So you really want to return to the “1967 Borders”?

A Guest Post by AKUS

Obama’s May 19 pre-AIPAC speech at the U.S. State Department was not as bad for Israel as many have suggested, though I do believe it showed his naiveté about Islam and the Arabs once again. He wasted most of the time he spent on outreach to the Arab world (e.g., offering to forgive $1 billion in debt to Egypt) with his switch to the most delicate issues of the I/P conflict, which drowned out all the rest. It seems clear that a majority of Israelis would actually agree with his statement that:

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.

It is also noteworthy that Obama carefully did NOT use the term “1967 borders” but “1967 lines” (repeated in front of AIPAC), terms lazily overlooked in most of the reporting of his speech:

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.

For example, the Guardian, using one of its reliable Israeli flacks, Carlo Strenger, had the following which illustrates the careless use of the word “borders” by Israelis:

Barack Obama has passed the buck on Palestine

His coalition partners are at least as right-leaning: engaging with the Palestinians on the basis of the 1967 borders and a compromise on Jerusalem would lead to an open rebellion by his own party, and the dissolution of his coalition. Add to this that Netanyahu genuinely believes that the 1967 borders are indefensible, and you see that all he can do is continue stalling the peace process as he has since he came to power in 2009.

On the other hand, the Washington Post was careful to characterize the Green Line as the boundaries in place on the eve of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Note that the WP correctly refers to “boundaries”, not “borders”, and does not reference the Palestinians or Palestine in this context – because they were not part of the 1967 context.

Reports of Saeb Erekat’s comments indicate that he, too, referred to the “1967 lines”, not “1967 borders”, even as he rejected negotiations with Netanyahu. It is ironical that the even the Guardian reported that Erekat accurately referred to “1967 lines” while Strenger carelessly referred to “1967 borders”. Nevertheless, despite Erekat’s usage, the Guardian posted a report that included Erekat’s statement with a link that used the term “1967 borders”:

Erekat said Netanyahu’s statements make it clear the Israeli leader is not a partner for peace, suggesting there is no point in returning to negotiations.

“I don’t think we can talk about a peace process with a man who says the 1967 lines are an illusion, that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, undivided, and he does not want a single [Palestinian] refugee to go back,” Erekat said. “What is left to negotiate?”

(Erekat’s comment is also available on many other web sites and it seems clear that he used the word “lines”, not “borders”).

Netanyahu’s  response to Obama was firm, but polite.  He, too, carefully referred to the “1967 lines” not “1967 borders”. He did not lecture the President, and he did not turn his back on him or the USA. Of course, the Palestinians, reliably, did both especially after  Obama’s AIPAC speech today, in which he “corrected” some of his earlier statements and which is well worth reading in full. Hamas, in particular, has once again made its intentions clear in a manner which even Obama cannot overlook:  Hamas: Obama will fail in forcing us to recognize Israel (Ha’aretz, May 22nd, 2011) . However, even though Obama admitted on May 19th   that “Palestinians have walked away from talks” he seems unable to accept that if there is a word for “compromise” in the Arab lexicon it is not often taken out of the closet and used in public.

Bibi also pointed out that, like it or not, just as Obama referred to Arab demographic changes on the West Bank, the right-wing in Israel has accomplished certain “facts on the ground” which will have to be taken into account in any border agreements that might finally emerge:

The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible, because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.

In fact, if we can believe the Palileaks, the Palestinian leadership is well aware of the impossibility of setting the clock back – the new suburbs around Jerusalem will stay part of Israel in any future state, and most likely Ariel will as well.

The point I would like to raise is this: Israeli spokesmen (and women) must stop falling into the lazy verbal trap of referring to the 1967 “borders”. There were no “1967 borders” – there were 1948 armistice lines. In particular, the 1948 armistice line on Israel’s eastern side was with Jordan, and there was no Palestinian “state” or “entity” that existed in the “West Bank”. In fact, the Jordanians occupied what Netanyahu, for example, is careful to refer to as Judea and Samaria. The “West Bank”, as defined today, was only that section of the entire area west of the Jordan River occupied by Jordan after the 1948 war.

In fact, Israel should make it clear that the Palestinians and their supporters should not be allowed to have things both ways. If, by “1967 borders”, as the common usage has it, they mean that the clock should be set back to the situation that existed in 1967, they cannot “cherry-pick” the bits of the pre-6 Day War situation they like and ignore the bits they do not like. A true return to 1967 would have Jordan in charge of the West bank and Egypt in charge of Gaza, and no “Palestinian state” to be discussed. 

