Israel’s Focus: Security Not Borders

May 23rd, 2011 at 2:42 pm David Frum | 29 Comments |

| Print

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. …

Click here to read the rest.


Recent Posts by David Frum



29 Comments so far ↓

  • armstp

    This is the narrative of the hard-right in Israel. That they are really worried about security. That is a canard. They are just using the excuse of security to continue with their land grab and oppression.

    “Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to embarrass his host, President Obama, at the White House on Friday, delivering a pedantic attack on him. Netanyahu made many false assertions about Israeli policy toward the Palestinian West Bank being driven solely by security concerns, when it is in fact a vast landgrab of the ‘settler-industrial complex.’ Israel’s colonization of territories occupied from the Palestinians in 1967 is illegal in international law and deeply immoral.”

    For anyone who wants to know the truth of what is going on check out these more balanced AP stories:

    Rebecca Collard reports on “Unequal Development in the West Bank,” examining Israeli government support for illegal Israeli colonies on Palestinian land and constraints on Palestinians’ development:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=eaVy42fk_AM

    and

    And here she reports on Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem while favoring Israeli settlers’ construction:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oTBumgtsutE

    and

    Here is Collard’s report on the deadly fire zone in Gaza, which is the strip’s bread basket, where Palestinians are in danger of being sniped at by Israelis in their own territory. Half of Palestinians in Gaza are unemployed and Israel will not allow them to export what they produce (a crime against humanity) and deeply restricts imports.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Rg0LkHJB_FE

    What Israel continues to do in the West Bank is a farse and a travesty.

    • armstp

      “Israel’s Focus: Security Not Borders”

      This is the faux narrative of the hard-right in Israel. That they are really worried about security. That is a canard. They are just using the excuse of security to continue with their land grab and oppression.

      “Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to embarrass his host, President Obama, at the White House on Friday, delivering a pedantic attack on him. Netanyahu made many false assertions about Israeli policy toward the Palestinian West Bank being driven solely by security concerns, when it is in fact a vast landgrab of the ‘settler-industrial complex.’ Israel’s colonization of territories occupied from the Palestinians in 1967 is illegal in international law and deeply immoral.”

      For anyone who wants to know the truth of what is going on check out these more balanced AP stories:

      Rebecca Collard reports on “Unequal Development in the West Bank,” examining Israeli government support for illegal Israeli colonies on Palestinian land and constraints on Palestinians’ development:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=eaVy42fk_AM

      and

      And here she reports on Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem while favoring Israeli settlers’ construction:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oTBumgtsutE

      and

      Here is Collard’s report on the deadly fire zone in Gaza, which is the strip’s bread basket, where Palestinians are in danger of being sniped at by Israelis in their own territory. Half of Palestinians in Gaza are unemployed and Israel will not allow them to export what they produce (a crime against humanity) and deeply restricts imports.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Rg0LkHJB_FE

      What Israel continues to do is a farse and a travesty. Carter is right. It is just apartheid.

      • Bunker555

        ^+1
        Jimmy Carter is right.

      • ProfNickD

        @armstp,

        Palestinian land

        There is no such thing as “Palestinian land” because there is no such thing as a “Palestinian.” It’s a nonsense term based on a Romanized variant of “Philistine” that doesn’t distinguish a so-called “Palestinian” from simply an “Arab.”

        Arabs have their state from the British Mandate period — it’s called Jordan, which itself was originally to be included as part of the reconstituted Jewish home but the British unilaterally decided to simply hand it over to the Hashemites from western Arabia.

        Everything west of the Jordan River should be Israel.

        http://www.mythsandfacts.com/conflict/mandate_for_palestine/1922-mandate_for_palestine.jpg

        • zephae

          Prof,

          Once again, you are wrong. The mandate calls for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and that wording was very specific for two reasons:

          1. Opposition to the idea of a Jewish State in British government
          2. Not committing the entire area of Palestine to this new Jewish homeland

          The Jordan you refer to, Transjordan, was already excluded by the Mandate from Jewish settlement. So, if you were being honest and correct, you would’ve said that “everything west of the Jordan River should be Palestine.”

  • LFC

    Time for Israel to pick a set of defensible borders, get all their people inside of them, and begin to disengage. The problem is that Netanyahu and his cronies want ever more (i.e. Greater Israel).

    • Watusie

      Indeed. If catastrophe struck and all of Israel’s neighbors banded together and illegally, unjustifiably and immorally invaded tomorrow, the majority of these settlements that are currently being claimed as essential would be abandoned immediately by the IDF as it retreats to a more defensible position because they are exposed and, well – indefensible.

  • ottovbvs

    DF says it’s not about borders. So Israel will be quite happy to surrender all those settlements on the West Bank? These settlements are essential to Israeli security?

  • Banty

    We hear about how narrow Israel would be, at its narrowest, in the 1967 borders. Then we hear about how much higher the West bank is.

