Today‘s New York Times publishes an op-ed from former President Jimmy Carter, adding additional support for President Obama‘s position that the 1967 borders, plus mutually-agreed upon swaps be the starting point for negotiations. Former President Carter notes UN Findings, and the majority, world-wide opinion, for more than four decades supports Obama's position as to what should be the starting point for a peace negotiations.
The Unchanged Path to Mideast Peace
It was not a new U.S. policy concerning the borders of Israel, nor should it have been surprising to Israeli leaders, when President Obama stated: “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.”
U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of Nov. 22, 1967, concluded the war of that year and has been widely acknowledged by all parties to be the basis for a peace agreement. Its key phrases are, “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” and “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” These included the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, plus lands belonging to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.
At Camp David in 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat accepted the following words: “The agreed basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israel and its neighbors is United Nations Security Council resolution 242, in all its parts.”
Reminding us of history, Carter recounts:
Specifically concerning the West Bank and Gaza, the Israelis and Egyptians mutually agreed: “In order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants under these arrangements the Israeli military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn as soon as a self-governing authority has been freely elected by the inhabitants of these areas.”
As a result of the Oslo Accords of 1993, a self-governing authority was freely elected in January 1996, with Yasir Arafat as president and 88 Parliament members.
The International Quartet’s Roadmap for Peace in April 2003, supported by President George W. Bush, began with these words: “A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors. The settlement will resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967.”
In addition, all 23 Arab nations and all 56 Islamic nations have offered peace and normal relations with Israel, but called upon Israel to affirm: “Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967.”
All these statements assume, of course, that Israel may live in peace within its internationally recognized borders — but not including territories it occupied during the 1967 war.
During all these decades members of the Israeli right-wing Likud, Shas, and other parties containing many advocates of the "Greater Israel" plans of expansion, encouraged illegal settlers to move into the these occupied terroritories, in defiance of international law, in order to establish "fact-on-the-ground" that would hamper any future peace agreements requiring these areas to be returned to the Palestinian people.
Some, estimate that as many as 500,000 illegal Israeli settlers have moved into these occupied terrortories, and some have suggested that the US, and/or the international communities compensate them for any real estate losses suffered as a consequence of being stranded on the "wrong side" of new borders.
Part of the goal of mutually agreeable swaps, is to minimize the number of stranded settlers, in addition to providing Israel with more defensible borders in its mid-section.
For more than three decades, Israel’s occupation of Arab land has been the key unresolved issue. Stated simply, Israel must give up the occupied land in exchange for peace. There has never been any question regarding the occupied territory in international law as expressed through United Nations resolutions, the official policies of the United States, nor those of the International Quartet (the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia).
All, the proposals I am aware of, acknowledge the right of Palestine and Israel to negotiate mutually agreeable swaps, of equivalent amounts of land, on this foundation. And, both sides have plenty of incentives to agree to such swaps. Former President Carter continues:
One interesting proposal that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made to me in 2005 was that this exchanged land might comprise a corridor between Gaza and the West Bank (about 35 miles), on which a railroad and highway could be built. It would be provided security by Israelis but owned and operated by Palestinians. This is just one possibility.
Two recent developments add urgency to the peace process: moves to unite the major Palestinian factions so they can negotiate with a single voice, and the potential vote in the U.N. General Assembly in September to recognize Palestine as a state. It is likely that about 150 U.N. members are prepared to take this action.
All, the key parties in Israel know this history even better than we do. I believe the best explanation of Prime Minister Netanyahu's furious indignation, is that this was part of his negotiating posturing. As Alan Dershowitz, declared later, that Israel expects to get to this point eventually, but his criticism of President Obama, was for mentioning the 1967 plus swap plan, without tying it to the Palestinians agreeing to give up the claims to a "right-of-return." Obama's big "error" from Dershowitz' point of view, was to lead Palestinians to think they can get Israel's agreement on this without giving up the right of return.
But, while these kinds of negotiating tactics work may work with direct stakeholders, in the context of a world audience, and distributed stakeholders, I think they can lead to confusion, and even backfire, as in this case. The PM and his AIPAC supporters may be celebrating their unimagined success after 29 standing-ovations, before the US Congress, I believe the PM damaged his credibility, and created ill-will, among people who want to support Israel's security and position, and see a quick achievement of a two-state solution as the only way forward.
As alway, I request folks make an extra effort to be civil, charming, forgiving, constructive, positive, humorous, spontaneous, disciplined, kind, compassionate, wise, thoughtful, sensitive, colorful, creative, witty, vivid, upbeat, accurate, and fair, in our comments, on the middle east. Other than that have fun.
Most folks try to avoid these diaries, but it is in the interest of all of us who strive for a successful two-state solution where Israel, and Palestine can live in secure, just, and peaceful border side, by side, to make these diaries a positive, constructive place where all feel safe to express opinions, ask questions, and learn from one another, on what ways we can help advance the prospects of peace.