Israel may or may not accept this possibility, but it is no more unreal than the idea that Israel will go back to the 1948 armistice lines, the millions of grandchildren of those who fled in 1948 will kick Israelis out of their home as they return to what was never theirs AND the Palestinians will then form a third state on borders which three times proved an open invitation to invasion by Arab armies. That being said, lazy use of the term “1967 borders’ by Israeli spokesmen confers a legitimacy on the idea that there always was a Palestinian state on the West Bank, even in the face of the obvious fact that this was never the case.

Words have meanings, and we saw over the almost endlessly wrangling with the Egyptians over the last hundred yards at Taba how important the exact definition of “borders” is.  Lazy, careless references to “1967 borders” help the Palestinians create a false case among those in the international community too lazy, ignorant, or politically motivated, to understand what the reality was until June 5th, 1967.

Armistice Lines following the 1948 war

22 replies »

  1. though I do believe it showed his naiveté about Islam and the Arabs once again.
    That’s because he has inexperienced, naive and dooped advisors like Dennis Ross, Hilary Clinton, etc. There can be no other explanation !! It is inconceivable that he might have an opinion that is in any way different from yours. In addition it’s about time that he learned that the prime mission of an American President is to serve the Likud, not the American people. Only a “naive” president would think otherwise.

  2. MTC

    Dennis Ross has been advising administrations for 20 years at least. Whatever else you may think of his successes or failures, “inexperienced” does not describe him.

    Ross is a very firm supporter of israel, and if you were to read his lengthy account of his role up to the Bush 2 administration (The Missing Peace), when he was not involved, you would find that he too is very careful to use very accurate terms to describe anything to do with this conflict.

    I feel sorry for him in a way – he has dedicated his life to solving this problem, with no results.

  3. “In addition it’s about time that he learned that the prime mission of an American President is to serve the Likud, not the American people.”

    Always hovering so close to the flame of the canards of 80 years ago, this moth.

    The American President is to serve American interests, but not on expense of the interests of another nation. It is blatant interventionism to seek to appease the Muslims on Israel’s expense, by forcing the Jewish State to give away portions of what little land it still has.

    As for the current American president, I do not believe he is naive. He is of Marxist political persuasion, and anti-Zionism naturally flows from that; he believes as they all do, that Zionism is a European Settler-Colonial Enterprise, and therefore sympathizes with the faux-Palestinian (really Arab settler) struggle as an “anti-colonial” movement.

  4. Your 1949 map is not correct.

    Egypt Occupied the Gaza strip.

    That is another entity that is missing from the table and chose, quite wisely, to relinquish any demands to that strip.

  5. Zion truth,

    I do not believe you are correct about your simplistic description of Obama.

    Obama knows too well that American interests are very safe with Israel remaining a national Jewish home and a Zionist state.
    He couldn’t have pointed it out clearer.

    • “I do not believe you are correct about your simplistic description of Obama.”

      That word “simplistic” again. I hate it. I plain hate it.

      If you think I’m wrong tell me I’m wrong. If I’m wrong then it doesn’t matter if my argument is simplistic or nuanced; the same holds if I’m wrong. Nuance or the lack thereof are no indication as to the correctness of the argument. It is intellectual puffery to obsess on it.

      “Obama knows too well that American interests are very safe with Israel remaining a national Jewish home and a Zionist state.”

      How do you know this? And even if he has said so–when did human beings lose ability to lie?

      • “–when did human beings lose ability to lie?” ziontruth

        Or succumb to self-delusions or hubris…

    • “the same holds if I’m wrong.” should be “the same holds if I’m right.”

      D’oh! That’s what happens when my typing is faster than my thinking.

  6. It seems that the majority here disagree with AKUS’ contention that Obama is naive.

    • Oh, really? Now you are the People´s High Commissar for Imposition of Unanimous Decisions about Other People´s Opinions? Once a lefty, always a lefty.

      BTW, Obama is naive, self-delusional and arrogant, and that´s why he´s a major fraud. His only hope would be hiring Bibi to bring him back to the real world every 2 seconds.

  7. Ziontruth,

    My point was that many shades of grey are present in such arguments.

    You are correct about one thing.

    I don’t know this for a fact.
    But neither do you.

    For all I know Obama could be a little green man in a mask or posessed by the habba jabba spirit.

    • “My point was that many shades of grey are present in such arguments.

      If my argument about Obama being a Marxist is correct, then there is absolutely no shade of gray in which he is both a Marxist and a non-Marxist, or Marxist but pro-Israel (because Marxism means anti-Zionism by necessity; this has officially been so since 1920).

      “I don’t know this for a fact.
      But neither do you.”

      Not in absolute certainty, of course. But there are a lot of clues: Who raised him, who he grew up with, who inspired him, who are his college friends, what his current policies are, and the occasional off-teleprompter (read: honest) remark.

      The man treats America atrociously with his policies, so the prospects of him being good for Israel are very bleak.

