I have to give Obama some credit. In a recent speech regarding Israel he suggested that the 1967 borders between Israel and Palestine should be the starting point for negotiations on a two state settlement.
It's not that this is new or extremist. It's been the basis for a peaceful settlement in the eyes of the world for many years. In 2009 the UN voted on a peaceful settlement once again with the 1967 borders as the basis. It was supported 164 nations to 7. Pretty uncontroversial stuff. But the US is among the few that always side with Israel. I don't expect that this is about to change. Obama has already voted with the minority in the past. But that he would express support for the opinions of the majority is a good thing I suppose. Actions would be nice, but words will have to do.
For the Lobby this is a crisis, and they are freaking out. Romney, Gingrich, Bachmann, and an endless list of other Israel first types are condemning Obama. The 1967 borders? That's outrageous.
So I want to here document a few historical facts related to those borders so that readers can understand the legitimacy of using them as a basis for a peaceful settlement.
On the morning of June 5, 1967 Israel launched a large scale surprise attack against Egypt, completely obliterating their air force within hours. Even this basic truism is sometimes denied by hard line Israel firsters. Yesterday I heard Bob Dutko say that it was Israel that was attacked by the Arabs.
Why would they do that? There's what I regard as the real reason and what I regard as the reason offered for public consumption. Let's start with the real reason.
The basic problem for Israel is this. They want to live in a land that is primarily Jewish, but it happens that the indigenous people are non-Jew. There's no way to resolve that problem without driving out the indigenous people. So this is what they do, and they offer various pretexts and rationalizations to justify what is clearly the core aim: expansion and a land dominated by Jews.
For this reason Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that "fear of territorial displacement and dispossession was to be the chief motor of Arab antagonism to Zionism." We're told that they love death, have a religious based hostility to Jews, generally are irrational and violent, etc. All of this I think distracts from the obvious truth that Morris understands.
What's offered for public consumption is that Israel is in danger. Israel did initially claim that Egypt had struck them, but that claim was quickly dismissed. Even Israel would later admit that they struck first. But the claim is that it was pre-emptive. This is the more standard claim by Lobby elements, but it can't be sustained by the facts.
Prior to the war Israel had been attacking Syria. This is more land grab activities. Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan would later explain that Israel would provoke hostilities by pushing into Syrian territory. They'd go far enough to get a reaction and they would then shell them. Syria, suffering under Israeli violence, would complain to Nasser, President of Egypt. Nasser supposedly was the leading figure in the Arab world. Is he just going to sit around and do nothing?
But he didn't want to do anything because he knew that he couldn't match Israel's military might. He doesn't want to tangle with the tiger. But to save face he did a few symbolic things. He closed the Straits of Tiran to Israel. This represented a mere 10 percent of Israel's shipping and even that closure was symbolic. It was enforced only for a couple of days. He amassed troops at the border. And he asked the UN peace keepers residing at the border to leave, which makes it appear that he's interested in initiating a war. Israel was asked to receive those peace keepers within their own territory, but they refused.
These moves were parlayed into a scare campaign by Israel. But privately Israel made clear that they did not believe Nasser was a threat. Likewise, while Nasser wanted to make it appear he was poised to strike publicly, probably to save face, privately he desperately wanted to avoid a conflict. Much of this is now known thanks to the declassification of documents related to LBJ. In the declassified record we learn that US intelligence was certain that Nasser wouldn't strike. If he did Israel would destroy them in 7-10 days. Further they believed that even if all the Arab armies struck Israel would destroy them. This was not only the belief of US intelligence. It was also the belief of Israeli intelligence.
Despite all that of course Israel did launch a war. They took control of the West Bank and Gaza. They captured the Golan Heights in Syria. And they captures the Egyptian Sinai (which was returned to Egypt because of Egypt's performance in the 1973 War.) The reason the 1967 borders are an internationally agreed upon basis for a peace settlement is because Israel's capture of these lands is both illegal and absurd.