address, which was aimed at the Palestinians and their European supporters, and then said something different on May 22 to AIPAC.
So when the administration speaks about “the President’s speech” as a basis for new negotiations, which speech does it mean?
Yesterday a “Senior Administration Official” gave a confusing answer on background. Later that day, the Spokesperson of the State Department was asked to clarify, and gave an equally confusing answer (I am using the word “confusing” in an attempt to be diplomatic). See if you can figure out what the administration position is.
When Obama spoke to AIPAC in 2008, his let-me-be-clear pledge of an undivided Jerusalem lasted 24 hours, and then produced four increasingly confused explanations.
Last year, the administration made oral promises to Israel in an attempt to obtain a 60 or 90 day extension of Israel’s construction moratorium; when Israel asked that the promises be put in writing, some of them disappeared -- and the rest turned out to be different from what Israel originally was told.
Obama began his administration by reneging on the six-year old informal understanding about what a settlement construction freeze meant (previously it meant no establishment of new settlements or expansion of the borders of existing ones; Obama changed it to mean every new apartment anywhere over the Green Line, including in the eastern portion of Jerusalem). His secretary of state responded to Israeli objections by saying the old understanding was “unenforceable.”
The administration has continually refused to say whether it considers itself bound by the explicit U.S. commitments set forth in the 2004 Bush Letter, which represented not simply a policy, but a deal –- and one in which Israel carried out its side of the bargain.
Is it any wonder that neither Israel nor the Palestinians have any confidence in the promises of this administration, or the words of its “words matter” president?
The administration cannot say how the May 22 speech relates to the May 19 one -- perhaps because its spokespersons don’t know, or perhaps because the administration is telling one story to one group and another to another.