The prime minister of Israel delivered a speech announcing positions on the peace process and Palestinian statehood that contradicted the views of the U.S. president and the international community.
The prime minister rejected full Palestinian statehood, instead saying that "we would like this to be an entity which is less than a state." He rejected withdrawing to the 1967 lines, declaring that "the borders of the State of Israel...will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines."
The prime minister said more. He rejected any division of Jerusalem or creation of a Palestinian capital there. He called for a "united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev—as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty." He also demanded that other major communities over the 1967 lines, some quite far over the 1967 lines, be retained as part of Israel, including Gush Etzion, Efrat, and Beitar.
He even rejected an eventual Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank, insisting on retaining a presence in the Jordan Valley, which forms the border between the West Bank and Jordan. "The security border of the State of Israel," he declared, "will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term."
What was the reaction of the president of the United States? Did he, as President Obama has this week, respond with threats of diplomatic attack and expressions of outrage and contempt for the prime minister and his country?
Were words like "fury," "fuming," "enraged," "loathsome," and "racism" hurled against the prime minister by senior administration officials?
Was the Jewish state threatened with abandonment at the United Nations? Were accusations leveled that the prime minister was eroding democracy in Israel, race-baiting, and imperiling Israel's Jewish future? Did the president accuse the prime minister of risking "a chaotic situation in the region"?
None of these things happened. The year was 1995, the prime minister was Yitzhak Rabin (of the Labor party), the president was Bill Clinton, and the speech was to Israel's Knesset—and it was delivered in the midst of peace negotiations with the United States. Rabin was assassinated several weeks later. You can read the speech—his last formal speech—here. It is fair to say that Rabin's declarations went significantly further, and were far more detailed, in contesting Palestinian statehood than anything Benjamin Netanyahu said last week in the heat of his campaign.
Yet Barack Obama has only praised Rabin, as do many liberals who mistakenly believe that he was about to make the kind of concessions they insist are a moral and political necessity for Israel today. In 2009 Obama hailed him as having "demonstrated that a commitment to communication, cooperation, and genuine reconciliation can help change the course of history." In 2013, during his visit to Israel, Obama hailed him as "a great man." A great man who would have rejected virtually every demand that Obama makes of Netanyahu today.
Thus the crisis we are witnessing is nothing more than the contrivance of a president who has a very personal and very intense animosity toward the Jewish state and the leader Israelis have elected four times as their prime minister. There is a sliver of strategic logic to Obama's assault: He prefers Netanyahu in a defensive crouch as he attempts to conclude negotiations that will legitimize the Iranian nuclear program. But the obsessiveness of the attacks and the obvious satisfaction the president and his advisors take in making them suggest there is little strategic thinking at work. They attack Israel constantly because they enjoy attacking Israel.
Democratic presidents didn't use to handle disagreements with Israeli prime ministers like this. Bill and Hillary Clinton are free, should they so desire, to remind Americans how they handled the expression by Yitzhak Rabin of very similar ideas to those Benjamin Netanyahu articulated last week. Or perhaps, just as the Democratic party has changed its approach to Israel during the Obama years, the Clintons have as well.