Commentary Magazine


Topic: Evelyn Gordon

Netanyahu Chooses the Lesser of Two Evils

The debate over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to renew a settlement-building freeze in the West Bank has been rightly characterized by my colleagues Jennifer Rubin, Evelyn Gordon, and J.E. Dyer as a measure that will not advance the basic interests of the United States or Israel and that will undermine the slim chances for a genuine peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Others are also correct when they point out that this decision, like virtually every other concession made by Israel since the start of the Oslo process in 1993, strengthens the incorrect perception that the Palestinians are the only lawful owners of all of the West Bank.

But as much as Oslo has been completely discredited by the Palestinians’ refusal to make peace, Netanyahu cannot afford to act as if the desire of the United States to pursue another round of peace talks is irrelevant. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be among the last people on Planet Earth to fail to understand that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has neither the will nor the interest in signing a peace accord, no matter where Israel’s borders are drawn. Their decision — to hound Netanyahu to renew the freeze for 90 days even after a 10-month freeze was ignored by the Palestinians — is an absurd policy that mires the administration in a dead-end process that can win them no laurels and few thanks from a Muslim world that Obama is still clearly interested in appeasing.

Yet would it have been prudent of Netanyahu to simply say no indefinitely? Another three months of a freeze won’t do more to undermine Israel’s rights or security than the previous 17 years of fruitless negotiations have done, whereas another spat with the White House that could have been blamed on Israel would worsen the country’s position.

It is true, as Evelyn Gordon has written, that Israel will get no credit from an international community that is hostile to the existence of the Jewish state. But it is also true that actions that highlight the true obstacle to peace — Palestinian irredentism — are essential to maintaining the bipartisan, across-the-board support for Israel here in the United States. As much as Netanyahu would have been justified in bluntly and publicly telling Obama and Clinton that their demand for another freeze was wrong, that would have meant putting his country in the position to be accused of saying “no” to peace. Such a charge would be a lie, but it would have strengthened the hand of those in the Obama administration who want to distance the United States from Israel, and it would also have been exactly what Abbas wanted because it would allow him to avoid being the one to say “no” to more talks or ultimately to an agreement. In the game of chicken being played by Israel and the Palestinians, all the settlement freeze has done is to put more pressure on Abbas to jump out of the talks, illustrating once again that peace is something that will only be achieved by a change in the political culture of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu must live with a situation where his only ally-state is led by a man who is still uncomfortable with Israel and unwilling to abandon his hubristic belief that he can succeed in making peace where all who have gone before him have failed. Obama has another two years left in his current term and 12 months or so before the requirements of his quest for re-election may serve to deter him from further putting the screws to Israel. During this period, Netanyahu may face a decision about whether Israel will strike at Iran’s nuclear project. Another war with Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza may also be forced upon the Jewish state during this time frame.

There are no guarantees that this concession, like all those made by Israel before this, will strengthen Israel’s hand in gaining support for its right of self-defense, but doing so will surely make it easier for Israel to make its case before the American people, especially at a time when the White House must be considered essentially unfriendly to Jerusalem. Under the circumstances, Netanyahu cannot be blamed for deciding that giving in on the freeze — when it is obvious that the Palestinians will not take advantage of the opening — is the lesser of two evils.

The debate over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to renew a settlement-building freeze in the West Bank has been rightly characterized by my colleagues Jennifer Rubin, Evelyn Gordon, and J.E. Dyer as a measure that will not advance the basic interests of the United States or Israel and that will undermine the slim chances for a genuine peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Others are also correct when they point out that this decision, like virtually every other concession made by Israel since the start of the Oslo process in 1993, strengthens the incorrect perception that the Palestinians are the only lawful owners of all of the West Bank.

