Netanyahu's Bizarre Palestinian Stance

Netanyahu's Bizarre Palestinian Stance

 By Peter Beinart, Daily Beast

23.5.2011
via Daily Beast (original here)

A sailor throws a drowning man a life preserver. How dare you, screams the man. Because of you, people are going to think I can’t swim.

That about sums up the relationship between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. In a few months, the U.N. General Assembly will vote, probably overwhelmingly, to recognize a Palestinian state along Israel’s 1967 borders. No one knows exactly what will happen after that, but from the Israeli government’s point of view, it won’t be good. According to international law, Israel will be occupying a sovereign nation. The result will likely be a bonanza of lawsuits, divestment campaigns and cancelled business deals. Israelis will feel more and more besieged. More and more of the country’s educated, tech-savvy young will realize you can get pretty good falafel in Menlo Park.                 

Last week, Obama threw Netanyahu a lifeline. He outlined the parameters that should guide Israeli-Palestinian negotiations: the 1967 border, plus land swaps. Obama’s strategy was clear: He promised to veto the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the U.N. Security Council, but also hoped that by getting the Israeli government to endorse a contiguous Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank, he could persuade the Palestinians to abandon their United Nations strategy in favor of a return to negotiations. And even if the Palestinians wouldn’t budge, Israel’s acceptance of Obama’s guidelines would make it easier to persuade European governments to oppose the Palestinians at the U.N.
 
Netanyahu’s response was, on its face, bizarre. The 1967 borders, he shot back, were “indefensible.” But Obama had not demanded a return to 1967 borders; he had very explicitly endorsed the 1967 borders with land swaps, which is essentially what Bill Clinton endorsed in late 2000 and Ehud Olmert endorsed in 2008. (In fact, Clinton and Olmert went further than Obama: Both endorsed a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and in different ways, signaled an openness to the return of small numbers of Palestinian refugees to Israel).
 
But that was only the beginning of the weirdness of Netanyahu’s response, because if Israel’s 1967 border is indefensible against conventional attack, land swaps of the sort that Clinton and Olmert envisaged actually make the problem worse. The settlement of Ariel, which Olmert hoped to swap for land inside Israel, juts like a bony finger 13 miles into the northern West Bank. According to the 2003 Geneva Initiative, keeping Maale Adumim, another large settlement for which Israel might swap land, requires a thin land bridge across a Palestinian state to Jerusalem.