Tony Blankley

Distinguished scholar Barry Rubin's statement is most noteworthy: "President Barack Obama's speech on Middle East policy did more damage to U.S.-Israel relations than anything said by any previous president during the almost forty-year alliance between the two countries. Yet, ironically, the speech wasn't intended to be on Israel at all; Obama apparently thought he was being friendly toward Israel; and the point that created the biggest controversy (1967 borders) was something that the president didn't even say.

"The crisis, then, was caused by three factors: The ignorance of the Obama Administration over the issues involved; Obama's chronic lack of friendliness toward Israel; and his refusal to recognize the threat from revolutionary Islamism.

"His speech mainly focused on a totally uncritical evaluation of the current upheavals in the Arab world. The idea that Egypt is about to become a radical state, that the Egypt-Israel treaty is jeopardized, and that Israel is now facing the prospect of a renewed enemy to its southwest with twelve times its own population simply has not entered Obama's calculations."

Harsh criticism of a yet different perception came from The Washington Post -- a vehement endorser of Obama for President 2012. The Post editorial after the speech identified Obama's intention as "to persuade Mr. Abbas to give up his U.N. bid and return to negotiations with Israel. To do so, he endorsed one of the conditions Palestinians have tried to set for talks: that they be based on Israel's 1967 border lines, with swaps of land to accommodate large Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This is not a big change in U.S. policy. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, along with previous Israeli governments, have supported the approach.

"But Mr. Netanyahu has not yet signed on, and so Mr. Obama's decision to confront him with a formal U.S. embrace of the idea, with only a few hours' warning, ensured a blowup. Israeli bad feeling was exacerbated by Mr. Obama's failure to repeat past U.S. positions -- in particular, an explicit stance against the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.

"Mr. Obama should have learned from his past diplomatic failures -- including his attempt to force a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank -- that initiating a conflict with Israel will thwart rather than advance peace negotiations."

In the president's Sunday speech to AIPAC, the major media generally characterized it as shifting tone, more conciliatory, clarifying, more explicitly supportive of Israel, etc, than the president's main speech last week.

The questions that remain unanswered for many is whether the president understood the diplomatic and political impact of his words (in which case, his tonal backpedaling at the AIPAC speech was anticipated and all part of a shrewd master narrative) or whether the impact of his words was inadvertent and based on inexperience or poor judgment. Fascinatingly, both the president's friends and foes are on both sides of those questions.

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.

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