Obama Drops the S-Word.

This was written by an anonymous GTJ member. Feel free to send us your opinions at info@gatherdc.org.

Perhaps the most significant word uttered by Barack Obama in his new policy
on Israel’s future borders also is the word that has been the most
overlooked in the past few days. Swaps.

Much of the public discussion on the border issue since Obama’s May 19
statement of support for “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” has
centered on whether he was actually calling on Israel to withdraw to the
borders of June 4, 1967 and whether his reference to the year “1967”
constitutes a major U.S. policy shift. Both of these debates are missing the

Obama told AIPAC on Sunday that he believes the future border will be
“different” from the one that existed on June 4, 1967. So far so good. Then,
he offered AIPAC what he called a “definition” of his “1967” declaration,
saying it will allow Israel and the Palestinians to “take account” of “new
demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.” It was the
first time Obama had publicly used the words “new demographic realities on
the ground” in reference to the major settlement blocs that Israel has built
in the West Bank since 1967. Again, it would seem that Obama is saying a
border agreement should allow Israel to keep at least some of those major
settlements. Which also is good, right?

Not so fast. Obama is the first U.S. president ever to publicly use the word
“swaps” to describe how Israel and the Palestinians should negotiate those
borders. As Obama likes to say, let’s be clear about what this word refers
to. It’s about Israel and the Palestinians “mutually agreeing” to swap LAND,
since he uses the word in the context of BORDERS. And what land are we
talking about? Look at Obama’s quote again: “1967 lines with mutually agreed
swaps.” He means land on either side of those 1967 lines.

If you follow Obama’s “definition,” a peace deal could allow Israel to annex
some of the West Bank settlement blocs, sure – but only as part of an
“agreed” land swap with the Palestinians. This means that Israel would have
to transfer parts of its pre-1967 territory, which is
internationally-recognized as Israeli – to the Palestinians in return for
ANY amount of West Bank land that it wants to annex. The idea that Israel
must “swap” parts of its pre-1967 territory for West Bank land is opposed by
many Israelis and has never been endorsed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu’s government. Many Israelis feel the country is small enough
without having to give up land that is rightfully theirs. As for the
Palestinians, Obama has given them official U.S. backing to engage in land
swaps with Israel – which is exactly what they have been seeking for years:
a deal in which they “allow” Israel to annex some settlements in return for
significant chunks of pre-1967 Israeli territory.

No U.N. Security Council resolution ever recognized a Palestinian’s “right”
to swap territory with Israel, because such recognition would wrongfully
presume that the Palestinians were the original owners of the West Bank and
only they can agree to “give up” any of it. Israel has a very different
view, which says the West Bank is “disputed” territory in which the Jewish
people have historical and security claims. Now, the Palestinians believe
they have international backing for the right to swap territory, and they
are starting to insist on it as another precondition for peace talks. As a
result, Israel’s negotiating position has been seriously weakened.

One final note. Obama wants people to believe that his new border policy is
basically the same as that of previous administrations. It is not. In George
W. Bush’s 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon, Bush did say that an
Israeli-Palestinian border deal should reflect the “already existing major
Israeli population centers” in the West Bank – a more explicit endorsement
of Israel’s claims to the settlements than Obama’s. Crucially, Bush’s letter
made NO reference at all to the need for a land swap or territorial
exchange. Previously, the right of Palestinians to swap any land with Israel
would itself have been a matter for negotiation between the parties. Now it
appears not. This is the fundamental problem with Obama’s new policy.

– Anonymous GTJ Member

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *