Obama and Israel’s 1967 Borders

For the second time in recent days, I find myself doing something I never thought I would do. President Obama’s speech on the Middle-East, or rather, the part on Israel, was misunderstood by commentators, including conservative commentators I esteem. Or else, they suspended judgment for the time being. First, let me protect myself from the pending accusation of being anti-Israel.

1 I would never vote for a US presidential candidate who did not declare loudly and clearly his support for the continued existence of Israel. I mean Israel as a Jewish state. I am not playing games. This commitment is more than most Jewish Americans can brag about. More than 7o% of them voted for Obama. It was hard not to know then that his “progressive” friends loathe Israel, that many are openly anti-Semitic. Support does not mean unconditional love. Ask my adult daughter.

2 Last week was one of the worst times I can remember to make any statement about Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Arab world is in turmoil. It’s not clear who the interlocutors are going to be one month from now. Who was he talking to? Obama made this speech either because his speeches are increasingly separated from reality or for devious electoral reasons that don’t make much sense.

3 The reconciliation between the PLO, that governs the West Bank, and Hamas, the de-facto and regularly elected power in the Gaza strip, makes any talks with Israel currently absurd. I wouldn’t negotiate a parking place with Hamas. The reason is not that the organization does not keep its word. The reason is that it often does. The Hamas Charter affirms clearly that the elimination of Israel, the state, is its goal. There is a link to the Hamas Charter on this blog. (Don’t try reading the whole thing; it’s horrible reading. The part about Israel – and Christians – is in the last three pages.) If and when Hamas renounces publicly this part of its charter, a giant step will have been taken and any Israeli government in place then will be embarrassed if it does not make a positive move.

4 In any discussion with the PLO, I would give it very little benefit of doubt. The reason is that it continues teaching children that murdering Jews is glorious. If you remember, only a couple of months ago, a brave, PLO-affiliated Palestinian fighter cut the throat of a six-month old Jewish “settler” in his sleep. The PLO government disavowed the crime. You can’t do that. You may not instruct your people ceaselessly that they have to kill their neighbors and not expect that some of them will go beyond the vaguely defined mission. Failing to treat Palestinian government agencies as fully responsible adults is bad for Israelis and it’s bad for Palestinians: You want your won state? You have to know that capital cities have been bombed for less than this.

Now Obama’s speech. He said that:

The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agrees swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” (Emphasis mine)

The Israelis, by and large, want to keep most of their settlements on the West Bank. Of special importance though are the largest, most densely populated settlements contiguous to Israel proper, around Jerusalem and north of the city. They consider those settlements not for negotiations. The scattered Jewish settlements deeper into he West Bank seem negotiable. Thus, they want to retain a narrow westernmost strip of the West Bank for economic, sentimental (“historical”), and military reasons. (Doubling the thin waist of the country designed in the 1947 UN plan.) Israelis are faced starkly with three possibilities: Keep the status quo forever and never enjoy any real peace of mind; rule over a hostile Palestinian population forever, turning the West Bank into a Bantustan (thus becoming the evil being of current Arab propaganda); negotiate a peace with the Palestinians that gives them most of what they want. There are several scenarios that correspond to the last possibility. The most credible is a final, irreversible land-swap. (A land swap could be accompanied by an agreement on a very light, trigger-wire-type, strictly military Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley.) Here is how a land-swap scenario might go:

There is going to be a Palestinian state, one way or another, unless there is massive change in Jordan and the country absorbs the West Bank in a definitive manner. The Palestinians may or may not have been a nation in 1948. They are one now, pretty much the same way Jews were a nation in 1900. Having a common history, especially a painful one, and articulated aspirations to one’s own state, is enough to qualify anyone has a nation. The main reason they don’t have their own state now is their own collective political incompetence and corruption. Basically, the Palestinians don’t need Israel’s permission to proclaim a state. If they conduct clean elections, extend a big olive branch across the border, tell their Arab friends to butt out, and just affirm they have a state, what’s Israel going to do? I don’t even see that any UN permission is essential.

The Palestinians will want their state to be contiguous as President Obama so self-evidently stated. A people who has been subjected to the gross inconvenience and humiliation of numerous and frequent foreign police controls is not going to settle for a West Pakistan- East Pakistan solution. Just as self-evidently, they will want access to seaports (in Gaza) thus by-passing Israeli interference, a constant source of political pressure.

The solution, from a Palestinian standpoint, is obvious. It’s a land corridor between the two major Palestinian territories.

