Shorter Obama: Israel must negotiate with Hamas even though they can't be expected to 

President Obama in a Sunday speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee tried to clear up what he said was a “controversy” stemming from his recent speech on the Middle East, but the result was an address that was shrouded in contradictions, especially on the issue of negotiating with the terrorist group Hamas.

 Obama was received by standing ovations, though not overwhelming ones. The pro-Israel crowd was mostly quiet when he mention

ed the 1967 borders, and there were even some scattered boos.

 “If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance,” Obama said. On the issue of the 1967 borders, he reassured the audience that, “By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples.”

However, the most alarming aspect of the speech was when Obama managed to completely contradict himself within just two paragraphs. In one, he said that Israel couldn't be expected to negotiate with a government that includes Hamas, while in the very next paragraph he said not negotiating wasn't an option.

Here are the relevant paragraphs (emphasis mine):

Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties.  And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace.  No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction.  We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements.  And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.

And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under the current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable. That is why, on Thursday, I stated publicly the principles that the United States believes can provide a foundation for negotiations toward an agreement to end the conflict and all claims – the broad outlines of which have been known for many years, and have been the template for discussions between the United States, Israelis, and Palestinians since at least the Clinton Administration.

Going into the speech, I wrote that Obama could go a long way in fixing the diplomatic dust up with Israel by vowing to cut off aid to any government that includes Hamas. But not only did he not do that, Obama now seems to be suggesting that Israel must negotiate with the terrorist group dedicated to its destruction.

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Philip Klein

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