Editor's note: This column was coauthored by Bob Morrison.
Henry Kissinger made Mideast “shuttle diplomacy” famous in the 1970s. The peripatetic Sec. of State then jetted back and forth between Israel and Egypt and fashioned an uneasy cease-fire in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
President Obama has added a new twist to shuttle diplomacy. It seems whenever Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the air en route to Washington, the Commander-in-Chief chooses that time to apply the screws to Israel’s democratic government.
Three years ago, Mr. Obama made a major pronouncement: Israel should return to the pre-1967 borders as a basis for negotiating with the Arabs. He delivered these prepared remarks while Netanyahu was still in the air. Once Netanyahu came down to earth, he politely but firmly took the President to school on Mid Eastern affairs. Sitting in the Oval Office, and before live TV cameras, the Prime Minister noted that Israel could never return to those indefensible borders and remain a viable country.
Netanyahu was too diplomatic to use the phrase made famous by the late Abba Eban. The lines that existed prior to the Six Day War in 1967 were “Auschwitz borders.” But he made his point.
The White House quickly backpedaled. The President meant, of course, those pre-1967 borders “with appropriate territorial swaps” with the Arabs of Palestine. It would all be agreed upon. No pressure, Israel. Don’t feel pushed.
This time, President Obama sat for an interview with Bloomberg View correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg while Netanyahu was jetting westward. Previewing their forthcoming talks in the White House, the President said he would warn the Prime Minister that “time is running out.” He saw fit to quote the Jewish sage, Hillel: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, who?”
The time is running out for Israel to give over to the PLO major portions of the West Bank of the Jordan River, an area known for millennia as Judea and Samaria. The President will not suggest surrendering Judea and Samaria to the PLO, of course.
Too many Americans remember that the Palestinian Liberation Organization led for decades on the U.S. State Department’s list of international terrorist organizations. The late Yassir Arafat, the PLO Chairman, was the inventor of airline hijacking for terror purposes. Britain’s leftwing Guardian has noted that Arafat’s loyal lieutenant, Abu Daoud, organized the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.