WHAT HAS caused the Prime Minister to — apparently — change his mind and accept the 1967 borders as a basis for peace talks?
Surely he hasn’t, in the past few weeks, discovered some new data which sheds a different light on the question of defensible borders.
Rather, it is the September deadline — when the UN General Assembly is likely to accept a Palestinian state. It seems that, in a last-minute attempt to pre-empt the vote, Mr Netanyahu, sliding down his slippery slope, has dropped one more principle.
First he spoke the unspeakable when he agreed to a two-state solution, which was a huge reversal of his long-held attitudes: just read his book, Place Under the Sun, in which a Palestinian state is portrayed as a mortal danger.
And now, not only a Palestinian state, but with the 1967 borders as a starting point.
In the meantime, the Palestinians flatly rejected the offer to resume the talks.
We are left, however, with questions about Mr Netanyahu’s conduct; indeed, his stature as a leader. It is not new that he yields to pressure — former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir once said that when it comes to resilience at the helm, he prefered Shimon Peres over Benjamin Netanyahu. A strong statement by a staunch Likkudnik. And why, for heaven’s sake, wait for the last moment, when we saw
IT WAS always on the cards that Benjamin Netanyahu would make some sort of diplomatic push in August to forestall Palestinian attempts to get recognition for statehood at the United Nations the following month.
While much is being made of whether Bibi’s apparent acceptance of the 1967 lines as the basis for proposed talks represents a climb-down, the real issue, as ever, is whether the Palestinians are serious about accepting a Jewish state in the Middle East at all.
What, after all, does it really mean to call the borders that existed before the Six-Day War a “baseline”, “basis”, or “framework” for peace talks? Sure, it’s the end of the Greater Israel project. But that was only ever a dream of a tiny minority and almost no-one in Israel has believed it to be practicable for decades.
So all it comes down to is publicly saying what everyone who has ever argued for a two-state solution has always known: that bit over there is going to be the Palestinian state and this bit over here is going to be Israel.
The other issues can be worked out with a bit of goodwill and a readiness to compromise. Simple, really. Except that the whole thing’s a mirage in the desert as long as the Palestinians remain fundamentally opposed to the long-term existence of Israel, as the polling evidence shows. And this is why Mr Netanyahu’s insistence that they recognise Israel as a Jewish state is so important.
If the conflict was about who would compromise on what over land, it would never have begun. In 1947, David Ben Gurion accepted a two-state solution, on much worse terms than the one currently envisaged, by agreeing to UN Resolution 181: a two-state solution with Israel’s blessing, from day one of the conflict.
The Palestinians rejected it, point blank, just as they have rejected every other compromise along such lines.
When you boil it all down, it is legitimacy, not land, that has always lain at the root of it all. Getting the Palestinian leadership to teach its people that Jewish statehood in the Middle East is every bit as legitimate as every other form of statehood in the region is the key to everything. Sixty-seven lines or no 67 lines, the rest is detail. Robin Shepherd is director, international affairs, at the Henry Jackson Society and owner/publisher of The Commentator
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