But as much as Oslo has been completely discredited by the Palestinians’ refusal to make peace, Netanyahu cannot afford to act as if the desire of the United States to pursue another round of peace talks is irrelevant. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be among the last people on Planet Earth to fail to understand that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has neither the will nor the interest in signing a peace accord, no matter where Israel’s borders are drawn. Their decision — to hound Netanyahu to renew the freeze for 90 days even after a 10-month freeze was ignored by the Palestinians — is an absurd policy that mires the administration in a dead-end process that can win them no laurels and few thanks from a Muslim world that Obama is still clearly interested in appeasing.

Yet would it have been prudent of Netanyahu to simply say no indefinitely? Another three months of a freeze won’t do more to undermine Israel’s rights or security than the previous 17 years of fruitless negotiations have done, whereas another spat with the White House that could have been blamed on Israel would worsen the country’s position.

It is true, as Evelyn Gordon has written, that Israel will get no credit from an international community that is hostile to the existence of the Jewish state. But it is also true that actions that highlight the true obstacle to peace — Palestinian irredentism — are essential to maintaining the bipartisan, across-the-board support for Israel here in the United States. As much as Netanyahu would have been justified in bluntly and publicly telling Obama and Clinton that their demand for another freeze was wrong, that would have meant putting his country in the position to be accused of saying “no” to peace. Such a charge would be a lie, but it would have strengthened the hand of those in the Obama administration who want to distance the United States from Israel, and it would also have been exactly what Abbas wanted because it would allow him to avoid being the one to say “no” to more talks or ultimately to an agreement. In the game of chicken being played by Israel and the Palestinians, all the settlement freeze has done is to put more pressure on Abbas to jump out of the talks, illustrating once again that peace is something that will only be achieved by a change in the political culture of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu must live with a situation where his only ally-state is led by a man who is still uncomfortable with Israel and unwilling to abandon his hubristic belief that he can succeed in making peace where all who have gone before him have failed. Obama has another two years left in his current term and 12 months or so before the requirements of his quest for re-election may serve to deter him from further putting the screws to Israel. During this period, Netanyahu may face a decision about whether Israel will strike at Iran’s nuclear project. Another war with Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza may also be forced upon the Jewish state during this time frame.

There are no guarantees that this concession, like all those made by Israel before this, will strengthen Israel’s hand in gaining support for its right of self-defense, but doing so will surely make it easier for Israel to make its case before the American people, especially at a time when the White House must be considered essentially unfriendly to Jerusalem. Under the circumstances, Netanyahu cannot be blamed for deciding that giving in on the freeze — when it is obvious that the Palestinians will not take advantage of the opening — is the lesser of two evils.

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The Problem with the Obama Letter

Paul Mirengoff concurs with Evelyn Gordon’s suggestion that Barack Obama’s proposed letter, promising significant “goodies” for Israel if it extends its settlement moratorium, is unreliable — given Obama’s failure to abide by promises made by the U.S. in his predecessor’s letter. My own view is that the problem with the proposed letter is not simply its credibility but also its substance.

The Obama administration has refused 22 times to state whether it considers itself bound by the Bush letter, which conceded that it “seems clear” that Palestinian refugees must be resettled in a Palestinian state rather than in Israel and that it is “unrealistic” to expect a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, given the major Israeli population centers there. Those factual statements remain true notwithstanding Obama’s refusal to acknowledge them. But the critical part of the Bush letter was the promise that the U.S. would stand by its “steadfast commitment” to “defensible borders” (a term with a long diplomatic history and military meaning) — a commitment made not only by Bush, but by the Clinton administration in its own letter to Israel’s then-prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to David Makovsky’s quasi-official summary of the proposed Obama letter, the administration promises to help ensure “a complete ban” on the smuggling of arms and terrorists into a Palestinian state; maintain a “transitional period” for Israeli enforcement of security in the Jordan Valley; and enhance Israel’s defense capabilities in a “post-peace era.” But there was no reiteration of the prior U.S. commitment to such borders as are necessary for Israel to defend itself if the ban proves less than complete, the transitional period not quite long enough, and the “post-peace era” similar to the one that followed withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza.

