There seems to be some confusion over why the Israelis should be so hostile to President Obama’s suggestion that the two-state solution be achieved by returning the Jewish state to its 1967 borders. The President’s supporters argue that since these borders were previously acceptable to Israel, they should be acceptable now. After all, pre-1967 Israel fought to defend those borders and they were on the table in the 2000 peace talks. Can 45 years make that much of a difference?
It is true that 45 years is not so very long in terms of the territorial integrity of the United States. We might even prefer to return to the 1967 context in which our borders were much less challenging than they are today. But what Mr. Obama seems to fail to understand is that 45 years is a very long time for Israel. While the history of the Israeli people stretches back millennia, lsrael itself has only existed for 63 years. What the President is asking is that more than 70% of that history be erased, beginning with the reasons it was deemed necessary to annex the territories in 1967, and continuing on through the failed diplomatic initiatives, UN humiliations and relentless, deadly terrorist attacks of the past decades (including the last one, as Jeff Emanuel discussed yesterday). While some have considered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s terse response to this proposal disrespectful of the President, Mr. Netanyahu might have some very real concerns that once three-quarters of Israel’s past has been eradicated, would it be all that outlandish to go all the way to pre-1948? Especially under the leadership of an American president who is asking the Israelis to make this concession on the dubious grounds that hope will overcome hate?
Mr. Obama justified his pre-1967 proposal yesterday by declaring “[t]he dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.” While rhetorically it sounded nice and cleverly recalled Martin Luther King’s iconic speech, the choice of the word “dream” to describe a sovereign state was a curious one. Perhaps for our President Israel is still an abstract phantasm that might or might not exist, but for others it has been a reality for the last 63 years. Israel has the right to all of its history, and all of its territory.