Yglesias

How Can Borders Israel’s Defended In The Past Be Indefensible?

Given Benjamin Netanyahu’s scorn for negotiating on the basis of the 1949 armistice lines, it seems to me that it’s eminently reasonable to ask whether the Israeli government will recognize Palestine’s right to exist:

Mr. Netanyahu, who is due to meet with Mr. Obama at the White House on Friday in what seems likely now to be a tense encounter, added that the commitments “relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines,” a reference to large Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank.

The point about the settlements is perfectly valid. Having illegally build Israeli towns and suburbs on occupied land, the Israeli government naturally prefers not to give the land up. But how can the borders be indefensible? How does Netanyahu think Israel managed to win the war that gave them control over the West Bank? The defensible borders issue certainly sounds more sympathetic than the “we want to keep as much land as possible” issue, but unlike desire to grab land it doesn’t make any kind of sense.

I think it would be healthier to just state things frankly. Netanyahu wants the settlements that exist to expand, he wants new settlements started, and he doesn’t want to give up the settlements that he has. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the Obama administration keeps answering the wrong question. They keep telling us what they want the Israeli government to do. And what they want it to do, basically, is have different preferences. But the question for Obama isn’t what Israeli policy should be, it’s what should American policy be.