    But we don’t hear a proposed solution. Other than a completely demilitarized and chaperoned Palestinian population.

    How ’bout this – trade the lowlands, including Tel Aviv, for the highlands, and partition the Palestinians there, and the current Israelis to the eastern part of the country. Draw a line straight down the middle. Then the rocket-lobbing distances would be equal, all the better for mutual deterrence.

    Am I being facetious? Well, yes. Mostly. *Any* solution would be found wanting by the Israeli right, as rockets can be launched from beyond the Jordan river anyway.

    As to partition, I have heard from not a few Israelis (who work at my workplace) the question of why the Palestinians did not accept partition – to ‘trans-Jordan’. That’s right, why did they not just pick up and leave to the more desert section of the old British Mandate. Or pack up their belongings and move spritely into the presumably empty abodes of Jews formerly living in Arabic-speaking lands however far flung. And they ask this seriously, even giving the example of India-Pakistan. Never mind that half a million died in that, and conflict continues to this day.

    I really think the main gripe some Israelis have, is that their event was in the twentieth century, instead of earlier centuries where straightforward brutal vanquishment of a native population was more the norm in conquest.

  • Graychin

    Two words: “starting point.”

    Do you get it now?

    Probably not.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      Yeah, this is exactly the point.

      Frum wrote, “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,”

      OBAMA MADE NO STATEMENT ABOUT IMPLEMENTING BORDERS.

      HERE IS WHAT HE SAID:

      ” let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means. By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”

      Unless you’re arguing that the current Israeli government is helplessly stupid, and will negotiate border that leave Israel impossible to defend, then your article literally makes absolutely no sense.

      Try to think long term for a minute here. Do you think that we can proceed indefinitely along the “occupation today, occupation tomorrow, occupation forever” policy of Netanyahu? Do you think that is good for the United States? Do you think that’s good for Israel?

      It is unsustainable, and, as Gen. Petraeus and everyone else has acknowledged, it’s bad for the US. Yes, Hamas is awful. Yes, many Palestinians believe things about the Right of Return that are never going to happen. That’s why all Obama called for were negotiations, with final decisions to be made by Israel in those negotiations.

      I don’t have the highest regard for Mr. Netanyahu’s ability to engage in long-term thinking, but I am reasonably confident that even he wouldn’t negotiate his way to a state that is impossible to defend.

  • Graychin

    To the Israeli hard right, security and borders can’t be separated. You can’t have one without the other.

  • nuser

    Maybe it is time to give someone else nuclear weapons other than Israel, which just might stop the horrendous cruelty and end the land grab. This is your country David , but you seem to forget that most of the time. Stop the propaganda , be loyal to your country, and if you can’t do that move to Israel. Remember the Republican slogan : Country first? Well McCain didn’t mean Israel. You are alienating a lot of people and smearing your president does not help any. President Obama has
    his hands full trying to get the country on a better plateau, your whining and sometimes untruths , and finger pointing does not help!

    • tom78212

      @ nurser: David Frum is a Canadian. He lives in the US and is an outspoken critic of the US (sometimes with great intelligence; other times he’s blind-sided by his unquestioning support of Israel). But I’m sure emmigrating to Israel is not on his agenda. I mean, if he won’t live in Canada, why would he want to live in Israel?

  • JeffreyGoldfarb

    Obama has opened the door for a reasonable peace. Many Israelis understand this, e.g. Gershon Shafir, http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com/2011/05/going-forward-by-going-back-to-1967-2/

  • politicalfan

    “The president’s approach this past week is having the opposite effect.”

    Depends how a person defines opposite effect.

    Is it possible that the Palestinians believe that ‘peace’ is possible with this President? The President has confirmed his support for Isreal, in reality, isn’t he simply saying let’s move towards peace now my friend Isreal? Seems like the President is looking at the bigger picture perhaps as changes are quickly occurring in the region?

  • tommybones

    “This is the faux narrative of the hard-right in Israel. That they are really worried about security. That is a canard. They are just using the excuse of security to continue with their land grab and oppression.”

    EXACTLY RIGHT.

  • rummager

    Why does Frum not move to Israel where he obviously belongs, and, stop using the USA and its resources as an Israeli bulwark? It is fundamentally dishonest to profess a love for one nation while using it recklessly to promote the interests of another nation. Too many American Jews use patriotism in this disgusting fashion.

  • midcon

    There is no such thing as “Isreali land” because there is no such thing as a “Israeli.”

    The ease with which word substitution can be employed will tell why that argument fails. There is no heredity country that has not had it’s borders defined and redefined by political means. Israel did not exist prior to 1946. The original Israelites were Canannites, who at one time left Canann and migrated to Egypt (because of famine). So maybe they can claim Egypt now or I suppose they were given the right of return in order to claim the modern day Israel. The point is there are Palestinians as much as there are Israelites. So let’s muddy things up by disenfranchising a group of people based on their historical origins.

