Perhaps President Obama expected that his challenge to Israel to accept the 1967 lines as the starting point for peace talks would entice the Palestinians to be reasonable. If so, Palestinian leaders have quickly shown him to be hopelessly out of touch with the realities of the Middle East.
First, as Omri first reported yesterday, Palestinian Authority spokesman Saeb Erekat has made it clear that Israeli recognition of the 1967 borders is now a precondition for peace talks. As with his disastrous decision to demand a settlement freeze from Israel, Obama has thrown yet another monkey wrench into an already stalled peace process. And were those talks to ever start again, the president’s stand has created a dynamic that has made it virtually impossible for the Palestinians to agree to the land swaps that would allow Israel to hold onto Jewish Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs.
Next, the PA’s new coalition partner Hamas called Obama and raised him by saying that while making Israel retreat to the 1967 lines might be acceptable, the 1947 partition lines (in which all of Jerusalem was not part of the Jewish state) are more reasonable. While no one should expect Hamas to negotiate with Israel, what we see here is what happens when Israel’s sole ally makes a unilateral concession on behalf of the Jewish state. Obama’s apologists may say that he has said nothing new and that it doesn’t actually obligate Israel to give up an inch of land without a peace treaty, what the president’s statement accomplished is to establish in the eyes of both the Palestinians and the international community a standard that will see those lines as the minimum the Palestinians receive, not a theoretical maximum.
The debate about Israel’s borders has been altered to its detriment. In the years to come, especially during the rest of the Obama administration, we will come to see just how much damage he has done.