I hope you had a chance to hear Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s statement at the White House yesterday after his meeting with President Obama. It was a brilliant historical overview and encapsulation of the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
In this blog yesterday, I pointed out why Israelis objected to Obama’s references to ‘the 1967 lines’ (Netanyahu yesterday: “These lines are indefensible . . . And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive.”) I also pointed out Israeli annoyance at Obama’s incorporation of the phrase ‘land swaps’ as official American policy (Netanyahu yesterday did not mention the phrase–suggesting Israel is prepared to make ‘generous compromises’ for peace; in other words, ‘changes’ not ‘swaps’ might be made–a phrasing that hearkens back to the Bush letter).
Today, I would like to point out two other reasons for Israeli annoyance, both of which Netanyahu addressed yesterday. First, Obama’s declaration that a new state of Palestine should have a border with Jordan: “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt . . .” Obama’s statement was made with the full knowledge that Netanyahu has always declared that an Israeli presence will be necessary along the Jordan River, a position the Prime Minister repeated yesterday: “We can’t go back to those indefensible lines, and we’re going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan.”
The importance of this point cannot be overstated. Were Israel not to maintain an IDF presence along the Jordan River, the entire country would be prey to easy attack from the east– and Jordan is a country in the current Arab Spring that is becoming increasingly unstable.
Second, Obama declared that: “Two wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees.” This seemingly benign statement seems true enough–the issues are wrenching. Yet the idea that Israel has to negotiate to solve the problem of the ‘refugees’ is absurd within the context of the Palestinians having to recognize Israel is a Jewish country. Israel could not remain Jewish if millions of Arabs were allowed in.
As Netanyahu pointed out yesterday, Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees from Arab countries after 1948 while no Arab countries absorbed the Arab refugees from Israel. Today, it is ridiculous to think that the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these people will return to Israel: “It’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen. And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it’s not going to happen.”
The contrast between President Obama and Prime Minister could not have been more evident than yesterday: Obama is an idealist who always hopes for the best from the Arabs while Netanyahu is a realist whose experience has taught him to always expect the worst.