The Great Communicator communicates not so greatly *UPDATED*

Obama is supposed to be hot stuff when it comes to communicating.  I’ve long had my doubts, but his reference in today’s speech to Israel’s 1967 borders should put to rest forever the media created canard that this is a guy who can get his points across.  You know why?  Because he committed the heinous crime of ambiguity.

You see, Israel’s borders changed roughly halfway through 1967.  There are two different 1967 borders.  Before the Six Day War, this is what Israel looked like.  As you can see, she had a north and a south, but practically no middle.  Syria was breathing down her neck on the north, Egypt on the south, and Jordon on the east.  After the war, this is what Israel looked like.  Israel had gained buffer zones on the north, south and east.  These are vastly different configurations, with hugely different security ramifications.

So what does Obama, our resident oratorical genius, say?  He says this:

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.  (Emphasis mine.)

What in the world does that mean?  Bibi Netanyahu is livid.  Given Obama’s long-standing and manifest hostility towards Israel, not to mention his constant pandering to the Palestinians, he (and others) reasonably believe Obama is referring to the borders as they existed before the Six Day War.  Others, equally reasonably, are saying that Obama is doing nothing more than making explicit long-standing U.S. policy, which has always hewed to the borders as they existed immediately after the Six Day War.  Both arguments are right, because the Great Communicator was criminally ambiguous.  (There’s also a very good argument that, by explicitly identify any borders whatsoever, something America quite carefully has never done before, Obama undercut completely Israeli room for maneuver.)

One of the things I’ve told my children, repeatedly, is that 80% of the lawsuits I’ve worked on over my 25 year career have arisen because of ambiguous writing or speaking.  When people enter into an agreement that contains a sentence or term that is reasonably open to more than one interpretation, you’ve got a nascent lawsuit.  Scarily, when the President of the United States, the man billed as the greatest communicator since Lincoln, says something carelessly (or intentionally, perhaps?) ambiguous, you’ve got a potentially nascent existential war in the making.

Great Communicator?  Pfui!

UPDATE:  I should add here that I happen to agree with those who believe Obama is referring to the pre-Six Day War borders.  It’s important to note, though, that Israel currently doesn’t have either of the 1967 borders.  She’s reasonably bigger than she was in May 1967 but, having given away a great deal of land for no peace, she is much smaller than she was in June 1967.

I mention this because, if Israel’s borders were identical to the June 1967 borders, it would be obvious that Obama, by specifically referencing the 1967 borders (with some “swaps”) would be trying to return to a May 1967 status quo.  Because Israel is neither a May or a June 1967, however, his reference to 1967 creates ambiguity.

UPDATE IIBrutally Honest has more on Netanyahu’s response to the undoubtedly correct interpretation he put on Obama’s ambiguous words.

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  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Gringo: They have become citizens in their new homelands. With the exception of Jordan, the Palestinians have not been permitted to become citizens of their new homelands in the Middle East.

    The exception is important, of course, because that’s where the majority of Palestinian refugees have lived. The Jordanian Citizenship Laws of 1928 (residents) and 1954 (refugees) granted citizenship to Palestinians living in the West Bank. Only in 1988 were they then redesignated as citizens of Palestine, when Jordan ceded control of the West Bank to the nascent Palestinian state.

    Since then, the Arab League has recommended not granting citizenship to Palestinians, “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.” This is an unwise decision, one which should be left to the individual. However, when Palestinians in East Jerusalem were offered Israeli citizenship, the majority refused. 

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Zachriel: There are still people who have the keys to their houses they were forced from in 1948.

    Ymarsakar: Those individuals matter not in the least.

    Perhaps not to you. 

  • abc

    Y writes:

    “Credentials like “graduated Harvard” or “been in the military X years” is pretty much meaningless. They aren’t true and they aren’t false. They don’t mean much on the net. On the net, there’s no real way to verify these claims without conducting data mining or RL checks. So what is of worth on the cyber streets is street cred, not fancy documentation acclaiming the holder to be the next coming of Napoleon (a military genius). So street cred. What have you done, personally. What have you taught yourself matters more than what you say others taught you.”

    What have you taught yourself?  How do we know it is true and matters?  Are you saying facts don’t matter on the web, but only your undefined “street cred”?  If you cannot verify a degree or military service, how do you verify “what you have done, personally” on the web??

  • abc

    Mike writes:

    “I’m commenting too much again, sorry, but I just wanted to let Zach know: I haven’t seen *you* engaging in a hundred thousand ad hominem assaults and an endless string of insults and verbal putdowns of the rest of everyone here.  
    (Occasionally, yes, but we’re all human.  I’m guilty of worse.  Humans aren’t angels.  Mistakes get made.)
    Just thought I’d let you know I recognize your reasonably solid record of admirable equanimity.  To me at least, you’re not linked in spiritual brotherhood to another commenter here, who it now appears would love nothing more than to be considered your blood-brother in armed combat.”

    Nice of you to compliment Z.  He deserves it.  Like me, he is attacked with ad hominems all the time, but unlike me, he doesn’t respond in kind.  He is indeed better than me…unlike you or many others here.  Now, do you think you can try to marshall facts rather than ad hominems in reponse to Z, myself, and anyone else who disagrees with you?  I will try to do the same, although I cannot guarantee I won’t be sent into tit-for-tat if provoked in an uncivil way.  I just think rules of civility should apply on both sides, not just to the folks to the left of you…

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    They don’t matter to you either, Z. Are you trying to claim otherwise? That high horse you rode up on got shot out from under ya. Stop beating it.

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    ZachrielThere are still people who have the keys to their houses they were forced from in 1948.


    YmarsakarThose individuals matter not in the least.

    ZachrielPerhaps not to you.

    Ymarsakar: They don’t matter to you either, Z. Are you trying to claim otherwise? 

    Of course, they matter. They matter to us just as much as any other person. 

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    How do we know it is true and matters?

    It’s called epistemology. Did you miss that class when learning how to write your thesis?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    They matter like Obamacare victims and the victims of Obama’s forced wealth redistribution matters to Z… in that case, that’s the same as Z not caring about the Palestinian plight to begin with.