Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders have responded to President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy speeches in Washington over the last several days, and their statements are illuminating.
After hearing both speak, it’s safe to say the American and Israeli leaders don’t see eye to eye. President Obama opened the discussion last Thursday stating that the parameters of a peace deal would be based on: “…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.” Netanyahu responded, firmly stating that “Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967” and that “it is absolutely vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.”
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the U.S. Congress on May 24.
Obama’s plan “effectively changed four decades of American policy,” according to JPC Director of Policy Matthew RJ Brodsky. “U.S. policy was previously based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 that called for ‘withdrawal of Israeli armed forces’…to ‘secure and recognized boundaries’…. it [Resolution 242] was not a call for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 line/armistice lines of 1949.” Moreover, as Middle East expert Robert Satloff points out, President Obama’s description of an Israel that borders Palestine rejects “the Clinton-era proposal of an open-ended Israeli military presence in three ‘facilities’ inside the West Bank.”
By officially moving away from traditional U.S. policy on what future borders may look like, the president has handed the Palestinians yet another concession “that they will pocket,” as Brodsky recently noted.
And they have. On Monday, PLO Executive Committee member and former chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that peace with Israel will only be achieved once Israel recognizes the 1967 lines as the borders of a future Palestinian state. Reiterating this position, on Tuesday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, said that the PA won’t agree to any Israeli presence in a Palestinian state and that the PA seeks a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. And on Wednesday, PA President Abbas himself praised Obama for the parameters he outlined for a future peace deal.
President Obama has done it again. In 2009, his announcement that Israel must freeze all settlement construction allowed the PA to state the same as a precondition for negotiations, which lead to those talks’ early demise. If and when a U.S. president actually gets the PA back to the negotiating table, expect it to demand a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with no room for compromise.