The notion of going back to pre-1967 borders with land swaps as a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian territories elicited instant resistance after President Obama’s speech last week, but further emphasis on land exchanges showed some wiggle room might exist.
In a May 19 speech, President Obama proposed using borders of the West Bank and Gaza Strip from before the Six-Day War between Israel, and neighboring Egypt, Jordan and Syria as a starting point for negotiations. He said, “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.”
Mr. Obama further clarified the proposal at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting this week, stressing the importance of the mutually agreed upon land exchanges as a way to draw the two-state border. “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,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who immediately called the pre-1967 border solution “indefensible,” told a joint session of Congress on Tuesday that he is willing to make “painful compromises” to achieve peace, including giving up some land now inhabited by Israeli settlers.
“Now this is not easy for me. It’s not easy, because I recognize that in a genuine peace we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland,” he said, referring to the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian leaders, who want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, are amenable to negotiating land swaps. But some Palestinian officials said Tuesday after Netanyahu’s speech that his parameters, including keeping Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, would not work, reported the Associated Press.
“What Netanyahu said in his speech tonight is a clear rejection of the suggestions of President Obama concerning the borders of 1967,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “Actually, what he did is that he put more obstacles in the path of peace.”
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy offers a map of different land swap options.
The Council on Foreign Relations provides an interactive history on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.