Despite the early Twitter chatter from this part of the world yesterday, President Obama’s speech did actually contain a huge shift in policy — and it wasn’t exactly pro-Israel. Obama called for Israel to return to its 1967 borders as part of any peace plan. As the Washington Post notes, this is new:
The formulation goes beyond principles outlined by President George W. Bush, who stated during his first term that “it is unrealistic to expect” Israel to pull back to the 1967 boundaries, which were based on cease-fire lines established in 1949.
Of course, Israel won’t want to agree to this return. But, big concessions will be required in order to achieve peace. And speaking of compromises, the Palestinians (and, therefore, the Arab World) will also have to make some big ones as well.
I posted these four compromises for Mideast peace last year, but they still seem quite appropriate. Note that one of them is the 1967 borders:
First, Palestinian officials would have to accept that there would be no right of return for refugees of the 1948 war that established the Israeli state, and for their millions of descendants. Rather, the Palestinians would have to accept some kind of compensation.
Second, the two sides would have to share Jerusalem — Palestinians locating their capital in the east and Israelis in the west, and both signing on to some sort of international agreement on how to share the holy sites in the Old City.
Third, Israel would return to its 1967 borders — before it captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the Six-Day War — give or take a few negotiated settlements and territorial swaps.
Fourth, the United States or NATO would have to give Israel security guarantees, probably including stationing troops along the Jordan River, to ease Israeli fears that hostile countries could use the Palestinian state as a springboard for attacks. And finally, Arab neighbors like Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel.
Those other three still look unlikely. But, hope springs eternal…