I have delayed responding to Obama’s speech last week, which called for Israel to revert back to its pre-1967 borders as a precondition for talks. Being the Rational Republican, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the situation rather than fall prey to my deeply viceral initial reaction.
The first step of attempting to view this issue objectively, is to acknowledge personal bias. To be clear, any sympathy I may have had for the Palestinian plight vanished after seeing the Palestinian people dance in the streets after 9/11.
If you do not trust Fox News, I also posted similar CNN footage below.
In future posts, I am going to examine various dimensions of this issue with an eye on objectivity.
Anything less would be irrational.
“which called for Israel to revert back to its pre-1967 borders as a precondition for talks.”
That’s not what happened.
From Obama’s initial speech: “So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. 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. 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 potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself — by itself — against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. 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. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated. These principles provide a foundation for negotiations.”
As he clarified on Saturday at AIPAC: “And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means. By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. (Applause.) That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. (Applause.)”
Principles for negotiation of land swaps is not the same thing as precondition for talks.
Respectfully, I submit that whether or not we feel sympathetic toward one or another group as a result of our emotional reaction to demonstrations of a few dozen people in the street really ought not be a relevant factor as we consider US policy in the region.
As Gen. Petraeus and, well, more or less everyone else have made clear, the Likud party policy of “occupation today, occupation tomorrow, occupation forever” harms our interests in the region. (It’s very difficult to see how it’s in the interests of Israel or the Palestinians, either). We should push for policy that is in our interests.
While based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon swaps is not exactly the same as the precise boundaries of pre-1967, it still establishes the pre-1967 borders as the basis for negotiation. It’s all about semantics.
Additionally, I posted the videos of Palestians dancing in the streets as a sincere attempt to show why I have a bias against the Palestian side, not to use it as an argument to support the Israelis.
You can tune in tomorrow for that. 😉
I disagree. “[R]evert back to its pre-1967 borders as a precondition” for negotiations is a factually inaccurate characterization of US policy. US policy is, and always has been, that negotiations should take the 1967 borders as the point of departure. That’s not the same thing as giving up all the settlements as a precondition for negotiating at all.
This has, of course, been Israeli policy for a few decades, as well.
I don’t understand digging up YouTube clips of a few dozen people doing awful things in order to remember why you don’t like Palestinian people, but it’s absolutely true that we all have emotional responses that we have to try to get beyond.
BTW, I never explicitly said that Israel would have to give up all it’s settlements, only that the 1967 borders would be the starting basis of the negotiation. The land swaps, as you mentioned, cover the rest.
Anyway, I will publish a substantive analysis of the issue tomorrow. It will focus first on the issue from a military pespective.
“Reverting to borders as a precondition to negotiations,” which is what you wrote, is a very different thing from “using 1967 borders as a starting point in negotiations”, which is what the US and Israel have done for decades.
Under the former, before engaging in any negotiations with the PA, Israel must agree to revert to its 1967 borders. That would be troubling; happily, that is not what anyone is talking about.
By contrast, “using 1967 borders as a starting point” means that, when Israel sits down to negotiate its borders with the PA, the 1967 borders are the starting point. By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.
This isn’t new– see, e.g., “Joint statement by PM Netanyahu and US Sec Clinton,” 11 Nov 2010, or the post at my blog with links to Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak in past negotiations using the 1967 borders as a starting point.
An analysis from a military perspective is useful, in evaluating what Israel should and should not consider giving up if it negotiates its borders. It is not useful in evaluating the merits of Pres. Obama’s speech or US policy.
I disagree about whether the military perspective is useful in terms of evaluating US policy. A strong Israel has been a major bulwark of US policy. If any settlement makes israel’s borders indefensible, then the policy is a failure. Starting at the 1967 line will require the Israelis to extract maximum concessions from the Palestinians, which I somehow do not think is likely.
More on this tomorrow…;-)
It’s true that US policy about the point of departure for negotiations is dependent on Israel’s ability to not make an agreement that leaves its borders indefensible.
I am confident in Israel’s ability to recognize its interests, but evidently you have concerns about it. Hope to read more about why, and more, tomorrow!
I am confident as well. It’s just that they are starting from a bad initial position.
Hmm, would reword that last paragraph if I could, I worded it insultingly. I’m sorry about that.
I’d have done better to have written, “I don’t understand why still-fresh memories of a few dozen Palestinians in street demonstrations after 9/11 so color your judgment about the US approach to the peace process that you have to wait a week before responding to some current events, but of course we all have emotional responses to certain issues that we have to get beyond.”
No worries. I did not take it that way.
The issue is a complex one. From a military perspective, I think the Israelis have the stronger argument (you’ll see tomorrow), but from a demographic perspective, the Palestinians have the better argument. The political argument is somewhere in between.
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