22 May 2011

The pre-1967 Plan

On Friday the U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his most major foreign policy speech, after his Cairo address in April 2009. This speech, like the Cairo address, was especially meant to highlight his administration’s policy toward the Israel-Palestine imbroglio and the unrest in the Arab World. (You can access Obama's complete speech here.)

Here is Obama’s prescription to resolve the intractable Israel-Palestine dispute.
"For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security, prosperity, and empowerment to ordinary people.

"For the Palestinians, efforts to de-legitimise Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
"As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
"So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. 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, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
"[T]wo wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.
"I recognise how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened.”
1967 Six-Day War
So what was the pre-1967 border position like? In other words, what happened in 1967 that altered the Middle East map?

In 1967, under domestic pressure, the leaders of the Arab States decided to attack Israel. However, even before they could launch their invasion, Israel, which got wind of the impending attack, launched a preemptive air strike in which it pulverised over 70 per cent of the Egyptian military aircraft. In just six days, Israel defeated the pan-Arab alliance. This Six-Day War altered the Middle East map. 

The outright victory left Israel in possession of new territories:
(a) the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula (lost by Egypt); 
(b) the West Bank (lost by Jordan; so named as the territory is on the west bank of river Jordan), and
(c) the strategic Golan Heights (lost by Syria; annexed in 1981).

Also, the Israelis took complete control of the city of Jerusalem (which they annexed in 1980).

The UN asked Israel to withdraw from occupied territories (Resolution 242), but the latter turned a blind eye stating that doing so would endanger its own security.

Israeli reaction
Reacting to Obama's Middle East policy speech, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  
said that his country should not be asked to withdraw to the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War.

In fact, he told Obama that Israel will confirm it would adhere to "assurances" given to  Israel by former American president George W. Bush in 2004. "Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centres in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) beyond those lines," Netyanyahu said.

He said that a "full and complete return" to the 1967 borders would be "unrealistic" and would make Israel "indefensible". Over 3 lakh Israelis have built Jewish settlements across the areas gained in the Six-Day War.

All in all, the shift in the American policy is a massive win for the Palestinians while the powerful pro-Israeli lobby is crying wolf.

Obama's intentions are good; however, given the region's history, it would take more than a miracle for these intentions to become a reality. The road to peace in the Middle East will be long and full of obstacles - religious, strategic, economic, and political.

(Picture taken from www.bbcnews.com)

1 comment:

The King of Kings said...

The situation in the Gaza strip and the West bank can never come to an amiable conclusion unless and until the Hamas stops it's extremist ways of tackling the situation.This only goes to heighten the conflict with the Israel's all-too-powerful military on one side and the terror factions led by the Al-Qaeda and Hamas.Not to mention the Mossad with the backing of the CIA. What this calls for is the initiation of a dialogue process by the Quartet between Mr.Netanyahu and Mr.Mahmoud abbas.Because this conflict has been used as an excuse way too long by the Al-Qaeda to justify it's inexcusable terrorist actions(it's referred to in almost every video tape released by the now deceased OBL).But the speech by President Obama does mark a remarkable shift in The US policy on the Middle-East.And I'm sure the powerful 'pro-Isreal Jewish block' in the Senate and the Congress and even in the power circles of Washington will give Obama a hard time.But hope he sticks to his guns and brings about a final and just conclusion to the conflict,there by making the lives of the children of both Israel and Palestine better and safe.