The failure of the proposed letter to reiterate the commitment to defensible borders made by both Democratic and Republican administrations is another indication the Obama administration has reneged on it. In its place, the administration offers a “complete ban” that no one can guarantee; a “transitional period” no one can assure will be long enough; and a promised enhancement of Israel’s defense capabilities, which is an implicit admission that Israel’s current capabilities are insufficient for the risks involved in a “post-peace era.” Even if given in good faith, the Obama letter cannot substitute for defensible borders, but that is the function the proposed letter seems intended to serve.

Paul Mirengoff concurs with Evelyn Gordon’s suggestion that Barack Obama’s proposed letter, promising significant “goodies” for Israel if it extends its settlement moratorium, is unreliable — given Obama’s failure to abide by promises made by the U.S. in his predecessor’s letter. My own view is that the problem with the proposed letter is not simply its credibility but also its substance.

The Obama administration has refused 22 times to state whether it considers itself bound by the Bush letter, which conceded that it “seems clear” that Palestinian refugees must be resettled in a Palestinian state rather than in Israel and that it is “unrealistic” to expect a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, given the major Israeli population centers there. Those factual statements remain true notwithstanding Obama’s refusal to acknowledge them. But the critical part of the Bush letter was the promise that the U.S. would stand by its “steadfast commitment” to “defensible borders” (a term with a long diplomatic history and military meaning) — a commitment made not only by Bush, but by the Clinton administration in its own letter to Israel’s then-prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to David Makovsky’s quasi-official summary of the proposed Obama letter, the administration promises to help ensure “a complete ban” on the smuggling of arms and terrorists into a Palestinian state; maintain a “transitional period” for Israeli enforcement of security in the Jordan Valley; and enhance Israel’s defense capabilities in a “post-peace era.” But there was no reiteration of the prior U.S. commitment to such borders as are necessary for Israel to defend itself if the ban proves less than complete, the transitional period not quite long enough, and the “post-peace era” similar to the one that followed withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza.

The failure of the proposed letter to reiterate the commitment to defensible borders made by both Democratic and Republican administrations is another indication the Obama administration has reneged on it. In its place, the administration offers a “complete ban” that no one can guarantee; a “transitional period” no one can assure will be long enough; and a promised enhancement of Israel’s defense capabilities, which is an implicit admission that Israel’s current capabilities are insufficient for the risks involved in a “post-peace era.” Even if given in good faith, the Obama letter cannot substitute for defensible borders, but that is the function the proposed letter seems intended to serve.

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RE: The F-35 and the Israel-Obama Relationship

Evelyn Gordon’s post from Thursday highlights a Team Obama method that increasingly comes across as precious, annoying, and insidious. I’m not sure there’s a single word to describe it, but it involves a sort of inversion by which the administration of policy conveniently supersedes the purpose and substance of policy. In some cases, obstacles are allowed to dictate outcomes as if the U.S. administration has no discretion over them. In other cases, bureaucratic arcana serve as dodges. And in others, like Obama’s approach to Iran, procedural checklists are wielded as surrogates for policy, generating a kind of lottery in which we all watch to see what fate the procedures will eventually confer on us.

The case of the F-35 and Israel appears to fall into the first category. The F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, has been known for some time to be ill-suited to modifications in its avionics and weapons-control systems. Israel expressed concern about that almost two years ago – and Israel isn’t the only F-35 customer to have reservations, as this Congressional Research Service study from April 2010 outlines. The tightly integrated nature of the F-35’s avionics was intended to be a design feature, not a bug. It is also, however, a 1990s-era design concept that will probably be updated eventually to accommodate more interchangeability of components in future production blocks of the F-35.

A constructive approach to this impasse would certainly be possible. A U.S. administration eager to tend alliances would review the sunk costs of the current design, balance that consideration with the importance of America’s global partnerships, and probably make the commitment now to begin a design migration that would work better for allies. Israel might well find it acceptable to be met halfway and may agree without complaint to buy the first 20 fighters as-is.

