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Mark Steyn On Barack Obama’s Israel Problem

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HH: I begin on this Thursday as I do when we are lucky with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read everything Mark writes at Mark, a remarkable speech by the President today, your assessment?

MS: Well, at a certain level, it was filled with the usual narcissism. He said that America had failed to speak to the broader aspirations of people in the Middle East, and that’s why two years ago in Cairo, “I began to broaden our engagement.” I was interested to see the result of that. In 2008, which you’ll recall was the last year of the Bush, Texas cowboy terror, 83% of Arabs had a very or somewhat negative view of the United States. By 2010, which was the second year of the Obama broaden engagement approach, 85% had a very or somewhat negative view. So much for the outreach. The fact is that this narcissistic buffoon gave this speech that placed himself front and center of developments in the Middle East. And in fact, the United States, for the first time in 70 years, is utterly irrelevant to what’s going on in the Middle East.

HH: Now Mark, over at, I am running a promotion for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. And the slogan is “Experience Israel – You’ll Never Be The Same”, and I think it ought to be changed to experience Israel before President Obama gives it away. Let me play for you the most controversial of his many controversial statements today. Cut number one:

BHO: The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. 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. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential in a sovereign and contiguous state.

HH: Mark Steyn, today in Israel, the criticism is extraordinary of the President, because the 1967 borders include, of course, the Golan Heights.

MS: Right, right. I mean, this is what is ridiculous. At its narrowest point, the state of Israel is barely wider than my township in New Hampshire. And I think that’s a good way of looking at it for a lot of your listeners. You imagine living in a tiny, little sliver of land, barely wider than an American township, and you’re surrounded by people who want to kill you. In Syria, in the Palestinian Authority, and increasingly, in the new so-called Facebook revolution Egypt, where the government that is likely to come to power will almost certainly be far more hostile to the very idea of Israel’s existence than the Mubarak regime was.

HH: In this Experience Israel promotion over at, they give you the DVD. It also says the ultimate time travel. And I was struck by that today. Why does he want to go back to ’67? What ideological tick is making him travel back in time to prior to many wars ago?

MS: Yeah, because I think this is the war. If you have the Western faculty lounge attitude, which is the sewer that Obama has been marinated in, in his entire adult life, then 1967 matters far more than 1973 or 1948, or 1922, because 1967 is, as the faculty lounge left see it, the moment when the Israeli occupation began. Why, by the way, did it begin? It began because Israel’s neighbors launched another disastrous war on them. The enemy, Israel’s enemies are incompetent at fighting conventional war. And they discovered that actually instead of sending your troops into battle and keep losing their wars, why not instead play Western public opinion like a fiddle, and eventually the pressure, you start with the low hanging fruit, your average European foreign minister. But eventually if you keep the pressure up, you’ll land an American president who basically is not prepared to stand by the state of Israel. And that’s what they’ve got right now.

HH: They do. Here’s cut number four. There’s the word permanent occupation you just used, features in this. Cut number four:

BHO: The fact is a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism, in which millions of people, not just one or two leaders, must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, that is an incoherent sentence arrangement. Five sentences, five different subjects…

MS: Yeah.

HH: None of them unambiguous, all of them pregnant, and ending with the declaration that what we have now is permanent occupation.

MS: Yeah, and all basically putting pressure on Israel.

MS: Yeah.

MS: And by the way, this is, I think, the pansy left’s view of the world, that if you take, if you have two parties to a negotiation, one party wants to kill the other party. That’s why there’s no, that’s was why there was no peace in 1948, no peace under the British mandate in the 1930s, no peace at the time of the 1922 partition, because one party to the dispute wants to kill the other. So if they are wedded to that, then you’ve got to put pressure on the party that doesn’t want to kill each other to make concessions, to keep throwing in enough concessions in the face of the beast that wants to devour it. And that’s…I think that’s…if you look at where he’s applying the pressure, I think that tells you a lot about the fundamental fraudulence of these negotiations. By the way, Hugh, would you negotiate with someone who wanted, would you trade land for you so-called right to exist? I mean, that’s what, even at their best, these people are offering. They’re dangling well, if you keep giving us enough stuff, we might recognize your “right to exist.” Well, screw that. I wouldn’t negotiate with someone who wants to negotiate over my right to exist, and their willingness to recognize it. And nor would you, and nor would anybody else.

HH: And this is where the moral equivalence of the speech jumps out. Cut number five, listen to this:

BHO: The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

HH: And Mark Steyn, and we must have unicorns.

MS: Yeah, and basically, actually, by the way, the Palestinians have been running their own affairs now for almost 20 years, since Oslo. Almost 20 years ago, they were given a statelet to run. Yasser Arafat and his kleptocrats were given a statelet to run. They didn’t get everything they wanted, nor did the Irish in 1922, for example. But the Irish understood that if they demonstrated that they were capable of running a state, then the little bits they didn’t get would fall into their lap in the fullness of time, as they did. And what hasn’t happened here is that the Palestinians have not only failed to demonstrate any competence of running a state, they’ve failed to demonstrate any interest in it. You’ve now got the rump, Arafat kleptocrats in one half of so-called Palestine, and an Iranian client Islamist squat in the western half of Palestine, neither of whom are capable of running any kind of state. I mean, this is deluded talk.

HH: Now I’ve got to ask, given the ferociously negative reaction in Israel, and it’s maybe not as outspoken on the left, but it’s certainly in the center and on the right in the Likud in the parliament, the Knesset. Do you think that American Jews who are overwhelmingly Democratic are going to begin to wake up to the peril of supporting this president?

MS: No, actually. I would say the history of modern Western, liberal Jews is that they vote against their own, not only Israel’s best interests, but their own best interests. So you see that with the increasing number of self-loathing Jews in Britain, for example, who write to the Guardian on Israel’s birthday every year saying how they now regard the foundation of the state of Israel as a grotesque error. You see it north of the border in liberal, Canadian, Jewish organizations who obsess about irrelevant, obsolescent phantoms like the last three Nazis living in their mum’s basement on the plains of Saskatchewan rather than deal with the new realities. And you see it in the United States where liberal Jews prioritize their liberalism over any kind of meaningful Jewish identity, and they will vote for Obama and the Democrats next year as they do without fail every couple of years.

HH: Oh, Mark Steyn, I hope you’re not right, but I suspect you are. Thank you, my friend. www.steynonline, America.

End of interview.


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