Sheffey: Michael Oren's Misleading Op-Ed

Michael Oren wrote a dangerously misleading op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal. Oren was a well-respected historian before entering politics, but his op-ed, presumably written to help promote his upcoming book, is filled with inaccuracies. Today's JTA summary of his op-ed clarifies some points, but consider this as well:

There has always been daylight between the U.S. and Israel. Oren writes that President Obama abandoned the principle of "no daylight" between Israel and the U.S., saying that "The U.S. and Israel always disagree but never openly."

Has Oren forgotten that Eisenhower forced Israel to withdraw from the Sinai in 1956? Or that Nixon postponed the sale of military aircraft to Israel? Or that Ford stopped all major arms transactions with Israel while calling for a "total reassessment" of the U.S.-Israel relationship? Or that Reagan condemned Israel at the U.N., suspended military aid to Israel, and sold arms to Saudi Arabia over AIPAC's strong objections? Or that Bush 41 opposed loan guarantees to Israel and publicly declared that he was just "one lonely little guy" up against "a thousand lobbyists on the Hill"?  Or that George W. Bush rescinded loan guarantees to Israelsuspended cooperation on a fighter jet, and violated an agreement to maintain Israel's qualitative edge? 

The difference between President Obama and previous Republican presidents is that President Obama never used disagreements with Israel as an excuse to cut or even threaten to cut aid, military and intelligence cooperation, or loan guarantees.

The U.S. has consistently opposed settlement activity, including building in Jerusalem. Oren faults President Obama for including major settlement blocs and Jewish Jerusalem as areas where a settlement freeze should apply, supposedly in violation of a letter agreement between George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon. 

Has Oren forgotten that the Bush administration publicly declared in 2008 that "the United States doesn't make a distinction" between settlement activity in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and that Israel's road map obligations, which include a building freeze, relate to "settlement activity generally'?

The U.S. has consistently based peace negotiations on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps. Amazingly, Oren claims that "the president altered 40 years of U.S. policy by endorsing the 1967 lines with land swaps" as the basis for peace making. Mitchell Bard, the author of the indispensable Myths & Facts, wrote that Obama actually "restated Israel's longstanding policy on [U.N. Resolution] 242."

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wrote that "the whole world...and all U.S. administrations of the last generation--with no exceptions--unequivocally support the resolution of our conflict with the Palestinians on the basis of the 1967 borders with territorial swaps."

Dov Weinglass, former chief of staff to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that "anyone here deluding himself...that the drawing of the new map will be based on any reference point other than the 1967 boundaries is simply disconnected from reality."

Finally, no less an authority than George W. Bush said "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."

Bush did not utter the magic words "1967 lines," but the 1949 armistice lines are the 1967 lines. Bush did not utter the magic words "land swaps," but that's what "mutually agreed adjustments are." The only real difference is that Bush's political opponents did not jump down his throat for stating the obvious.

No Republican president has a better record on Israel than President Obama. From record amounts of aid, to Iron Dome, to a perfect pro-Israel record at the U.N., to unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, to building the international coalition that enabled sanctions that forced Iran to the negotiating table, President Obama's record on Israel speaks for itself.

Let's judge any deal with Iran on the merits. Let's judge President Obama on the record. We're more likely to make the right policy decisions if we do.

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