But this situation is tailor-made for Team Obama’s unique methods. In negotiations with one of our closest allies, the administration has simply left a known sticking point to fester. From the standpoint of professionalism, there is no good excuse for this: the issue has been recognized in the halls of government and industry for some time. But as Evelyn Gordon observes, it’s something the public knows little about. Obama pays no real price for his administration’s behavior.

An explanation for that behavior has to be deduced by process of elimination. Neither a well-intentioned ally nor a motivated seller behaves this way, so we are left with fecklessness or bad intentions. The Obama image is not enhanced by either possibility. When it comes to his administration’s foreign-policy posture, I’m reminded often of P.J. O’Rourke’s characterization of the French, in a 1986 Rolling Stone article (“Among the Euro-Weenies”), as “masters of the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of diplomatic relations.” It doesn’t quite reach the level of a “Twinkie defense” school of diplomatic relations, but it’s still unbecoming in the leader of the free world.

Evelyn Gordon’s post from Thursday highlights a Team Obama method that increasingly comes across as precious, annoying, and insidious. I’m not sure there’s a single word to describe it, but it involves a sort of inversion by which the administration of policy conveniently supersedes the purpose and substance of policy. In some cases, obstacles are allowed to dictate outcomes as if the U.S. administration has no discretion over them. In other cases, bureaucratic arcana serve as dodges. And in others, like Obama’s approach to Iran, procedural checklists are wielded as surrogates for policy, generating a kind of lottery in which we all watch to see what fate the procedures will eventually confer on us.

The case of the F-35 and Israel appears to fall into the first category. The F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, has been known for some time to be ill-suited to modifications in its avionics and weapons-control systems. Israel expressed concern about that almost two years ago – and Israel isn’t the only F-35 customer to have reservations, as this Congressional Research Service study from April 2010 outlines. The tightly integrated nature of the F-35’s avionics was intended to be a design feature, not a bug. It is also, however, a 1990s-era design concept that will probably be updated eventually to accommodate more interchangeability of components in future production blocks of the F-35.

A constructive approach to this impasse would certainly be possible. A U.S. administration eager to tend alliances would review the sunk costs of the current design, balance that consideration with the importance of America’s global partnerships, and probably make the commitment now to begin a design migration that would work better for allies. Israel might well find it acceptable to be met halfway and may agree without complaint to buy the first 20 fighters as-is.

But this situation is tailor-made for Team Obama’s unique methods. In negotiations with one of our closest allies, the administration has simply left a known sticking point to fester. From the standpoint of professionalism, there is no good excuse for this: the issue has been recognized in the halls of government and industry for some time. But as Evelyn Gordon observes, it’s something the public knows little about. Obama pays no real price for his administration’s behavior.

An explanation for that behavior has to be deduced by process of elimination. Neither a well-intentioned ally nor a motivated seller behaves this way, so we are left with fecklessness or bad intentions. The Obama image is not enhanced by either possibility. When it comes to his administration’s foreign-policy posture, I’m reminded often of P.J. O’Rourke’s characterization of the French, in a 1986 Rolling Stone article (“Among the Euro-Weenies”), as “masters of the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of diplomatic relations.” It doesn’t quite reach the level of a “Twinkie defense” school of diplomatic relations, but it’s still unbecoming in the leader of the free world.

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RE: How Obama’s Policy Ensures More Flotillas

Hard on the heels of Evelyn Gordon’s stingingly accurate analysis, the news comes that Iran is offering a naval escort for the next flotilla. The UK Guardian quotes a top Revolutionary Guard official speaking this past weekend:

“Iran’s Revolutionary Guard naval forces are prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys that carry humanitarian assistance for the defenceless and oppressed people of Gaza with all their strength,” pledged Hojjatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Khamenei’s personal representative to the guards corps.

