One can only wonder if the president knew his Middle East peace plan would have the explosive reaction it did with the Israelis. The highly anticipated speech stunned Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu with Obama’s suggestion they return to their pre-1967 borders.
His surprising and very public viewpoint advocating indefensible borders for such a tiny country has caused a serious rift with America’s most reliable ally in the region. Middle East experts and long time Israel supporters in Washington are now scrambling to decipher the public differences with Israel and what it means in this 60-year old international drama.
It means nothing less than the survival of their nation for Israel.
If the Israelis were to return to the borders that existed prior to its defeat of three invading Arab neighbors in the 1967 Six-Day-War, they would be left with a constricted sliver of land only eight miles wide at its narrowest point. That is roughly the distance between San Francisco and Oakland, CA where only a bay separates them.
The president’s proposed “new” border would also bring the loss of control over Jerusalem and its holy sites. Before 1967, when the Arabs controlled the sites, Israelis were banned from visiting. Since they gained control of those areas, major restoration has afforded Israel to open it to all religions and future generations. It would also mean that 300,000 Jews currently living in Judea and Samaria would end up in the new Palestinian state that Obama so publicly suggested.
The major question is why Israel would ever accept this sort of proposal? It guarantees them nothing in terms of lasting peace.
Prior to 1967, there were three major conflicts between Arabs and Israelis when the proposed “new” borders existed. That did not prevent the Arab League from forming the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964, a terrorist group whose original charter called for the eradication of Zionism.
The PLO claims they have renounced terrorism, and their current leader, Mahmound Abbas, supposedly agrees with that statement. So the question becomes, how long will he last and who will take his place? What guarantees are there besides mere words? Where are the real teeth of such a peace?
Besides that key question, there is another major issue that clouds such a proposal.
The PLO recently agreed to form a unity government with Hamas, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization. They have been responsible over the last decade of targeting Israeli citizens with suicide bombings and rocket attacks all the while never renouncing its own 1988 charter to destroy Israel.
Before President Obama made his proposal, how much White House consideration was given to this?
The idea is comparable to the U.S. negotiating a land dispute with Mexico only to discover the Mexicans have made an alliance with al-Qaida to join their government. Would anybody suggest we move forward with any agreement after that partnership was formed?
The president insists he is only speaking publicly about an issue that has been suggested in private for years. That is probably very true, but now that he has made it public, the Israelis have lost an important bargaining chip with the Palestinians. It helps no one and makes a difficult situation all the more complicated.
There were suggestions about land swaps that could be mutually agreed upon. That in itself is an impossibility with the current situation between the Palestinians and Hamas. So why bring it up at all? Israel offered the Palestinians a similar deal back in 2000 that included a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. However, their late leader, Yasser Arafat, rejected it outright.
Over the years, Palestinian leaders have come and gone while grievances change accordingly. One item has been a constant though – they will never accept any Jewish presence in the region. Asking Israel to make any major concessions as Obama suggests will change nothing and invite unfathomable consequences in the region.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian leader Abbas to recite six magical words to revive the peace process – “I will accept a Jewish state.” No one remotely familiar with this endless conflict thinks that’s possible nor the similar suggestion that Palestinians severe relations with Hamas.
The question again arises with those most familiar with the ongoing conflict: Why did President Obama bring up the 1967 border issue to begin with? A question that can only be speculated about at this time. It will be asked many times before next year’s elections.
One has to wonder if a man so political thought about that before he spoke so publicly.
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