Now, consider the shortest distance between the southern part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian-owned and controlled corridor about six mile wide between these two areas would have the following features:

1 With a slightly larger area than Gaza, the corridor would have plenty of room for one or two Silicone Valleys or, more realistically, for thousands of truck farms. That’s in addition to a transportation corridor with a road and possibly, a rail line.

2 It would pose no real military threat to Israel under any conceivable conditions. A corridor ten miles wide would also not threaten Israel because of its vulnerability on both of its sides.

3 It would decrease Israel’s land area by a negligible amount (about 1.5% of its total land area).

The Golan Heights are another story altogether. Captured from Syria in 1967, they were annexed to Israel about thirty years ago. Besides many Israeli settlers, the area is thinly inhabited by Druse. The Druse have shown no sign of sharing in Palestinian nationalism. The only thing we know about them is that you don’ hear of them often and they seldom speak up. Many Druse from the Mandate area live in Israel and have Israeli citizenship. Some make a career in the Israeli Defence Force, where, I hear, they are much appreciated. It’s likely that the formerly Syrian Druse living in the Golan under Israeli administration are as well off as their cousins in Syria. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were better off, or even much better off.

If I were a government of Israel, I would never give up the Golan Heights to any Syrian government displaying any hostility to Israel. First reason: It’s the headwaters for much of the water the Israeli economy needs. It’s a designated spot for blackmail. Second, it’s a good place from which to hold downtown Damas under threat of shelling. It’s the key to the long de-facto state of peace between Israel and ever vituperative Syria. And, by the way, the Israeli annexation of the Heights after their military conquest is as legitimate as the US holding on to California, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.

About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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13 Responses to Obama and Israel’s 1967 Borders

  1. David says:

    JD, I think that you’re off on this one. If only because the crazy Islamists 1) will continue to shell Israel, 2) Are in power in several of the surrounding areas, 3) have continued to call for land concessions from Israel, despite Israel having given up their land. The Islamists won’t permit Israel peace. Moderate Muslims won’t stand up to the Islamists, thereby being silent accomplices.

    I’ll try to expand on this, but I’ve only time for the ‘Cliff’s Notes’ version.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      David: I don’t see where I am off. The crazy Islamists of Hamas are not responsible interlocutors. Don’t I say that first thing?

      • David says:

        I’m going to try to expand/clarify my earlier thoughts. My first beef is with the mutually agreed land swaps. It means that they will have to agree on the land being swapped. What happens in the all to likely event that they DON’T agree on the land to be swapped? Then you just have the 1967 borders. The fact of the matter is that Palestine has little interest in agreeing on anything with Israel, hence them bypassing Israel and going to the UN to be declared a state with (I presume) whatever borders the UN gives them. And the UN isn’t exactly friendly to Israel, not anymore at any rate. So far as I’m concerned, all the land that Israel gained during those wars, belongs to Israel. In the best case scenario, Israel will will have a period of peace with the new Palestine (very brief in my opinion), but the larger picture with Iran, Syria, Hamas, etc. would put Israel in a bit of a lurch, especially if Obama is still president when this happens. If Palestine wants land to declare their own, why don’t they negotiate with their larger Arab brothers to give them a large swath of land? They could get more from their friends than they could from Israel. That strikes me as a simpler solution, but I think that they desire Israel to be rendered useless at best and destroyed at worst; hence why they want land that Israel currently occupies.

        I also think that Israel will NEVER be able to shake the image of being evil in Arab propaganda. Not until Israel is destroyed and the Jews have been wiped off the Earth. Giving Palestine what they want will not change the image of Israel in the minds or TV’s of Muslims.

        Yes, you did say that you wouldn’t negotiate a parking space with Hamas, but the problem with groups like Hamas is that they make negotiations very tenuous. If Israel negotiates peace terms with Palestine and they manage to hash out mutually agreed land swaps and both Israel and Palestine are both happy together and spooning late at night in bed, it gives Hamas and other similar groups, another nearby launch point where they won’t get caught/stopped/prosecuted. Personally, I’d hate to get a Scud missile up my ass when I’m spooning with my new girlfriend, only to discover that my girlfriend’s cousin is the one that launched it. Arabs refuse to decry/stop their insane brothers. In the absence of Arabs self-policing their nut jobs, Israel has little assurance of real peace. It only has assurance of a smaller land buffer to protect them from the crazies. The collective silence of Arabs is very telling. Also, the fact that the other Arab states haven’t (so far as I can remember) invited their brothers to the comparative safety/wealth of their countries is also very curious. Are the Palestinians tools or do the other Arabs not like their brothers?

