"The United States believes that negotiations should result in 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, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state." - President Obama
This statement during Thursday's major Middle East policy speech set off a firestorm of protest. President Obama called for borders of a new Palestinian state to be set on the 1967 lines.
On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the president a history lesson in why setting the 1967 lines as the borders between a future Palestinian state and Israel would be a disaster.
So why is this issue so important that Israel's prime minister would oppose the U.S. president in such a public, worldwide forum?
Here are a few points:
- If the borders of a Palestinian state were set on the 1967 lines, Israel at one point would be only about nine miles wide. These potential borders have been called "Auschwitz" borders, referring to the Nazi extermination camp during the Holocaust. They are militarily indefensible.
- U.N. Resolution 242, enacted after the 1967 Six Day War, states that Israel needs to withdraw from territory it conquered. However, the resolution did not require Israel to withdraw from all the territory it conquered.
- The 1967 lines put most of Israel's population centers within rocket range and made Israel's Ben Gurion airport, its chief link to the outside world, militarily vulnerable. Even a mortar could be shot at any of its runways, which would likely force many air carriers to stop flying to Israel.
- Netanyahu pointed out at the White House that a lot has changed on the ground in 44 years. A shaky Palestinian Authority could one day be taken over by Hamas, a group still dedicated to destroying Israel. Hamas defeated the Fatah-led P.A. in Gaza in 2007. It could do it again in the West Bank. This would put Israel's deadly enemy on its doorstep.
Obama's speech was called "A Moment of Opportunity," but for Israel it could be "a moment of danger."