Fareed Zakaria, a frequent opinion writer for the Washington Post, argues that it is Prime Minister Netanyahu and not so much President Obama, who has dramatically shifted his foreign policy strategy.
Conventional wisdom is fast congealing in Washington that President Obama was wrong to demarcate a shift in American policy toward Israel last week. In fact, it was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who broke with the past — in one of a series of diversions and obstacles Netanyahu has come up with anytime he is pressed. He wins in the short run, but ultimately, he is turning himself into a version of Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, “Mr. Nyet,” a man who will be bypassed by history.
Here is what Netanyahu's immediate predecessor, Ehud Olmert, said in a widely reported speech to the Israeli Knesset in 2008: “We must give up Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and return to the core of the territory that is the State of Israel prior to 1967, with minor corrections dictated by the reality created since then.” Olmert, a man with a reputation as a hard-liner, said that meant Israel would keep about 6 percent of the West Bank — the major settlements — and give up land elsewhere. This was also the position of Ehud Barak, Israel's prime minister during the late 1990s.
The Bush administration did not have a different position, as statements from the president and Condoleezza Rice make clear. Here is George W. Bush in 2008: “I believe that any peace agreement between them will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous.” (The 1949 armistice lines is another way of saying the 1967 borders.)
Or consider this statement from last November: “[T]he United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.” That's not Obama, Bush or Rice, but a statement jointly issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Netanyahu on Nov. 11, 2010.