Last week, in a speech on the Middle East, President Obama reiterated long-standing US policy that there should be a final settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is based roughly on the pre-1967 borders and mutually agreed land swaps.
Despite the fact that Obama’s declaration was nothing new, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the idea of pre-1967 borders, even using a news conference with Obama to call the proposal “indefensible.” His chief political rival, Kadima’s Tzipi Livni, disagreed, noting that the pre-1967 borders is already American policy.
Now, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is announcing that he plans to introduce a resolution condemning Obama’s advocacy for pre-1967 borders. Hatch sensationally claiming that Obama is “rewarding those who threaten Israel’s very right to exist”:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) issued a press release today stating his intention to introduce a resolution next week disapproving of the policy concerning Israel that President Barack Obama announced on Thursday. “Israel is the United States’ strongest friend and ally,” Hatch said in the statement. “By calling for a return to the pre-1967 borders, President Obama has directly undermined her.”
Instead, Hatch said, “President Obama is rewarding those who threaten Israel’s very right to exist.” “This is not only ridiculous, but dangerous,” he said.
Yet what Hatch, Netanyahu, and their allies in the U.S. Congress are not saying is that most Israelis and Palestinians actually support a settlement based around 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps that result in a safe, secure, free, and prosperous independent Palestinian and Israeli states. Here is a roundup of some of the recent polling on the issue:
– PALESTINIANS SUPPORT PEACE: It a common refrain among those who would deny rights to the Palestinians that they are militantly opposed to Israel’s very existence and would never support a peaceful resolution. Yet the facts do not support this assertion. Polling conducted in 2009 indicated that 74 percent of Palestinians support a two-state solution based around the contours of the international consensus. Polling conducted in 2010 found that 71 percent support peace negotiations with Israel and that a majority of Palestinians oppose rocket attacks on the country. Last month, the top Palestinian diplomat at the UN asked that the international community support a solution based on the pre-1967 borders and mutually agreed land swaps.
– ISRAELIS SUPPORT PEACE: While the pre-1967 borders were portrayed as primarily a Palestinian demand by the mainstream media and conservatives, the truth is that most Israelis are actually in favor of withdrawing settlements and establishing roughly these borders in exchange for peace. In a 2010 Brookings Institution poll, a plurality of Israelis supported this border arrangement along with mutually agreed land swaps. More recent polling from the Joint Israeli Palestinian Poll conducted by the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Hebrew University and the Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 52 percent of Israelis support a peace agreement based roughly around the elements of the Saudi peace plan and Clinton Parameters, which would incorporate the pre-1967 borders, and that most Israelis support negotiating with Hamas. A 2011 poll conducted by a major Israeli newspaper shows that 53 percent of Israelis want Netanyahu to seriously engage in peace talks that includes significant concessions.
While it is true that mort Palestinians support this agreement than Israelis — the status quo is much worse for them — it is also true that narrow majorities of Israelis support the general contours of a peace proposal that Obama and the wider international community are endorsing. Netanyahu, Hatch, and their allies in the U.S. Congress and Israeli Knesset are staking out positions that are out of step with public opinion and reality. The question is whether Obama is will use the levers at his disposal to force them to the negotiating table.