Does President Barack Obama have the right to suggest certain steps that Israel could take to help pave the way for peace with the Palestinians? Absolutely.
Was it wise for Obama to spring them on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu some three hours before his major policy speech at the State Department on Thursday? Absolutely not.
Worse still, Obama's specific land-for-peace formulations effectively amounted to Israeli concessions before the Palestinians even agreed to come to the table. From the Israeli perspective, that's a red line that should never have been crossed.
But that's not the half of it. The president's recent pressure on Israel ignores several important regional developments that will have a negative impact on Israel's ability to engage the Palestinians, let alone negotiate peace.
For one -- and the president even made passing mention of it in his speech -- the Palestinians are pursuing a dangerous unilateral approach to statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in September. This plan, by the Palestinians' own admission, bypasses the United States as the arbiter of the peace process and ignores the Israelis altogether.
If the Palestinians get two-thirds of the vote -- and it is estimated that 130 to 140 countries have signed on, granting them the margin they need -- they will confront Israel with demands for territory, instead of negotiating.
Obama is well aware of this initiative. Yet he refuses to recognize that it would render any Israeli concessions (short of a full retreat) completely useless.
There is also the matter of the recent merger between Hamas and Fatah. On May 3, after years of bitter internecine conflict, the two Palestinian factions announced a political marriage. We are now waiting for the Palestinians to announce the make-up of their new technocratic government, but there can be no way around the fact that Hamas -- an unrepentant terrorist organization -- will have a leadership role.
For the Israelis, this is a non-starter. Through suicide bombings to rocket attacks, Hamas has been responsible for hundreds of Israeli deaths. By its own admission, it remains committed to Israel's destruction. So now that Hamas has joined hands with Fatah, there appears to be no legitimate interlocutor on the Palestinian side.
Again, Obama made passing mention of this in his speeches at both the State Department and AIPAC. Yet he insists that it is now Israel's turn to make a move.
Obama's speeches must also be viewed in their proper context. The president has spent the first three years of his term hammering Israel over settlements. In other words, he has been pressing them to relinquish their hold on West Bank territory so that the Palestinians can claim it for their national project.
And don't forget that Obama upgraded the Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington back in January of this year. This was a clear nod to the Palestinian statehood initiative that the president now says he opposes.
Under other circumstances, the president's speeches might appear to constitute undue pressure against Israel, but it's actually just more of the same.