Does Obama have something up his sleeve that even he can’t see?
The 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps will never produce a peaceful outcome. Yet, the Obama proposals may actually contribute to developing a resolution to the conflict.
By Israel Zwick, CN Publications, May 22, 2011
I’m often amused by the “solutions” to the Arab-Israeli conflict proposed by American “experts” who have little knowledge of the issues and complexities of the conflict. Most often their knowledge is limited to reports from news media, videos on You Tube, or perhaps a 10-day organized tour to the region combined with a few interviews. So the University of California student will proclaim angrily, “The poor, oppressed Palestinian people have suffered long enough. They deserve to finally have their own sovereign state free from the brutal Israeli occupation.” At the other extreme we hear, “Israel should finally annex Gaza, Judea, and Samaria and expel most of the Arabs. Let them go to Jordan, Syria, or Egypt then they will appreciate all the freedoms and benefits that they are getting from Israel.” The truth of course won’t be found in either of these extremes. Most Israelis have no interest in either oppressing the Arab population or expelling them. They just want to go about their lives without having to worry about getting their limbs blown off while waiting for a bus, or having their throats slit while sleeping in their homes, or a rocket hitting a school bus. They would like to observe their Jewish heritage while living in peace with their Arab neighbors.
Even the high-level diplomats from the USA, EU, or UN, lack an understanding of the conflict. They get to visit the region on two-day whirlwind tour, riding in an armored limousine surrounded by 10 Israeli army vehicles. If they’re important enough, they might even get a 30 minute tour in an IDF helicopter. This is not the way to develop an understanding of the conflict. To really appreciate the complexities involved, one has to live there for a while, walk the streets, shop the markets, ride the buses and taxis, talk to the cab drivers, view the terrain, and study the maps. Even then, it’s still a long road to becoming an “expert.”
That’s why many Israelis were shocked when President Obama offered his simplistic solution to the conflict in a speech on May 19, 2011. The President can be forgiven for not understanding the complexities involved since he has spent very little time in the region. However, that’s why he has expert consultants like Dennis Ross to explain the issues to him. When it comes to understanding the complex issues, Mr. Ross is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world, since he has been intimately involved with high level negotiations for many years.
So how could President Obama offer such a simplistic and imbalanced “solution” that can never be implemented? He even reiterated it with some clarification at the AIPAC Conference in Washington on Sunday, May 22, 2011. This is what he said:
“I said that 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.”
Then he clarified his position somewhat:
“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. 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. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”
I challenge anyone in the world, including Dennis Ross, George Mitchell, Mahmoud Abbas, or Benjamin Netanyahu, to apply this “well-known formula” to actually produce a map that will meet the conditions outlined by President Obama. There can be no “mutually agreed-upon swaps” that can satisfy the Arab desires for a “contiguous state” while satisfying the Israeli desires to live peacefully in “secure and recognized borders.” The only map that could result would have jigsaw-puzzle borders that would not satisfy either side and would be impossible to administer. How would a delivery truck for Angel’s Bakery make his rounds in the morning? He would have to follow a circuitous route or keep going through border checkpoints. The same would be true for a fruit wholesaler who supplies both Israeli and Palestinian markets. Would he also have to accept payment in two different currencies? How would taxi drivers navigate the area? Would all the bus routes have to be rerouted? How could trade between the two microstates be implemented? How would tourist groups travel from Jerusalem to Hevron and Bethlehem? What would the Palestinians have to do to visit friends and relatives living in other towns? What happens to roadways already in existence that would traverse both states. Would there be a border checkpoint at every kilometer?
It just isn’t workable! It can’t be done. The 1967 lines, which were actually the 1949 Armistice lines, were never practical or equitable from the very beginning. They were dissolved in 1967 and no longer exist. Much has changed in the last 44 years. Israel has made many improvements in the area to unite the territory and these changes are for the better and irreversible. There would be no benefit to driving in reverse, it would be much too dangerous for both the Israeli and Arab populations.
If this is true, then one might ask why there are so many Israelis who are supporting the Obama proposals for a “two-state solution?” Don’t they know all this, after all they live there? There is an answer to this. First, there are many Israelis, like there are many Americans, who are ignorant of their own history, geography, economy, and demographics, and really don’t understand the complexities involved. But there is a more important, sinister, and pernicious reason. Many of the secular left-wing Israelis, as represented by Peace Now and B’tselem, aren’t really interested in living in a Jewish state. They want to be unencumbered by the laws of Sabbath, Kashruth, and religious marriage. They are annoyed and angered by the absence of buses, shopping malls, and civil services on Jewish holidays. They must have their ham and cheese sandwich on Passover. They want to eat whatever they want when they want, and marry whomever they wish, even if they belong to the same sex. In other words, they really don’t want a Jewish state. What they want is a Belgium, Denmark, or Norway that has a warm climate, nice beaches, a lively nightlife, and plenty of outdoor concerts in the long rainless season. To them, a Jewish state is an anathema. They know that if Israel would be carved up into two states, the observant Jews would stay away. Israel would no longer be an attraction to them because the religious and historical sites would no longer be easily accessible. Travel to Jerusalem, Hevron, Bethlehem, Tiberias, Sefad, and Masada would become an arduous and dangerous ordeal. If the observant Jews stay away, then Israel would eventually become a free secular state, similar to those in Europe, with intermingling of Muslims and Jews. That’s what the secular leftists want, or think they want. Their misdirected goal is to put an end to Israel as a Jewish state. They put forth proposals that may sound equitable to the uninformed but would really lead to disastrous results.
So contrary to common belief, the Obama proposals may have actually done the Jewish state a favor. When the parties sit down to discuss borders with “mutually-agreed swaps,” it will become readily apparent to the world that this form of a “two-state solution” could never work and so will never come to fruition. So the matter will be eventually put to rest. Then the parties involved can finally move on to the next step which could actually offer a solution. That is, some form of semi-autonomous government for the Arab population that is short of a full sovereign state. The Arab population will be granted full civil liberties and be able to elect their own government, but will not be able to engage in practices that will endanger the Jewish identity and security of the state. Such alternative forms of government already exist around the world. It will be up to the governmental experts among the Arab and Jewish population to sit down and customize an arrangement that will work for their particular demography and geography. So in the long run, the Obama proposals may actually contribute to constructing an agreement that could lead to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, assuming that the Arabs will really want peace. Then, with the help of God, our grandchildren won’t have to worry about the safety of their children.