Give some credit to Barack Obama for his speech last Thursday. He managed to create in one sentence a consensus that has eluded other heads of state over the last few decades between the principals in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both sides think Obama is all wet with his call to base a two-state solution on the 1967 borders:
Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Monday that it was clear that US PresidentBarack Obama’s platform was not so different from the one adopted by former US president George W. Bush. According to Zahar, the 1967 borders, while “sacred,” were not the final borders on which the Palestinians should settle.
Speaking to Al-Emirate Al-Youm, Zahar asked “Why won’t we talk about the 1948 borders? Why won’t we discuss the partition plan which was internationally recognized?”
Er, perhaps because that was based on a status quo ante that changed when the Arab nations attacked Israel in an attempt to destroy it? Land gained in defensive war — as the war after the 1948 establishment of Israel was for the Israelis — is legitimately held by the victor. That’s especially true when the land is needed to prevent further invasions and attempts at extermination.
If the Arabs wanted the 1948 borders, then they shouldn’t have invaded Israel. For that matter, if they wanted the lands controlled after the 1967 war, then Egypt, Syria, and Jordan shouldn’t have plotted to attack Israel — an attack pre-empted by Israel’s strike against the Egyptians. Israel could have annexed those lands after the war, but they didn’t, although they built settlements in an attempt to change the demography. Israel doesn’t want to absorb the people living in the West Bank and Gaza for the same reason that the “right of return” is absolute anathema to Israel, because it would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. They’d probably prefer to give the West Bank back to Jordan, but Jordan won’t take it back, and for good reasons.
As Benjamin Netanyahu stated in his excellent speech today, the problem in the region isn’t that Israel won’t accept a Palestinian state. It’s that Hamas and Fatah won’t accept a Jewish state. They want to make the borders as impossible to defend as possible in order to use statehood as a stage to launch yet another existential attack on Israel. Israel is right to demand defensible borders based on the lessons learned from both 1948 and 1967, while Hamas reveals its intentions as exterminatory based on their demand for do-overs that ignore those lessons.
Update: Lest anyone get the wrong impression, the issue with Obama’s speech on Thursday was making the 1967 border an explicit foundation, not the use of the border itself (“with swaps”, the consistent American position), and a lack of clarity on whether he meant the border before or after the Six Day War. This just points out that Hamas won’t even engage on that basis — which makes Obama’s decision to get explicit a waste of time.