        To sum up, an Israeli/Palestinian peace accord, requires more than just Israel and Palestinians agreeing and playing nice. It requires that Arab nations stop, within their own borders, self-directed/independent attacks on Israel. Until that happens, any agreement between Israel and Palestine is about as valuable as used toilet paper. Largely because independent groups will use Palestine to attack Israel and Israel will respond by lobbing missiles into Palestine, then, poof, there goes the afterglow of their little affair, and Israel has given up land and is in a more difficult position.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        A little bit at a time: Israel wants to keep the main settlements in the West Bank. They are contiguous to Israel proper and they serve the military purpose of thickening the country’s waist just where it is the most vulnerable. The Palestinians will not especially want a state in two discontinuous parts – like East Pakistan and West Pakistan. The solution is a thin band of land given by Israel and linking the southern part of the West Bank with Gaza. Such a corridor would pose not military threat to Israel.

        What ‘s wrong with a solution that gives each party much of what it wants?

      • David says:

        There is nothing inherently wrong with it. I just suspect the peace will be very short lived and would only give the other Arab states/fanatics (Hamas, Iran and their ilk) a better staging point than before. Therefore, it would be a useless gesture. In my opinion, a short lived peace is NOT what Israel wants. Hence why I don’t think that both parties would get what they want. To the western world, it appears as though it’s an even deal, but to the Arab world, it’s a step in the desired direction. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I doubt it. Not with the way the Arab nations have reacted towards since it’s inception in modern times.

        As far as one contiguous land mass called Palestine, I’m sure they could carve out a viable land area twice the size of Israel by mutual agreement with any of their larger Arab brethren. That could’ve been done decades ago. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt could all chip in and give the Palestinians some land that would satisfy them. Israel wouldn’t have to be involved to give the Palestinians land. That sounds like a simpler plan to me. Israel stays whole, and the Palestinians get land to call their own. The Arabs will still hate Israel, but that isn’t going to change anytime in the next three generations. The role that the other Arab nations could play in the Israel/Palestinian conflict has, in my opinion, been long overlooked.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        You seem to have bought into the counter-myth that there was no Arab population on the West Bank or in Gaza, or in Israel, before 1948. The Arab inhabitants of those areas are the Palestinians. They have a claim irrespective of their leaders’ bad behavior.Certainly, they have as good a claim as people from Poland and Russia. That’s unless you adopt fanciful creation myths and then, there is no end to anything except to rationalism.

      • David says:

        By no means have I bought into the myth that there weren’t any Arabs there prior to 1948; historically, Israel was in that area long before Palestine. Israel has an older claim on that land. The people group (Jews) that occupied that area were forced to leave and have maintained their cultural identity over the course of centuries, an impressive feat for anyone. Similiar in effect to Gypsies, though the gypsies have been nomads throughout the course of history. I’m of the opinion that the Jews have an older claim on that land and have remained a distinct people group, as opposed to being assimilated/destroyed, since they were removed from their homeland centuries ago.

        In terms of a modern day “peace accord”, it would be simpler for the Palestinians to deal with their Arab brothers to get land, than Israel. After all, the Palestinians share similar beliefs/goals to others of their religion. (It woudn’t be a peace accord, since they wouldn’t deal with Israel, but hey, at least they wouldn’t be able to break treaty when they get pissed off at Israel.) I wouldn’t propose a dramatic shift in location. The areas of Northeast Egypt and Northwest Saudi Arabia seem to be lacking in major cities from either country and a major river releases into the red sea from there. They would have access to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. They would be at worst a little bit away from the disputed territories, they would “owe” nothing to Israel. At least I’m offering an alternate solution to the problem instead of just telling the Palestinians to suck an egg. It may not be what the Palestinians want, but it will get them land to call their own far faster than dealing with Israel. Also, this way, they’ll be able to arm themselves (or get arms from their Arab brothers) openly without worrying about breaking an agreement.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        David: You are buying into one group’s legend against another/. It’s not a profitable endeavor. It’s camel buggerers’ sacred recitations vs sheep molesters’. Why should I care, or take sides?

        Are you aware of the fact that Muslims believe that Abraham was the first Muslim? (And therefore, the “Promised Land” is theirs?) Do you really want to get involved?

        THe simple fact is that there were two distinct populations in the area in 1948: Arabs (mostly but not all Muslims) and Jews. They both agree that there were two populations, more or less along those lines. THat should be the starting point for all rational people, rather than the fairy tales of various groups of illiterates going back to one doe not know when. (Incidentally, the Christian Bible is fairly clear that Moses, the lawgiver of the Jews in the Jewish narrative, was an Egyptian prince. And where does this leave us?

        Speaking of narratives: According to a much more recent one, a Jewish agitator was executed by the Roman in Jerusalem around 33 (Common Era). Then, he walked out of the tomb where his body had been laid to rest. Or his followers stole his body to avoid desecration, or the Roam authorities or Jewish authorities hid his body to avoid the emergence of a cult. Do you really want to get involved in this, the central belief of Christianity? Is this story a fair basis on which to make political decisions affecting millions or a recipe for more bloodshed?

      • David says:

        I’m not buying into anyone’s narrative. The fact of the matter is that Jews were physically in that land before the Palestinians. Regardless of whom was descended from whom or who was bequeathed what. Jews occupied that corner of the Middle East long before Islam was a religion. I’m not basing this issue off of what the Bible/Quran teaches; which is how I think you’re reading me as doing. Please correct me if I’m wrong in that.

        In any case, what do you think of the Palestinians negotiating with their Muslim brothers for land to create a new state from? The Palestinians aren’t getting what they want from Israel anytime soon. It strikes me as simpler to negotiate with their friends to get something, as opposed to their enemies. In every religion I’ve heard of, taking care of your own is strongly encouraged; and, so far as I know, the same is true in Islam. Why aren’t they taking care of their religious brethren?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        There were Jews in that corner of the world a long time ago. In fact, the Jewish Bible as well as the Christian Bible tell us that people who may well have been the ancestors of today’s Jews stole Jerusalem from some other group, from some pagans. Certainly, they stole Jericho. So, where does this leave anyone?

        The idea of Palestinians “negotiating” for land with other Arabs leaves me completely cold. That’s not the issue, obviously. If it were, Zionists would have claimed and accepted a large piece of fertile land astride Hungary and Romania in 1946. They could have created a state there and called it “Israel.”

      • David says:

        The underlying issue between the Israeli’s and Palestinians is that of who really received the blessing from Jacob, Issac or Ishmael. The Jews say Issac. The Muslims say Ishmael. There is no way to dissuade either side from their point of view. Hence why the odds of there being an agreement in the “Holy Land” is miniscule at best. At it’s most basic form it is a religious argument, which is why no matter the best analytical solution to their disagreement will not work. I’m certain my proposal wouldn’t cause peace. Just as I am certain that no other solution will cause peace until either Israel is destroyed or there is a change of heart in the Muslim community in the Middle East. The more likely of those solutions is Israel’s destruction. Both sides think that God/Allah is on their side. Both sides believe they have a religious claim to the land in question. Unfortunately, rationality cannot really help the situation. It can put a nice face on it, but cannot resolve the situation, especially since we cannot travel back through time to determine which of Abraham’s descendants (if Abraham and/or his sons/grandsons did in fact exist) received the blessing and the inheritance of the Holy Land. Even if we could do that, the losing side would claim impartiality and still not accept the outcome.

        As far as who the Jews stole the Holy Land from, they aren’t around to complain. Does that make it right? No. But it does mean that the Jews are the oldest contiguous people who have a claim on that land. (I don’t mean genetically. According to the Jewish scriptures only the Mother had to be a Jew for the offspring to be considered Jews. That would dilute the gene pool in short order.) Not that people haven’t tried to exterminate the Jews. People have tried. Quite intensely. They’ve been kicked out of most countries in Europe/Asia at one time or another. They’ve even been forcibly removed from the “Holy Land” more than once, but they’ve managed to remain a consistent cultural identity throughout.

  2. filip isack says:

    100% I agree…the problem however is not territorial… (yes I’m biased) the problem is the Palestinians not willing to recognize a Jewish State

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      The PLO – which currently represents most Palestinians in the territories – has recognized Israel three times. How many more time do they need to do it before you move on? Hamas has not. Therefore, Hamas and PLO are not equal. Don’t make an amalgam of them. If you confuse “Socialists” with “National-Socialists,” you will end up dealing with the latter only.

      Of course, the problem is “territorial.” All I have to do is listen to the recitations of otherwise rational Jews on their mythical connection to the LAND of Israel. Zionists want the stretch of land promised by God to one of their alleged ancestors, a camel thief named “Abe.” Muslims say, ” Wait a minute, Abe was our grand-dad too. Besides, our Prophet rose to Heaven on his horse from right in the middle of Jerusalem!” And how is that for a territorial claim?

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