Presidential love is not a substitute for defensible borders, any more than a “guaranty” or a “binding” UN resolution would be. And it is essential to recognize that defensible borders for Israel are as much an American interest as an Israeli one: indefensible borders will simply produce another Middle East war, no matter what the peace agreement says, or who signs it, or how many Nobel Prizes result from it.
Rick Richman writes that when in Washington Netanyahu was following a long tradition in opposing a 1967 border:
[I]t is worth noting that the confrontation regarding the 1967 lines was not unprecedented. It has happened at least three times before — and the three prior times are instructive in understanding the position Netanyahu took during the fourth.
The prior three times are described in Yehuda Avner’s invaluable recent book, The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership. Avner was present as note-taker each time, and the quotations in his book are verbatim transcriptions of his notes.
When Prime Minister Levi Eshkol met President Lyndon Johnson--after the 1967 War--in the course of their conversation, Esshkol said:
[W]e cannot return to those old, vulnerable armistice frontiers that virtually invited hostilities. [Emphasis added].See Richman's post for the full conversation.
While Golda Meir was telling Nixon that an imposition of the 1967 lines as borders was unacceptable to Israel, then- ambassador to the UN Yitzhak Rabin, prepared material for reporters, politicians, and opinion on Israel's talking points with Nixon. Among the points was
U.S. policy as it is now unfolding comes close to the advocacy and development of an imposed settlement. . . . [T]he U.S. proposals do more than undermine the principle of negotiation; they preempt its very prospect. If the United States has already determined what the “secure and recognized boundaries” are, there is no point in Israel taking part in any negotiations with anybody at all. Why should the Arabs consent to give Israel more than what America is recommending publicly?See Richman's post for the full description.
When Menachem Begin met Jimmy Carter for the first time in 1978, he brought a map of the 1967 lines and told Carter:
We were a helpless people, Mr. President. We were bled, not once, not twice, but century after century, over and over again. We lost a third of our people in one generation — mine. One-and-a-half million of them were children — ours. No one came to our rescue. . . .Read the whole thing.
As you see, our military cartographers have delineated the tiny area we had for defense in [the 1967] war. It was a war of survival in the most literal sense. Our backs were to the sea. We had absolutely no defensive depth. . . . There is no going back to those lines. [Emphasis added]
As far as the positions of previous administrations, in his post about Obama’s Three Lies to AIPAC, Joel B. Pollak writes:
In fact, previous administrations have all rejected the 1967 lines as the starting point for negotiations. Obama’s predecessors have all acknowledged that Israel would retain some of the territory it gained during the 1967 conflict. What Obama did on Thursday–and again today–was to deny publicly that which has been acknowledged privately by the Palestinians, and publicly by the U.S., hurting Israel’s negotiating position badly.Retaining that territory was not considered conditional on Palestinian acceptance and good will--this was part of the realities on the ground that Israel has a right to in the interests of its security
And that--to paraphrase Obama--should be nothing new.
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