Friday, May 20, 2011

Back to the Future - Obama Style

During the last Israeli election, I attended a meeting at Yisrael Beytenu head quarters in Jerusalem. At the meeting, one elderly gentleman took great interest on the policy of land swaps in any peace agreement. The policy is based purely on logistics. There is inside the 'Green Line' that would make more sense in a Palestinian State and territory that Palestinians, now lay claim to that should fall within Israel's borders. This was not a major campaign platform, as there was no hope of negotiations getting that far in the short term.

Yesterday, President Obama made his big Middle East policy speech. While mentioning many of Israels major concerns, he managed to give the Palestinian leadership another opportunity to dig in their heels. He declared that a Palestinian State should be established based on the 1967 (re: 1949 Armistice Treaty) borders. On the surface suggesting land swaps may seem like step forward in recognizing the logistical impracticality on turning the clock back to a time where Israel's borders with Egypt and Jordan (re: West Bank & Gaza) were not recognized as permanent by any stretch of the imagination.

Unlike Israel, the Palestinians have no reason to establish practical borders. The right of return calls for their people to live in Israel rather than live in a Palestinian State that is supposed to represent their historical and national interests. On the flip side, Jews will be thrown out of a Palestinian State the same as when Israel pulled out of Gaza. Palestinians living in Israel have no reason to share such fears. Currently have severe limited access to Jewish holy sites under PA control. Visits to these sites need to be coordinated with the IDF or risk being killed by PA security forces. Palestinians don't have any such worries visiting to holy sites in Israel.

Obama's plan to freeze construction on land that was going to be swapped in any agreement was a complete backfire. It has provided great cover for the Palestinian leadership to avoid any type of negotiations. His statement that a Palestinian State should be based on the 1967 border gives Palestinian's everything they need to happily continue on the path towards unilaterally declared Statehood in September. With all of the contradictory foreign policies he has to justify, it is always easier to be harsh towards a friend than a foe. Obama has already pushed Israel farther than it is willing to go. Continuing the push, strengthens those who want to harm Israel, while sinking the President's very limited political capital. Perhaps it is time to start picking battles that are winnable.

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