Israel's Focus: Security Not Borders
In his address to the Middle East, President Obama called for Israel's 1967 borders to provide the starting point for a negotiated peace. But as my latest column for CNN discusses, those borders would hand control of the highlands which are central to Israel's defense to a hostile state.
In his speech Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, President Barack Obama emphasized that Israeli forces would be excluded from the territory of a future Palestinian state in the West Bank. He called for a phased but complete withdrawal. After that point, it would be up to the forces of the Palestinian state to protect Israeli cities from West Bank rocket fire and to defend the Jordan River crossings.
The president has endorsed the concept that Israel defend itself, by itself. Yet Obama's statements on borders, if implemented, would put the decisive power over Israel self-defense into the hands of a new state that will at best not be very capable of doing the job -- and at worst outright hostile to Israel.
To achieve a lasting peace in the region, Palestinians should be encouraged to see that their hopes for self-rule depend on answering Israel's important security questions.
The president's approach this past week is having the opposite effect. Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel since Obama's election. Until now the excuse has been that they won't talk until Israel stops all home-building, not only in the West Bank, where Israel had once accepted a freeze, but in Jerusalem, too. On Sunday, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat, added a second precondition: no talks until Israel publicly accepts the Obama statement on borders. ...