Monday, May 23, 2011

Catch of the Day

Andrew Sullivan finds Barack Obama's "new" wording on 1967 borders -- you know, the wording that throws Israel under a bus or some other such nonsense -- in a six month old joint statement from Secretary Clinton and....Prime Minister Netanyahu.

I do think that there's something real at stake in the latest flap; I'm not sure that Matt Yglesias is completely correct that Netanyahu and other Israelis simply want to keep all the land they seized in 1967, but I do think that there are real differences in what the Israeli government wants and what the United States wants, and that those are reflected in bickering over meaningless words. But, yeah, the specifics of this latest business is just a typical Fox News phony scandal (with Bibi showing that if nothing else, he knows how to play that game).

Nice catch.

By the way, I haven't had an item that gives me a chance to link to an excellent point Jonathan Chait made last week about Israel's security and the 1967 borders: that the old idea of "defensible" borders is basically obsolete in the present context. I hadn't heard that before, and it's very smart. I'd add that prospect here is only of a demilitarized Palestine, which makes the "columns of troops" idea even less likely to happen (and, unlike the Brits and French of the 1930s, the Israelis would surely move quickly, and with considerable muscle, if Palestine obtained even a single tank). Now, under the Yglesias way of looking at things, that's irrelevant; the old rhetoric about defensible borders is essentially a cover for Israel keeping what it considers its own territory. Could be! However, I think it's just as likely, at least for many involved in this debate, that they're just trapped within the old way of thinking -- since the defensible borders thing really was a major issue for twenty years (and, while I don't remember pre-1967, I certainly do remember honest concern about a conventional military defeat for Israel in the 1970s, and the perceived value of the 1967 victory as providing a very useful buffer against that).


  1. The "catch" is pretty astonishing and depressing -- I didn't understand that Netanyshu was so inept.

    But as to Chait, I don't think he is very convincing.

    What has happened is that the old threat has not disappeared but simply that a new threat -- demographic -- has developed.

  2. Chait seems to miss the fact that Israel has been recently bombarded from buffers that it has withdrawn from -- Gaza and Lebanon. Giving up military control of Golan and the West Bank will unquestionably subject Israel to greater threat, especially by rockets or artillery. There may be bigger issues at stake, but you can’t say that Israel isn’t threatened by conventional military attack.

    Regarding demilitarization of these areas -- who will Israel trust to enforce that?

  3. Yes, but the the threat of rockets, artillery, or cross-border smuggled terrorism of other kinds has nothing to do with "defensible borders." I mean -- and I'm about as ignorant as it gets on many things military -- I suppose you don't want the border to be where the other side is the high ground. But extend the border east, and you just get stuff lobbed at you from even further east. That's great for Tel Aviv, but it doesn't change the situation of Israelis getting stuff lobbed at them.

    As for demilitarization -- Israel would, as I said above, trust Israel to enforce that. Which is highly problematic against Gaza-style launches and other petty attacks of the kind, but extremely effective against, you know, tanks or fighter jets.

  4. I hope they do, but this time, perhaps they could release thousands and thousands of helium balloons with maps of Palestine on them to float into Israel. To represent people returning.

  5. “But extend the border east, and you just get stuff lobbed at you from even further east.”

    But that hasn’t been the case -- there are no rockets launched from the eastern bank of the Jordan River.

    On demilitarization -- To accomplish this, the Israelis would need to control all of the borders of the West Bank and Golan, and I just can’t imagine the Palestinians and Syrians agreeing to this.

  6. It's not a buffer if you build homes and schools inside of it. The very existence of settlements belie the claim that they are buffer areas.

    I agree with Obama and Netanyahu who both stated that the borders won't look like 1967, but will be based on them with key swaps.


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