Today President Obama announced that “we” the American people, support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which, according to his (our?) thinking, must involve Israel moving back to pre-1967 borders. Funny how one man's opinion becomes the opinion of the entire nation once he becomes President. We can only be grateful that Benjamin Netanyahu's opinion is entirely different.
Anyone who is familiar with the basic topography and geographical features of Israel must understand this backward-looking scheme to be entirely untenable, dangerous, and misguided. For those who are unfamiliar with the history of modern Israeli statehood, some background is required.
Israel's 1967 6-Day War
In June of 1967, Israel was confronted with the absolute certainty of a 4-pronged invasion of its territory from the aggressive fronts of Egypt, Syria, Jordon, and Iraq. Egypt had blocked Israeli access to the Red Sea at the port of Aqaba and expelled U.N. peace-keeping forces. The four Arab countries mobilized over 250,000 troops, armed with Soviet weaponry. This amount of pressure Israel could not stand idly by and watch, so in a pre-emptive attack Israel seized the high northern area called the Golan, along with the entire Sinai Peninsula plus the Gaza strip, and the large bite of mountainous Samaria, commonly referred to now as the West Bank. (In point of fact, there is also an East Bank, on the Jordanian side of the river, where Palestinians are persecuted to a greater extent than their counterparts in Israel. But I digress…)
After the 6-Day War, Israel found herself holding all those lands, and as an added bonus, in what turned out to be a day of Jewish pride and elation, on June 7th the holy city of Jerusalem was once again united. For twenty years prior to the 6-Day War, the Jordanians had occupied and partitioned off Jerusalem, disallowing Jews from entering. The Jordanians were harsh landlords. Imagine for a moment a time when Jews were forbidden to approach the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. That is precisely what the pre-1967 borders involved, and one can only marvel that this is what the President of the United States is now pushing Israel to agree to, a re-divided Jerusalem. I have to ask, would Germany agree to a re-divided Berlin?
But setting current politics aside for a moment, it is crucial to point out that Israel is the historically legitimate Jewish homeland, as attested by archaeological data dating back to the Bronze Age, long before Islam, Christianity, or democratic liberalism were even dreams in the minds of men. The more digging done in Israeli soil, the more firmly established is the ancient connection between the Jewish people and the land. “A land without a people for a people without a land,” goes the slogan of early Christian Zionists. One has to wonder if Obama, along with those who would happily push Israel into ever more cramped quarters and ultimately the sea, fully appreciate that Israel is, in a very real way, a sanctuary for an endangered species.
Israel will never acquiesce
The President seems set on imposing an American civil rights template onto a situation far more complex than was the South during the 1960s. Obama apparently sees himself as a citizen of the world, far above small-minded loyalties to nations. Thus the Palestinians are cast as the oppressed blacks of the Middle East, while the Israelis are the power-holding whites, who are trampling on the rights of every Palestinian Rosa Parks. It would be comical if it weren't so serious.
Consider the realities. If Israel were to return the Golan Heights to Syria, it would leave the entire Galilee region directly downwind of potential attacks straight out of Damascus. In 2005 Israel willingly evacuated some 9000 people from Gaza, in the ultimate effort to exchange land for peace. It was a dismal reminder that militant Islam does not want peace. If Israel were to have another go at it, and evacuate the entire West Bank, it would be faced with resettling hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom would be forced to live in an Israel that is only 8 miles wide in the middle. It is these exact conditions, the 1967 borders, which encouraged Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordon to mount an attack in the first place.
Israel is, once again, being pushed to live up to a double standard, which the rest of the world does not even feign to adhere to. Isn't it time to change this? Might we dare to have the audacity to hope for a change? I say, if Israel is going to be forced to rewind to 1967, so should the rest of the world. Egypt should give the entire Sinai back to Israel, we should re-build the Berlin Wall, and the US should also rescind the lunar landing.
It's only fair.