‘1967’: Lara Friedman and Dore Gold agree on the premise


Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman has a smart piece up at the Huffington Post, referring to an equally smart piece by Dore Gold at the Weekly Standard.

Interestingly, they both have the same takeaway from President Obama’s "1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps" speech: It sets a difficult challenge for Israel.

Which also reinforces my point that the locution represents a substantive shift in U.S.  policy — but hey, I’m here to praise Friedman and Gold, not me. 

In any case, coming from different perspectives, they do differ on whether this is a good thing.

Friedman thinks it is:

Purveyors of right-wing hasbara know Obama didn’t demand that Israel return to the 1967 lines or try to impose any border. They know he said that any border would have to be negotiated, that security would be paramount. They know the only thing Obama said specifically about the border was that it would be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps.

It’s that last clause that gives them heartburn.

They understand that "mutually agreed land swaps" means that Israel will have to pay in kind for what it takes in the West Bank. And they know that Israel doesn’t actually have much land to pay with. If Israel wants peace, on terms that pretty much the whole world views as fair, it is going to have to make some tough choices. Choices Israel has forced on itself with its voracious appetite for settlements.

Gold, not so much:

Writing in Haaretz on May 29, 2011, Prof. Gideon Biger, from Tel Aviv University’s department of geography, warned that Israel cannot agree to a land swap greater than the equivalent of 2.5 percent of the territories since Israel does not have vast areas of empty land which can be transferred. Any land swap of greater size would involve areas of vital Israeli civilian and military infrastructure.

Furthermore, in the summaries of the past negotiations with Prime Minister Olmert, the Palestinians noted that they would be demanding land swaps of "comparable value" – meaning, they would not accept some remote sand dunes in exchange for high quality land near the center of Israel. In short, given the limitations on the quantity and quality of territory that Israel could conceivably offer, the land swap idea was emerging as impractical.

I’m not so sure that Obama’s locution goes as far as Friedman and Gold believe, and inevitably requires a meter-for-meter swap. I do agree it posits tougher choices for Israeli negotiators, as I said here:

Under [President George W.]  Bush’s formulation, an Israeli negotiator can look at a 2011 map, assess what Israel holds, and calculate what it can safely keep and what it can "generously" cede. 

Under Obama’s formulation, the same negotator starts with the 1967 map, compares it to the 2011 map — and argues Israel’s case for keeping certain areas.

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