This is not an empty threat. Iran’s navy has deployed units to the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea for antipiracy operations since December 2008. The Iranians have taken great pride in expanding their maritime operating range across the region; extending their navy’s reach into the Eastern Mediterranean is now an incremental step, something no longer obviously beyond their force’s capabilities.

This is the kind of move President Obama could have deterred by affirming U.S. support for Israel’s right to secure borders and self-defense. Iran has been emboldened to take this step — one that must provoke a regional showdown — by the perception that Israel stands condemned and alone.

With his response implying U.S. disengagement, however, Obama has ensured that we will ultimately have to do more to protect our own interests. If Iran makes good on this offer, Egypt will quickly face the game-changing decision about whether to allow Iranian navy ships through the Suez Canal for such a mission. And if the U.S. is not acting overtly to give Egypt what the military calls “top cover” — political support and material backing for a negative decision — there is no guarantee that Arab regional fears of Iranian militarism will govern the Egyptian thought process.

Indeed, the long-term effects would be worse than the immediate consequences of an Iranian tactical triumph. A self-imposed posture of impotence on America’s part would drive nations like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to turn elsewhere for patronage. In addition to giving them a reason for accommodation with Turkey and Iran, passivity and incoherence on our part would open regional doors further for Russia and perhaps for China, as well.

Events are moving quickly now. It was clear a year ago that Israel’s national security could not be put in question without a feeding frenzy erupting in the Middle East. The past week has demonstrated that Western nations need not actively repudiate Israel to galvanize Israel’s terrorist enemies. Simply withholding affirmation of Israel’s rights as a nation works equally well.

The enemies of Israel are also the enemies of Western civilization — and they are emboldened today to press for what they want. They do not want the global stasis on which our way of life depends, with its liberality of trade, travel, and culture. Obama still has a little time to avert the battle they are preparing for — a battle that will unfold excruciatingly over weeks and months of probing Israel and the West by unconventional methods — but now is the time to act. If he fails to do so, he will rapidly lose control over what the fight is about and what America’s role in it is to be.

Hard on the heels of Evelyn Gordon’s stingingly accurate analysis, the news comes that Iran is offering a naval escort for the next flotilla. The UK Guardian quotes a top Revolutionary Guard official speaking this past weekend:

“Iran’s Revolutionary Guard naval forces are prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys that carry humanitarian assistance for the defenceless and oppressed people of Gaza with all their strength,” pledged Hojjatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Khamenei’s personal representative to the guards corps.

This is not an empty threat. Iran’s navy has deployed units to the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea for antipiracy operations since December 2008. The Iranians have taken great pride in expanding their maritime operating range across the region; extending their navy’s reach into the Eastern Mediterranean is now an incremental step, something no longer obviously beyond their force’s capabilities.

This is the kind of move President Obama could have deterred by affirming U.S. support for Israel’s right to secure borders and self-defense. Iran has been emboldened to take this step — one that must provoke a regional showdown — by the perception that Israel stands condemned and alone.

With his response implying U.S. disengagement, however, Obama has ensured that we will ultimately have to do more to protect our own interests. If Iran makes good on this offer, Egypt will quickly face the game-changing decision about whether to allow Iranian navy ships through the Suez Canal for such a mission. And if the U.S. is not acting overtly to give Egypt what the military calls “top cover” — political support and material backing for a negative decision — there is no guarantee that Arab regional fears of Iranian militarism will govern the Egyptian thought process.

Indeed, the long-term effects would be worse than the immediate consequences of an Iranian tactical triumph. A self-imposed posture of impotence on America’s part would drive nations like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to turn elsewhere for patronage. In addition to giving them a reason for accommodation with Turkey and Iran, passivity and incoherence on our part would open regional doors further for Russia and perhaps for China, as well.

