Tony Blankley

The president's speech last week, which was described by the White House in advance as a speech intended to reach out to the Muslim world, will probably go down as one of the least well-understood major presidential speeches in modern memory. Confusion concerning the president's words and intent cut across the lines of Jews, Christians and Muslims, Democrats and Republicans, neocons and paleocons, friends and foes of Israel, and friends and foes of the president.

For many serious commentators, the confusion lies on what the president meant by his statement that "We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." Was this a shift of policy, no shift or a critical increase in U.S. presidential pressure on Israel in future peace negotiations?

A few days before the speech, the president's press secretary said reference to the 1967 borders would not be in the speech. A day before the speech, the Israeli prime minster was privately informed by the administration that it would be in the speech. He privately informed Secretary of State Clinton -- before the presidential speech -- of his profound opposition to that statement -- and publicly condemned it after the speech and as he was getting on his plane to fly to Washington. The remarks stayed in the speech, but were placed just a few paragraphs from the end of a speech that was mostly about the "Arab Spring" and President Obama's current view of it.

At the White House photo op after the two-hour meeting between the prime minister and the president, Netanyahu severely chastised the President for his reference to 1967 borders. Many supporters of Israel both in the U.S. and abroad (including the Canadian government) echoed Netanyahu's grave concern about the 1967 borders statement. Even George Mitchell, the president's Mideast peace envoy (and not considered pro-Israel) said that the 1967 border emphasis by the president was wrong.

However, seeing -- or claiming to see -- vindication of their efforts, former foreign policy aides to President Bush (and conservative commentators who supported Bush's "freedom initiative" in the Middle East) rushed out to congratulate Obama for switching from his "realist" policy of befriending Muslim dictatorial regimes such as Iran's to what they claimed was Obama's endorsement of the Bush Middle East policy.

Yet other supporters of Israel were indifferent to the 1967 borders statement but gravely concerned about the central part of the speech concerning Muslim "outreach."

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

©Creators Syndicate