In the Arena

Borderline Personalities

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There are continuing ruffles and trifles about whether President Obama said anything at all different about the borders of a Palestinian state. Much of it is either meta-talmudic picky (Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post) or poisonously disingenuous (the ever-bilious Charles Krauthammer). Kessler’s gripe is that Obama is the first President to use the “1967 borders with agreed-upon swaps” formulation. Perhaps. But that has been the de facto position of the US government since Nixon. All it means is that there will be a Palestinian state on the West Bank–even Netanyahu says he supports this, though an argument can be made that he really doesn’t–but that the borders will be redrawn to include the vast majority, somewhere between 80% and 90%, of the (illegal) Israeli settlements in the Jewish state. The Palestinians will receive a few patches of desert, of equal size to the territory yielded, in return. This is not a bad deal for Israel. Again, Obama broke no meaningful new ground here.

As for Krauthammer...

He’s a smart cookie and a slippery one. He posits the following utterly untrue proposition:

 President Obama…declared that the Arab-Israeli conflict should indeed be resolved along “the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”

Nothing new here, said Obama three days later. “By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different” from 1967.

It means nothing of the sort. “Mutually” means both parties have to agree. And if one side doesn’t? Then, by definition, you’re back to the 1967 lines.

No you’re not. You’re back to where we are right now. If there is no “mutually agreed upon” agreement, then the de facto situation on the ground stands. And Israel–rightly, I believe–will never agree to a deal that fundamentally compromises its security. (Just as, sadly, the Palestinians perpetually refuse to agree to a deal that creates a Palestinian state.) There is absolutely zero–I repeat, zero–chance that Israel would ever agree to a return to 1967 borders without swaps. Indeed, the de facto situation will continue to get worse for the Palestinians, as Israel continues to expand its illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Krauthammer knows this, of course, and is doing something outrageous here: He is reinforcing the lies uttered by a foreign leader about the American President.

Kessler is a fine reporter and he is reporting a fact–a pretty meaningless fact, but a fact all the same. Krauthammer is far worse. He is a devious propagandist, and quite the scoundrel in this case.