(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/09/obama-netanyahu.jpg)In this election year President Obama has been quiet about the Palestinian issue. Rough treatment of Israel has continued, but mainly on the Iranian front—with a drumbeat of hollow promises as Iran keeps making nuclear progress, a series of security leaks harmful to Israel, disparaging remarks about Israel’s military capabilities from top administration officials, and now Obama’s refusal to meet Netanyahu in New York while being more than willing to meet with Egypt’s Morsi.
It should not be forgotten, though, that not long ago Obama was engaging in harsh confrontations with Israel over the Palestinian issue. Particularly, on May 19, 2011, he let loose a bombshell.
Blindsiding Netanyahu just as he was on his way to Washington, Obama called for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but decreed in advance what their outcome would be: “two states…based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps…with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt….” Obama further specified that the Palestinian state would be “contiguous.”
With these statements he broke with previous U.S. policy on the issue, which had left the matter of borders up to the parties themselves. And he caused shockwaves in Israel and the pro-Israeli community by outlining a security nightmare for the Jewish state.
That was particularly clear from Obama’s stipulation of a Palestinian border with Jordan—which meant no Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley even though all previous Israeli security doctrine had posited such a presence as indispensable to Israel’s defensibility from infiltrations and attack from the east.
As for “contiguity,” it was code for a demand Yasser Arafat had raised in negotiations for a land link of some kind between the two parts of the Palestinian state, the West Bank and Gaza—thereby bifurcating what would be left of Israel, an intolerable situation suffered by no country on the globe, let alone a tiny, non-Arab, non-Muslim one in the heart of the Middle East.
Israel, having already withdrawn from Gaza, now suffers regular rocket fire from that direction; a look at a map shows its even more radical vulnerability from West Bank terrain. Even primitive Qassam rockets would suffice to hit parts of Israel’s coastal plain, Ben-Gurion National Airport, and Jerusalem. Katyusha rockets would suffice to reach Tel Aviv, Netanya, and Nazareth. Withdrawal from the Jordan Valley would create a vastly longer, more meandering border—incomparably harder to police and ideal for terrorist infiltrations.
It is true that Obama, in his May 19, 2011 speech, said the Palestinian state would be “nonmilitarized.” It is not hard to imagine, given the infeasibility of enforcing such a provision along with the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic hatred already being systematically inculcated in both the West Bank and Gaza, how long such a commitment would hold up. It is hardly encouraging that, despite detailed security provisions in Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula is now a hothouse of anti-Israeli terror.
As I noted, though, last year, apart from the tactical level,
gravest of all would be Israel’s radical strategic vulnerability in the situation envisaged by Obama. Even a Palestinian state that more or less complied with “nonmilitarization” could allow—or be forced to allow—Arab armies from the east to traverse the short distance to Israel’s coastal plain, where a mere nine-mile push by a tank force would suffice to sunder Israel and put an end to Jewish sovereignty. Would Israel’s large, capable army be able to stop the invasion? Very likely not—because the bulk of that army consists of reserve forces, which require 48 hours for a full mobilization. An Arab force could cross the West Bank in much less time. Meanwhile the reserve forces rushing along exposed arteries to exposed mobilization centers would be subject to various forms of debilitating fire—very likely including missile barrages from states and terror enclaves bordering Israel.
There is no way to know if a second-term Obama would keep pursuing such a “two-state” vision. The fact that the Palestinians themselves are divided into the two mutually hostile, increasingly separate and distinct entities of the West Bank and Gaza would make a renewed “two-state” push all the more difficult. The fact that the new, Muslim Brotherhood-run Egypt that Obama helped usher into being will likely give state backing to Palestinian anti-Israeli aggression makes such a vision all the more dangerous.
Obama, though, has amassed a track record of hostility to Israel on various fronts, and referring to Israel’s appeals for red lines on Iran as “noise” to be “blocked out” is just the latest instance. Obama’s call last year for an Israeli return to the 1967 lines, and a Palestinian border with Jordan, is an ominous moment that should be borne in mind.
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