Lieberman Responds to Obama on Middle East
12:03 PM, May 20, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman has issued the following statement in response to President Obama's Middle East address yesterday:
“President Obama delivered an eloquent and important speech yesterday that rightly aligned the United States with the winds of democratic change that are blowing across the Middle East. In his unequivocal support for the right of people everywhere to choose their leaders for themselves, President Obama evoked the best bipartisan, values-based foreign policy tradition that unites great Democratic presidents like Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton, with Republican counterparts like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. I also strongly support the economic measures the President announced to support the democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, including the establishment of enterprise funds and the extension of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to the Middle East and North Africa.
“I am also grateful that the President at last spoke out about the campaign of murder and repression by Bashar al Assad in Syria. This was the first time the President personally addressed the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria since the uprising there began nearly two months ago. I hope the President in the days ahead continues to speak out about Syria and makes clear that it is time for Assad to go. I regret that he did not seize the opportunity to do so yesterday.
“Unfortunately, President Obama's important and constructive speech embracing and supporting the peaceful, democratic revolutions in the Arab world was also undermined by an unhelpful and surprising set of remarks about Israel and the Palestinians that will not advance the peace process and in fact is likely to set it back.
“While the President made some strong statements about the "unshakeable" support for Israel's security and rightly criticized the Palestinian pursuit of a symbolic statehood declaration at the UN in September, his unilateral call for negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps -- the first time any president has adopted this position -- was profoundly ill-advised. As in the case of the President's counterproductive demand for a settlement freeze two years ago, unilateral statements of this sort do nothing to bring the two parties back to the negotiating table and in fact make it harder for them to do so. They also damage the relationship of trust that is critical to peacemaking.
“In particular, the President's remarks have revived and exacerbated fears in Israel about the commitment and understanding of this Administration with regard to their unique security situation. The fact is, while the exciting and hopeful new reality in the Arab world is the Arab spring, the newest reality in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not hopeful. It is the threatening new unity government between the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a group which the U.S. government has long designated as terrorist because it is committed to violence and the destruction of Israel.
“In the days ahead, I hope President Obama will make clear Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a Fatah-Hamas unity government until Hamas accepts the Quartet conditions. I also hope that the President will make clear that his Administration recognizes the 1967 borders themselves are no longer an acceptable endpoint for negotiations because they do not allow Israel to defend itself, and that any peace agreement must reflect new realities on the ground, including the major new Israeli communities that have grown up since 1967, and the need for an extended presence by the IDF in the Jordan River Valley.
“In the past few months, the forces of freedom and self-determination have begun to move inexorably through the region. It is in that movement where we can find the greatest hope for peace between neighbors in the region, including Israelis and Palestinians.”
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