Events are moving quickly now. It was clear a year ago that Israel’s national security could not be put in question without a feeding frenzy erupting in the Middle East. The past week has demonstrated that Western nations need not actively repudiate Israel to galvanize Israel’s terrorist enemies. Simply withholding affirmation of Israel’s rights as a nation works equally well.

The enemies of Israel are also the enemies of Western civilization — and they are emboldened today to press for what they want. They do not want the global stasis on which our way of life depends, with its liberality of trade, travel, and culture. Obama still has a little time to avert the battle they are preparing for — a battle that will unfold excruciatingly over weeks and months of probing Israel and the West by unconventional methods — but now is the time to act. If he fails to do so, he will rapidly lose control over what the fight is about and what America’s role in it is to be.

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The Flotilla — Why Presume There Was Another Way?

Max Boot and Evelyn Gordon are both hard on the Israeli government and military for the operation against the flotilla. Their harmonizing arguments are that Israel has little or no room for error because the international response is always going to be harsh, Israel can’t strategically or emotionally handle the consequences of international isolation, that what happened is a calamity, something should have been done differently, and heads should roll.

The problem is that this suggests that Israel had a multiplicity of options and chose the wrong one. But what if the option it chose was really the best of a whole bunch of frankly unattractive options? Had it failed to halt the flotilla, the Gaza blockade would have been publicly breached. Hamas would not only have won a propaganda victory against Israel but would have effectively put an end to the “good” Palestinian rule by Fatah on the West Bank — for Hamas would have demonstrated it could best Israel in a way that Fatah has proved singularly unable to. It is theoretically possible, as Evelyn suggests, that had its interdiction been more aggressive, with more heavily armed commandos, Israel could have taken the ship more efficiently with less bloodshed (certainly to Israeli commandos). But there’s no way to know that for sure.

Max suggests, in his Wall Street Journal piece, that maybe Israel should have booby-trapped the Marmara, the ship it boarded, while it was in port. That does sound like a juicy, Guns of Navarone–like option. But it seems to me that the public exposure of a commando raid on a ship in a Turkish Cypriot port would have had consequences vastly more dire for Israel, since it would have involved a profound violation of another nation’s sovereignty. A friend suggests that the Israelis could have worked some kind of bribery trick at the harbor in Turkish Cyprus to get the harbormaster to refuse to allow the flotilla’s exit — but if he thought of it, it stands to reason the Israelis thought of it as well and were unable to pull it off.

There’s no sense in pretending this isn’t a terrible situation. But it’s terrible not because of Israel’s action or failure to run a pristine operation, but rather because of the multi-front war against Israel in which this is but a single incident, a moment in time. Israel can and may chew itself up over it, but in doing so, it will be granting its opponents and enemies a signal victory in their war. Which is why, let’s face it, this wretchedly brilliant propaganda play was undertaken in the first place.

Max Boot and Evelyn Gordon are both hard on the Israeli government and military for the operation against the flotilla. Their harmonizing arguments are that Israel has little or no room for error because the international response is always going to be harsh, Israel can’t strategically or emotionally handle the consequences of international isolation, that what happened is a calamity, something should have been done differently, and heads should roll.

The problem is that this suggests that Israel had a multiplicity of options and chose the wrong one. But what if the option it chose was really the best of a whole bunch of frankly unattractive options? Had it failed to halt the flotilla, the Gaza blockade would have been publicly breached. Hamas would not only have won a propaganda victory against Israel but would have effectively put an end to the “good” Palestinian rule by Fatah on the West Bank — for Hamas would have demonstrated it could best Israel in a way that Fatah has proved singularly unable to. It is theoretically possible, as Evelyn suggests, that had its interdiction been more aggressive, with more heavily armed commandos, Israel could have taken the ship more efficiently with less bloodshed (certainly to Israeli commandos). But there’s no way to know that for sure.