  8. MTC,

    Not so sure about your last point.

    Obama is naive about the ability, intention or both with regards to Arab leaders promisses.

  9. A thorn in the side

    “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” Barrack Obama

    With regard to Israeli territorial swops it is highly unlikely that any Israeli Arab living in any part of Israel sovereign territory, let alone any Israeli Jew, would want that territory transferred to a Palestinian state. Very few Israeli Arabs would want to find themselves living in such an uncertain economic and legal status when transferred to a new Palestinian state compared to the relative comfort that they enjoy under Israeli sovereignty. Indeed such former Israeli Arabs would, after territorial transfer, be under suspicion of being Israeli collaborators and as such would be open to extortion and blackmail.

    If Arab Israelis protested against any transfer of territory that transfer would cease as no power would want to be seen interfering with the “human rights of Palestinians” if they refused.

    From a political perspective there will be many Israeli Arabs who regard themselves as Palestinians. They believe that all Israel is Palestine and will refuse to have any part of Israel transferred to Palestine in the hope that one day, through International politics or through “the right of return” all Israel will become Palestine in a one state solution. In the meantime they would prefer to live in Israel proper becoming a “thorn in the side” of Israel whilst enjoying all its benefits.

    Territorial swops might sound attractive, but from an Arab Israeli perspective that would be unworkable as Israeli Arabs would not want to live under a Palestinian Government. From a religious Zionist perspective very few Israeli Jews living over the line would want, under the territorial swap formula, to find themselves living under a new Palestinian Government if equivalent territory in Israel was not found. If you cannot find equivalent Israel sovereign territory of equal value, and that would preclude the Negev, to swap, then territorial swops will not happen.

    You are then left with stalemate. Neither Israeli Arab nor Jew would want to see the current territory that they are living in swapped to a new sovereignty, and we have not even considered the complications of dividing Jerusalem.

    What then is the solution? If the swop formula fails because Arab Israelis refuse to swop, do you then transfer this territory to Palestine with all its Israeli inhabitants, who would then refuse to live under Islamic Palestinian rule? For if that is to be the outcome then certainly Arab Israelis who believe in a Palestine from the river to the sea to be achieved in a staged political process, will refuse to swop.

    The Palestinians can then advocate that all Israelis living over the line are occupiers and as such the Palestinians with Europeans support will invoke international law to get them removed. In effect the new Palestinian state gets all the settlements with their infrastructure free of Jews at no cost. Israel is then left with the impossible task of absorbing half a million angry Jews.

    Is this the real plan of Obama and his European counterparts?

    Or does the territory over the line inhabited by Israelis, in the event of no swaps, default to Israel? This would appear to be the outcome if the Palestinians declare a state without negotiation as Israel will have no alternative but to finally annex their Jewish neighborhoods in Judea and Samaria.

  10. Millfield

    The swap that has been discussed is to extend the area just south of Gaza as part of the Gaza strip, to an extent equivalent to the (pitifully small) area of the WB that Israel would require for the Jerusalem suburbs and Ariel.

    Its all about saving face. It is clear even to the PA that the Arabs of Wadi Ara, and many of those in the Jerusalem area who have been buying property on what they believe will be the Israeli side of any border, do not intend to agree to being “swapped”.

    Of course, that does not deter the politicos outside the region from bravely suggesting all sorts of impossible “solutions” that imply adjusting the Green Line to include Israeli Arabs in “Palestine”.

  11. Millfield.

    There were / are talks of swapping the Wadi Ara area to Palestinian hands in exchange for Gush Etzion.

    But low and behold the large Christian Palestinians of um el fahem and Bakaa el garbyia protested.

    Guess who’s from there?

    That’s right, MK Tibi…

    Now why would they protest when they do no lose a meter from their land?
    Their houses will still be theirs, the only thing we’ll ask of them is the blue IDs and passports we gave them in exchange for a Palestinian one.

    But you said it, it’s all about getting it all or nothing.

    They won’t be able to go to work in Afula and Hedera any more.
    They’ll be treated like traitors who had it good for the past 60 years…

    In that case, why don’t they get rid themselves of idiots like tibi and shout it loud that “We are Israelis and we are proud”?

    Is it because they are not?
    Or is it more complicated than that?

    Either way, Obama is naive.
    And the Guardian is… Well, who knows.

  12. Perhaps the swaps they are talking about is something to do with Egypt and Jordan?

    Naaah, wishful thinking…

  13. MindTheCrap

    yes, I saw Spitzer on his show last night with Jeremy ben Ami (J Street) and someone from AIPAC.

    I was shocked by Spitzer’s obvious ignorance about Israel. To think he could have been President … though perhaps ignorance about Israel among Democratic presidents with the exception of Clinton is par for the course.