Historic News For Israel…Hey, Look, No Really, Hey…

Because of the fighting in Iraq, a huge change in US policy towards Israel that would have produced a week of headlines a few months ago is barely drawing anyone’s notice in the US. Here are the money paragraphs from W’s remarks on the subject…

“In an exchange of letters today and in a statement I will release later today, I’m repeating to the Prime Minister my commitment to Israel’s security. The United States will not prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations. That matter is for the parties. But the realities on the ground and in the region have changed greatly over the last several decades, and any final settlement must take into account those realities and be agreeable to the parties.

The goal of two independent states has repeatedly been recognized in international resolutions and agreements, and it remains the key to resolving this conflict. The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well being as a Jewish state. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, as part of any final status agreement, will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel.

As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders which should emerge from negotiations between the parties, in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949. And all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”

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In short, W is saying that while he still supports a two state solution, the “Right of Return” is off the table and that he doesn’t expect Israel to go back to the pre-1967 borders.

After checking around, I think you can get a good feel for the reaction from the surrounding states, Palestinians, European appeasers, etc, by reading this piece in the Guardian. Here are the high spots…

“Palestinians yesterday lashed out in anger and confusion at the Bush administration’s move to legitimise Jewish settlements on occupied land, calling the seismic shift in US foreign policy a “catastrophe”….

….In France, president Jacques Chirac, said Mr Bush had set an “unfortunate and dangerous precedent”, and flatly rejected any unilateral changes to the borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories. “I have reservations about the unilateral, bilateral questioning of international law,” Mr Chirac told reporters.

The European Union’s Brian Cowen adopted a similar stand. “The European Union will not recognise any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties,” he said.”

First off, the “peace process” is and quite frankly, always has been, little more than a figure of speech. There simply is no point to continuing to negotiate with a “government” that is little more than a terrorist gang without the desire or capability to curb terrorism against Israel. So despite all of the complaints about “unilateralism,” every decision Israel makes is in effect “unilateral” since they have no “partner in peace”.

Furthermore, when you’re dealing with people whose response to anything you do is more terrorist attacks at worst or a temporary cease fire they’ll use to get better prepared for more terrorist attacks later at best, it’s pointless to try to negotiate with them until something changes. Put another way, if they’re already trying to kill as many of your people as possible, what difference does it make if they get even angrier at you?

On the other hand, what Bush is doing, long-term, has the potential to help bring peace to the region. I say that because Bush is simply acknowledging the facts on the ground, something the world should have done long ago.

The Israelis are never going to agree to the “Right of Return” as envisioned by the Palestinians. It would be nothing less than national suicide for Israel to allow itself to be demographically overwhelmed with millions and millions of Jew hating, terrorist loving, Palestinians from all over the Middle-East.

Moreover, Israel’s pre-1967 borders left them much more vulnerable than they are today to conventional warfare. Yes, the Israelis currently (but perhaps not always) have far superior forces to the rest of the region, but if Israel were to go back to the borders demanded by the Palestinians, they’d be merely 9 miles wide at one point, and much more vulnerable to another attack by an Arab coalition bent on genocide. So again, any peace plan that insists on Israel going back to the armistice lines of 1949 is for all intents and purposes doomed to failure before it begins.

There is no silver bullet that will fix all the problems between the Israelis and Palestinians, but taking a common sense approach to some of the issues on the table, which is what Bush has done, may help both parties reach some sort of mutually acceptable agreement down the road.

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