The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The New Arafat

The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps…. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state…. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, nonmilitarized state….
These words from President Barack Obama’s speech on Thursday are the most chilling message ever sent by a U.S. president to Israel, and possibly by any head of government to a supposed “ally.” It is often mentioned that, soon after the Six Day War of 1967, the then Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban referred to those 1967 lines as the “Auschwitz borders.” It is also often mentioned, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did after his meeting with Obama on Friday, that these borders leave Israel all of nine miles wide at one of its most populous points.
Under Obama’s dispensation, Israel is left with these borders and no others. A “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces” from the West Bank means no Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, stipulated as essential in all Israeli military assessments, and certainly not in the West Bank’s mountain ridge, where the 1967 U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff study, as well as a 1974 follow-up study by the U.S. Army’s Command and Staff College, also viewed an Israeli military presence as strategically indispensable.
Moreover, the two parts of the Palestinian state, the West Bank and Gaza, are supposed to be “contiguous,” a demand that Yasser Arafat used to raise in Oslo-era negotiations with Israel. A glance at a map of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza reveals that demand as little less than astounding. There is no way to make the West Bank and Gaza contiguous except by some sort of passageway connecting the two, slicing Israel in half, creating a security nightmare and a compromise of Israel’s integrity and sovereignty such as exists in no country of the world and that Obama, it is safe to say, would not contemplate for a moment regarding the United States or any part of it.
Note also Obama’s use of “nonmilitarized,” which in the lingua franca is distinctly different from the “demilitarized” frequently used by Netanyahu. A nonmilitarized Palestinian state would probably be formally denied heavy weapons like tanks and planes, while maintaining ground forces of some sort (clearly necessary, at the very least, to maintain public order). Yet, apart from the fact that demilitarization agreements have a history of crumbling—let alone in the volatile and violence-ridden Middle East—even modestly armed Palestinian forces on the mountain ridge overlooking Israel’s coastal plain could make life intolerable for the country. They could do so by:

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