From Israel, Dold Hears Obama's Mideast Speech
Illinois delegation gets Israeli reaction to proposed U.S. policy shift.
When U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) arrived in Israel on May 15, he planned to learn more about a close American ally and help do something to create jobs in the 10th Congressional District.
Little did the congressman know that at the moment he and a pair of constituents on the trip were talking to Patch from Israel, President Barack Obama was making a speech that would strain relations between the two countries.
A two-state solution
At the end of a major foreign policy address at the State Department, the president called for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, based on Israel’s 1967 boundaries with negotiated land swaps between the parties.
Obama's proposal, which was immediately rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was made while Dold was in Jerusalem with Keith Shapiro of Highland Park, Marc Sacks of Deerfield and others as part of a Jewish United Fund (JUF) mission.
“We spent four solid days meeting with top military and government officials past and present. It was clear they did not expect the president of the United States to discuss the 1967 borders,” Shapiro said.
“They thought he would focus on the Arab Spring,” he said, referring to the pro-democracy demonstrations in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Among others, the delegation met with Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe "Boogie" Ayalon, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenzai and Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev.
The day before Obama's policy speech, Dold had a conversation with Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, about the significance of Israel’s borders before it reunified the Old City of Jerusalem and captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.
“On Wednesday, I stood in Jerusalem's Old City with Dore Gold talking about the significance of the 1967 lines,” Dold said. “Plain and simple, where we stood, not more than 200 yards from the Western Wall, would be in Palestinian territory under a plan that pulls Israel back to the pre-1967 lines.”
Between 1948 and 1967, Jordan would not permit Jews to worship at the Western Wall. Dold thinks the Wall, like all Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy sites of Jerusalem, must be available to anyone who wants to visit them.
“Today people of all religions can safely and securely visit these sites, and only a free and Democratic Israel will continue to protect Jerusalem for all faiths,” the congressman said.
After the president’s speech, Dold criticized Obama’s attempt to dictate peace terms to Israel. He thinks Israel and the Palestinians must resolve issues about the borders themselves.
“I am disappointed in the president’s decision to dictate terms to our ally in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” the Republican lawmaker said. "The United States must respect Israel’s need for long-term security. Israel is our one true ally in the Middle East, and [the U.S.] must do all we can to support her.”
On Sunday, Obama addressed more than 10,000 people at the annual Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). To some it appeared he was tempering his remarks from Thursday.
“When I listened to Ari Fleischer speak [at the AIPAC policy conference], he said he felt the president was stepping back [from comments about the 1967 borders],” said Shapiro, who is attending the gathering in Washington.
A tour of Israel
Before the Thursday speech, Dold, Shapiro, Sacks and the others spent a busy four days getting a firsthand look at Israel’s economic development efforts, social service programs and counterterrorism training facilities.
The group saw an Israeli military base near the Egyptian border. The base had a small city that replicated a Hamas enclave. The mockup is used to train soldiers to minimize civilian casualties and damage to public property when rooting out terrorist activities.
While they were there, the group saw U.S. troops training at the base to develop techniques useful to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dold explained that this is a demonstration of the close strategic alliance between the U.S. and Israel.
“The strategic relationship that the United States and Israel share is very much a two-way street, which is oftentimes overlooked,” Dold said. “Many think it’s just the United States providing aid to Israel when in actuality the Israelis are providing intelligence and sharing best practices.”
Sacks made a point of talking to the American troops training at the base to find out what they were doing in Israel. He was told they were there to learn from the Israelis better ways to protect civilians while fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From there, the group spent time in northern Israel viewing not only economic development but American investment in Israel. They saw facilities of companies within the 10th District such as Abbot Laboratories and Kraft Foods.
The Illinois delegation had dinner with Israeli business owners who explained how their efforts could help the economy in the Chicago area. Dold was enthused with the business spirit he saw.
“There is a different type of appeal here in Israel where risk is rewarded and there is not a fear of failure so you find people who are willing to go out and do really unbelievable things,” he said.
“We need to take these ideas that are created here in Israel to bring jobs back to the United States by setting up opportunities to do their marketing and do their distribution,” the lawmaker added.