Max suggests, in his Wall Street Journal piece, that maybe Israel should have booby-trapped the Marmara, the ship it boarded, while it was in port. That does sound like a juicy, Guns of Navarone–like option. But it seems to me that the public exposure of a commando raid on a ship in a Turkish Cypriot port would have had consequences vastly more dire for Israel, since it would have involved a profound violation of another nation’s sovereignty. A friend suggests that the Israelis could have worked some kind of bribery trick at the harbor in Turkish Cyprus to get the harbormaster to refuse to allow the flotilla’s exit — but if he thought of it, it stands to reason the Israelis thought of it as well and were unable to pull it off.

There’s no sense in pretending this isn’t a terrible situation. But it’s terrible not because of Israel’s action or failure to run a pristine operation, but rather because of the multi-front war against Israel in which this is but a single incident, a moment in time. Israel can and may chew itself up over it, but in doing so, it will be granting its opponents and enemies a signal victory in their war. Which is why, let’s face it, this wretchedly brilliant propaganda play was undertaken in the first place.

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Re: The Value of an International Guarantee

Let me add a note to Evelyn Gordon’s important posts yesterday and today regarding Mahmoud Abbas’s weekend assertion that the UN should endorse a two-state solution “based on the June 4, 1967 borders” – a solution he contends is reflected in the relevant UN Security Council resolution and the Roadmap.

As Evelyn’s first post demonstrated, Resolution 242 (1967) refers to a withdrawal from an unspecified portion of “territories” (not “the” or “all the” territories) and to “secure and recognized boundaries.” Former UN Ambassador Arthur J. Goldberg wrote that “the notable omissions in language used to refer to withdrawal are the words the, all, and the June 5, 1967 lines.” The resolution was intended to ensure that Israel would not have to withdraw to the indefensible borders that provoked the Six-Day War.

The Roadmap calls for final-status negotiations in Phase III “based on UNSCR 242.” It does not mention the June 4, 1967, lines, much less endorse them as “borders.” The U.S. has at least three times formally assured Israel of “defensible borders” as the outcome of the peace process: (1) in the January 16, 1997, letter from Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; (2) in the April 14, 2004, letter from President George W. Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; and (3) in the January 16, 2009, Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. and Israel. Only such borders meet the Resolution 242 requirement that Israel’s borders be not only recognized but also secure.

Evelyn’s second post demonstrates that it would be a breach of a longstanding international guarantee to Israel for the UN to endorse the June 4, 1967, lines as the basis of a Palestinian state. It would also violate repeated assurances made to Israel by the United States.

Let me add a note to Evelyn Gordon’s important posts yesterday and today regarding Mahmoud Abbas’s weekend assertion that the UN should endorse a two-state solution “based on the June 4, 1967 borders” – a solution he contends is reflected in the relevant UN Security Council resolution and the Roadmap.

As Evelyn’s first post demonstrated, Resolution 242 (1967) refers to a withdrawal from an unspecified portion of “territories” (not “the” or “all the” territories) and to “secure and recognized boundaries.” Former UN Ambassador Arthur J. Goldberg wrote that “the notable omissions in language used to refer to withdrawal are the words the, all, and the June 5, 1967 lines.” The resolution was intended to ensure that Israel would not have to withdraw to the indefensible borders that provoked the Six-Day War.

The Roadmap calls for final-status negotiations in Phase III “based on UNSCR 242.” It does not mention the June 4, 1967, lines, much less endorse them as “borders.” The U.S. has at least three times formally assured Israel of “defensible borders” as the outcome of the peace process: (1) in the January 16, 1997, letter from Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; (2) in the April 14, 2004, letter from President George W. Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; and (3) in the January 16, 2009, Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. and Israel. Only such borders meet the Resolution 242 requirement that Israel’s borders be not only recognized but also secure.

Evelyn’s second post demonstrates that it would be a breach of a longstanding international guarantee to Israel for the UN to endorse the June 4, 1967, lines as the basis of a Palestinian state. It would also violate repeated assurances made to Israel by the United States.

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