I'm amazed at the amount of insta-commentary out there suggesting that the President has proposed something radical and new by declaring that Israel's 1967 borders should define -- with land-swaps -- the borders of a Palestinian state. I'm feeling a certain Groundhog Day effect here. This has been the basic idea for at least 12 years. This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba. This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. So what's the huge deal here? Is there any non-delusional Israeli who doesn't think that the 1967 border won't serve as the rough outline of the new Palestinian state?
A bigger deal: President Obama's call for a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank following an agreement. Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to keep a residual force in the Jordan Valley (as does the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which won't admit this publicly). The key here is the word "phased," which could mean anything. Israel could keep troops in the valley for 10 years after an agreement.
A much bigger deal: Obama's forthright denunciation of the unilateral Palestinian plan to seek the General Assembly's endorsement this September of statehood. Also a big deal: The President's statement that the Hamas-Fatah pact "raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel -- how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question." This doesn't sound like a radical departure from long-term American policy. Or even a mild departure.
UPDATE: Here is what Hillary Clinton said in 2009: "We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."
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