  • Banty

    Interesting exchange going on here on national identity relating to Israelis and Palestinians.

    There really has been a “because we said so” quality in defining national identity. Modern Israelis being a newly defined nation, based on the aliya of Jews to the area. Modern Palestinians being defined against neighboring nations largely based on divisions applied to colonial powers, and their conflict with Israel having defined in their own land.

    Nationhood is defined historically. Yes, by conflict, and yes, by migration of a group. Both Israelis and Palestinians have claims to their identity. That other countries speak Arabic no more makes Palestinians indistinguishable from other Arabs (and therefore justifiably relegated to reside in other Arabic-speaking lands) than that other countries speak English mean we Americans can be relegate to migrate to England, Australia, or Barbados for that matter. And in that case we are talking millennia of residence in a land, so there is much more a claim to national identity that we English speakers who are born out of colonial expansions of only a few hundred years ago. Israelis have indeed been defined by historical events, both visited upon them and created by their own actions in migration.

    So I’m pretty tired of reading about how there really aren’t Palestinians, just as I hate reading from other sources how Israelis are just European transplants. These attempts at de-legitimization of national identity is just rhetoric, and gets in the way of any decent discussion of the issue.

  • John Frodo

    I find it cultural reprehensible the Frum Fourm has not payed any tribute to Bob Dylan http://thinkingaboot.blogspot.com Bob Dylan turned 70 today and it is the duty of every blogger, commentator, in the megaverse to pay some sort of tribute, because without Bob Dylan, men like Buttman and Harper would rule over us like Gods instead of assholes, there would be no Internet, no people busy being born so they could get busy dying, no Frum for sure no Kiss

    And every time I (or anyone ) get into a debate with Ezra Levant, he always says ” so you say you have Jewish friends, well name one” I can( or anyone) can always say ” Bob Dylan”

    • tom78212

      @ John Frodo: But Dylan is a “born-again Christian” – so now do you know any Jews?

  • WillyP

    I don’t see any popular uprising against the Israeli government. Hmm, no. Just in the Arab states do I see dictators and despots being deposed. Seems that Israelis, in their tiny spec of land, get along pretty well, prosperous and unharassed by their government.

    Meanwhile Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, and Libya endure upheavals and slaughter in the streets – Muslims killing Muslims, to be precise.

    Just north, in Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal, Europe has its own anti-government (i.e. anti-tyranny, in the form of financial repression) riots.

    You libs never fail to impress your monumental stupidity on me.

    • pnumi2

      Wills (you are a prince)

      “Israelis, in their tiny spec of land, get along pretty well, prosperous….”

      Gee, I woulda thought you’d be trying to get back that $100,000,000,000 in foreign aid.

      • WillyP

        Good point. I’m sure they’d give it back if there 200 million Arab, Persian, and Muslim neighbors didn’t want to exterminate them like Nazis.

        What is it with the libs and their hatred of tiny Israel? The Middle East is absolutely gargantuan as a region, and yet a country slightly larger than New Jersey is seen as the root of all evil. Utterly bizarre thinking.

        Not to mention, how much has been handed to Egypt, Palestine, and Pakistan in U.S. aid? Not to mention, uh, Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of billions. Far, far more than has been given to Israel. And in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, American lives sacrificed to rebuild their countries into something recognizably modern.

        But yeah, it’s all Israel’s fault…. you libs are something awful.

    • pnumi2

      I think an exploited dog always hates being wagged by an parasitic tail. The same way the sun always rises in the east.

      Israel’s teeny tinyness doesn’t excuse their territorial aggrandizement Rrmember that a deadly cancer tumor starts out as a single cell.

      “Not to mention, how much has been handed to Egypt, Palestine, and Pakistan in U.S. aid? Not to mention, uh, Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of billions. Far, far more than has been given to Israel.”

      What does that figure out as on a per capita basis? Just asking.

      But yeah, it’s all Israel’s fault…”

      No, the American Jewish community, Britain and the U.S. shoulder a lot of the guilt.

  • pnumi2

    ProfNickD

    “Arabs have their state from the British Mandate period — it’s called Jordan, which itself was originally to be included as part of the reconstituted Jewish home but the British unilaterally decided to simply hand it over to the Hashemites from western Arabia.”

    Are these the same British who thought they had sovereignty over their colonies in North America and got their ass kicked by the 13 original States? After that fiasco and others, why would anyone use them for an authority on any foreign policy decision? Didn’t they give Czechoslovakia to Hitler?
    Who the hell care what those dorks did?

    What ever they did, either they didn’t have the right to do or it was plain wrong.

  • pnumi2

    @Banty

    “the norm in conquest.”

    (the norman conquest)

    I never saw it before +2