Saturday, May 21, 2011

Indefensibly Naive

My wife and I watch tv differently. Which explains how I ended up watching the last 2 minutes of Bill O'Reilly's show Friday evening. See my wife had the remote and she flips through channel by channel, something I had given up on ever since I got cable in 1977. So on the way to E!, she first landed at Fox News, where O'Reilly was discussing Obama's speech on the Mid-East and, in particular, his comments calling on the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate based on the 1967 borders with agreed upon mutual land swaps. (Has everyone now seen how the right wing has dropped the mutual land swaps from the conversation? You were warned.)

O'Reilly had on someone named Brooke Goldstein, who was identified as a pro-Israel human rights attorney. Silly me, I thought I had been meeting with the pro-Israel human rights attorneys when I was in Israel earlier this month.You know, the ones from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Yesh Din, B'Tselem and Gisha. Well, okay, big tent, I get it. Fair enough. 

Anyway, I'm not writing to pick on Ms. Goldstein (okay maybe a little), but to comment on something she said and that I have heard repeated ad infinitum since Obama delivered his speech on Thursday. That somehow anyone advocating for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps, Obama for instance, is "naive" and that such borders are "indefensible."

First, the naivete argument. What exactly makes people like Ms. Goldstein so wise in the ways of geopolitics? What do they know that people like former IDF chiefs and generals, Shin Bet directors, and Mossad heads, who in April put forward a proposal known as the Israeli Peace Initiative, don't. On the issue of borders their proposal states:
The borders shall be based on the June 4, 1967, lines, with agreed modifications subject to the following principles: the creation of territorial contiguity between the Palestinian territories; land swaps (not to exceed 7% of the West Bank) based on a 1:1 ratio, including the provision of a safe corridor between the West Bank and Gaza, under de facto Palestinian control.   
Their initiative actually goes further than Obama's comments. They propose solutions to what Obama called the "two wrenching and emotional issues [that] remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees." They call for a partition of Jerusalem - Jewish areas remain under Israeli sovereignty and Palestinian neighborhoods to Palestine - and the return of refugees to the Palestinian state, with agreed upon symbolic exceptions.

Further evidence of Israeli "naivete" can be found in J.J. Goldberg's article in the Forward, Israel's Security Elite Joins the Opposition:

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that the leaders of Israel’s security establishment, the people who’ve led the fight against the state’s enemies for decades, are more frightened now than they’ve been in a long time. You might be shocked, though, to hear what’s got them in a panic.
I’m not speaking of some random ex-generals, but of the former heads of Israel’s main security services: the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad intelligence agency and the Shin Bet internal security service. There are 18 living ex-chiefs: seven Mossad, six IDF and five Shin Bet. No fewer than eight of them are actively working against Netanyahu in one way or another. Another four have made their alarm publicly clear, though they aren’t aggressively campaigning right now. That’s 12, if you’re keeping score. Two of them have openly called Netanyahu’s policies and leadership a threat to Israel’s future — just in the past few weeks.
What do the critics want? Some want to dial back the rhetoric on Iran and stop the Netanyahu-led talk of military action. Some are pushing for a two-state agreement with the Palestinian Authority based on the 1967 borders and the 2002 Arab peace initiative. Some favor both.

For those who believe that these former leaders of Israel's security branches are somehow naive, please explain where their naivete comes from.Then when you are done, please explain how the current defense minister, Ehud Barak, could have been so naive when as prime minister in 2000 he negotiated based on the 1967 borders, and how then Prime Minister Olmert did the same in 2008. You want to disagree with this Israeli approach, fine. You want to say it's wrong or misguided, that's okay too. But naive? YGTBFKM! 

One last word on this issue. Obama's remarks were not any more prescriptive - what should be - than they were descriptive - what has been. His comments merely described what had gone on in the past and what most sane people believe will be how this conflict finally comes to an end. What is really naive is to repeat the naivete line. Either naive, meaning you believe it, or perhaps cynical meaning you don't, but hope no one calls you on it. I've done my best to stay away from attacking Ms. Goldstein (this post probably would have been a bit more lively with me scoring cheap points and I guess the fact that I mostly stayed away is a sign of my growing maturity and the fact that I couldn't entirely a sign that I'm not quite there yet). But please understand that when someone calls the 1967 borders with land swaps naive, it means one of two things. Either they don't know what they are talking about, or they think you don't.

Now quickly the indefensible argument. It should be obvious by now that Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert and the overwhelming majority of former security chiefs believe that the 1967 borders with land swaps (which from what I can tell, not having any experience defending borders, are included for demographic realities not security concerns) are defensible. Simply put, they would not have negotiated on them had they believed otherwise. So the question I put to those who repeat the "indefensible" talking point is this: what makes the 1967 borders indefensible? Please identify for me the threat, who poses it, and how. Feel free to be specific. After all, just repeating a talking point without understanding what it means is the epitome of naivete. Talk about indefensible!


  1. Were you also on the conference call with Sharoni when he asked against what threat the 1967 borders are indefensible? No one I've talked to who has repeated that line has been able to do much more than mumble about rockets to justify this claim.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I was not on the call but heard about it. You are right - the response usually has something to do with rockets. The threat of rockets, however, does not seem to me to justify holding on to another 10 miles or 30 miles. See the Haaretz editorial linked to above.