If there’s one way of registering that President Obama could be saying something of significance while he’s addressing AIPAC, it’s during those passages when he gets no applause.
This morning he got plenty of applause when he assured the pro-Israel lobby that a negotiated border between Israel and a Palestinian state will not end up being the 1967 border.
But when he outlined the degree to which the regional and wider international environment has changed and implicitly acknowledged that Israel and the US are out of step with these changes, the audience was silent.
[A] new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders. Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.
And just as the context has changed in the Middle East, so too has it been changing in the international community over the last several years. There’s a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one, not just in the Arab World — in Latin America, in Asia, and in Europe. And that impatience is growing, and it’s already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.
Before Obama arrived at the Washington DC convention center where AIPAC is assembled, AIPAC supporters gathered outside were heard yelling through a bullhorn: “Kill Obama.” I’ve seen no reports of anyone getting arrested for trying to incite the assassination of the president.
Ron Kampeas summed up the mood in this way: “When Obama is in the room, AIPAC is supportive. When he is out of the room, skeptical.”
Earlier, Reuters reported:
Some prominent Jewish Americans are rethinking their support for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid after he effectively called on Israel to give back territory it has occupied since 1967 to Palestinians.
The backlash after Obama’s keynote speech on the Middle East has Democratic Party operatives scrambling to mollify the Jewish community as the president prepares to seek a second term in the White House.
Obama on Thursday called for any new Palestinian state to respect the borders as they were in 1967, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tell him bluntly that his vision of how to achieve Middle East peace was unrealistic.
“He has in effect sought to reduce Israel’s negotiation power and I condemn him for that,” former New York Mayor Ed Koch told Reuters.
Koch said he might not campaign or vote for Obama if Republicans nominate a pro-Israel candidate who offers an alternative to recent austere budgetary measures backed by Republicans in Congress.
Koch donated $2,300 to Obama’s campaign in 2008, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
“I believed that then-Senator Obama would be as good as John McCain based on his statements at the time and based on his support of Israel. It turns out I was wrong,” he said.
Despite the stormy reaction to Obama’s remarks, some commentators noted talk of the 1967 borders was nothing new.
“This has been the basic idea for at least 12 years. This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba,” Jeffrey Goldberg wrote on The Atlantic website.
“This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. So what’s the huge deal here?”
Exit polls from the 2008 election showed 78 percent of Jewish voters chose Obama over his Republican rival Senator McCain.
“I have spoken to a lot of people in the last couple of days — former supporters — who are very upset and feel alienated,” billionaire real estate developer and publisher Mortimer Zuckerman said.
“He’ll get less political support, fewer activists for his campaign, and I am sure that will extend to financial support as well.”