When President Obama spoke last week of the opportunities presented by the Arab Spring, he got a lot right. His calling out of the Arab states was long overdue and dead on.
But he got some big things wrong.
Why the 1967 borders didn’t work in 1967: When the president said Israel should withdraw to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon swaps, he missed an opportunity to put the issue of borders in an important historical context for the world.
The borders of Israel changed because then, like today, the Jewish state came under attack from all sides.
The Arabs rejected the 1967 borders with Israel by waging war. Egypt cut off Israel’s only supply route to Asia and amassed troops on its borders with the Sinai. Syria attacked from the Golan Heights. Jordan started shelling Jerusalem. Before the outbreak of war, Arab terrorism had grown more frequent, with 37 attacks in just the first four months of 1967.
For anyone to discuss the ’67 borders without mentioning this is like discussing our war with Japan without mentioning Pearl Harbor.
A U.S. “plan” becomes a Palestinian demand: We saw how the ill-fated U.S. demand for a total “settlement” freeze wound up grinding peace talks to a halt when the Palestinians then demanded nothing less before they would even sit at the bargaining table.
The call for a 100 percent stop to all building activity did not take into account ongoing construction of buildings in naturally growing areas, as well as several areas like Gilo that are certainly not “settlements.” Soon even Israel’s capital was called a “settlement.”
The administration eventually withdrew this condition, but not before the damage was done. The Palestinians have refused to even start talking unless this impossible and unreasonable condition is met. The president has now repeated the mistake by giving the Palestinians yet another American-created precondition: 1967 borders.
We will now certainly hear a new refrain from them – that they won’t talk about any “swaps” until the ’67 borders are returned.
Negotiated settlement? OK, but with whom? The president expressed many important sentiments in the speech that reflect our values as a nation. For example, he rightly called Hamas a terrorist organization. But how is that fact compatible with the demand that Israel make concessions?
The sad truth is that it is no longer possible to pretend that there is a “good” and “bad” Palestinian entity. As Hamas and Fatah move closer to formalizing their reconciliation through a power-sharing agreement, the more moderate elements in Fatah are being pushed out.
Further, Hamas has yet to make any progress in moving away from its militant stand against Israel. Even the European Union calls Hamas a terrorist entity, and United States law makes this clear. The merger of Hamas and Fatah must put an end to the myth that the Palestinian Authority seeks peace in the region.
A “negotiated settlement” is what we all want, but it’s unrealistic and unfair to demand it of Israel until Hamas is gone.
I honor the president for his desire for peace. The Israelis have demonstrated they share the same aspiration. But taking a correct approach to history and being realistic in our description of today’s realities are vital to that goal.
Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, represents New York’s 9thCongressional district (parts of South Brooklyn and South Central Queens) in the U.S. House of Representatives.