Obama and 1967: A Sympathetic Response (Part I)

Israeli negotiators have long acknowledged that the 1967 lines have been and will be the basis for future negotiations of a Palestinian state. Virtually every discussion of security and settlements has assumed this. The info from WikiLeaks confirms this as the Israeli position. Even Netanyahu has more or less admitted this in a recent speech to the Knesset.  He sounds tough, but his positions are in line with previous Israeli negotiating positions. He just doesn’t want to use the word, “1967.”

The reaction to Obama’s statement in the Arab world says it all. Arabs don’t like it because in part everyone (including the Israelis) already knew about 1967. It’s old news. Actually Obama’s statement was one of the most forceful defenses of Israel by any administration: his condemnation of Hamas’ call for Israel’s annihilation and his demand that any negotiations for a Palestinian state require groups to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state; and his frank criticisms of the UN. Many in the Arab world are very upset by this. In my view, Obama’s position is an attempt to protect Israel from the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state by the U.N. General Assembly. It gives (we hope) him, the US, and other nations cover to oppose this by simply stating what everyone already knows to be the case. In the end, the only parties that can determine boundaries and arrangements are the Israelis and the Palestinians, not some third-party bureaucracy.

Obama merely stated what negotiators on both sides have long admitted: Israel will keep the larger settlements, but the “1967” border will remain more or less. Of course, the “more or less” is key, and there will be territorial, financial, and other arrangements. This is just boiler-plate stuff. It’s only the politicians and rhetoricians who pander to their true-believing bases that naively think there is some kind of alternative or new deal or conquest or God that will solve the problem. My guess is that Netanyahu understands this as well-privately, but will never admit to it publicly (even though his actual public words may be read as confirming my point).

As for Jerusalem, Israelis have already offered some kind of arrangement of East Jerusalem under both Barak and Olmert: Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli control, Palestinian ones under Palestinian control. Israeli negotiators confirm this time and time again. Many of us make not like it or think it unworkable (frankly I wonder), but it’s what the Israelis themselves have offered–not Obama or the far-left.

In other words, what I am saying is what is in fact what Israelis themselves have already stated or offered in private talks.  It’s not new. What we’re all are arguing about is rhetoric that the negotiators and diplomats in Israel only pay attention to for political and PR reasons, not substantive ones. In other words, those of us who argue about Israel are just talking, but the negotiation facts are way ahead of us.

The real issue is not territory any more. Its culture and politics. Until the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state, nothing will happen. And they don’t accept Israel. That’s one enormous problem. The other is the state of Palestinian governance and society. The Palestinian government is still (compared to Israel and the West) unstable,  corrupt, ineffective, and repressive. There’s no authentic democracy or freedom. The culture and economy are still backward, primitive, and unmanageable.  Of course, Gaza is much worse than the West Bank.

And we Jews have to admit that we have some problems with extremists on our side as well, particularly among the settlers. And there are discrimination and prejudice issues in Israel itself. They are not as serious or as significant as among the Palestinians, but we who are Jewish have to face this honestly and deal with it.

Until Palestinians deal with their deep problems, there will be no meaningful agreement.  And I don’t feel very positive about that–unfortunately.  Still, as Obama says, we have to try. You never know, and events can unfold in unpredictable ways that are turn out better than expected from time to time. This is the moment when we have to push forward, not sit back and watch events on the ground deteriorate.

I say this as a thank-you to President Obama from a Jew and a strong Zionist.

————–

For Part II, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/24/obama-and-1967-2/

For Part III, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/26/getting-to-yes-negotiating-101-with-netanyahu-and-obama/

See also the article by Rabbi H.D. Uriel Smith: http://mysticscholar.org/2011/06/06/critique-of-obama-and-1967/

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DR. LAURENCE H. KANT (LARRY KANT), MYSTIC SCHOLAR: Engaged Mysticism and Scholarship in the Pursuit of Wisdom; Discovering meaning in every issue and facet of life; Integrating scholarship, spirituality, mysticism, poetry, community, economics, and politics seamlessly. Historian of Religion: Ph.D., Yale University, 1993 (Department of Religious Studies); Exchange Scholar, Harvard University, Rabbinics, 1983-84; M.A., 1982, Yale, 1982 (Department of Religious Studies); M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School, 1981; B.A., Classics (Greek and Latin), Tufts University, 1978; Wayland High School (Wayland, MA), 1974. Served on the faculty of Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), York University (Toronto), and Lexington Theological Seminary (Lexington, KY). Works in many languages: Ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, English, French, Italian, German, Modern Greek (some Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish). Holder of numerous honors and awards, including The Rome Prize in Classics (Prix de Rome) and Fellow of the American Academy of Rome.
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3 Responses to “Obama and 1967: A Sympathetic Response (Part I)”

  1. Avatar Stephanie Barrett says:

    Thanks, Larry.
    I, too, feel that Obama was measured in his comments, firm and fair. (The Israeli-Palestinian issue was just a sideline in his first public comments after bin Laden’s murder anyway!) Obama’s suggestions are realistic–and, i learned from your essay, already understood and accepted, at least by Israeli negotiators. I just wonder if Netanyahu’s ego didn’t drive some of his own response and enflame his tone toward our president.

    A strong Zionist myself, i see no evidence to substantiate some people’s claim that Obama is “anti-Israel”. Since Obama was only one of a couple strong Democratic candidates for president people have saddled him with that criticism. I have to agree with you, Larry. Hearing Obama’s final comment, raising the Palestinian-Israeli issue, i felt relief. His fair representation of both sides’ needs combined with his uncomplicated, no-nonsense presentation gave me confidence in him should he help broker any treaty.
    The best friend one can hope to have is a friend who will tell you the truth. I think President Obama is that sort of friend for Israel.
    It’s good to read your messages. Thanks, Larry, as always, for your clear, well-reasoned insights.

  2. Avatar Joe says:

    Right on, Larry. I feel as you do. The UN may get there first by recognizing the Palestinians. What then?

  3. Avatar Ken Slepyan says:

    Hi Larry,

    Great post. I think you analysis is spot on. What I have a hard time understanding is how this speech caused all this hullabaloo from the US Right and from the Israeli government. It does not leave me optimistic for the future (and never mind the problems from the Palestinian side).

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  1. Obama and 1967: A Sympathetic Response (Part II) | Mystic Scholar - [...] Part I, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/23/obama-and-1967/ Print PDF likebot_bgcolor = ''; likebot_url = 'http://mysticscholar.org/?p=5855';…
  2. Israel, Obama, 1967, and Obama | Mystic Scholar - [...] the following specific items: 1) http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/23/obama-and-1967/; 2) [...]
  3. Getting to Yes: Negotiating 101 with Netanyahu and Obama (Part III) | Mystic Scholar - [...] For Part I, see http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/23/obama-and-1967 [...]
  4. Critique of Obama and 1967 by Rabbi Uriel Smith | Mystic Scholar - [...] For Part I, see http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/23/obama-and-1967 [...]

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