*President Obama recently stated that peace talks between Palestinian groups and Israel should consider the pre-1967 boundaries as open for discussion.
For this he was widely criticized as undermining an ally. And while such criticism is valid, so was Obama’s position.
In the Old Testament Israel, a synonym for Jewish people, assumed ownership of the lands on the eastern bank of the Mediterranean Sea with assurances from God that He would drive out the current inhabitants. Indeed the Jewish people settle in that area but fought to gain and retain possession of the land ceaselessly. Eventually they were conquered.
Israel as a modern political entity began in 1948 as Great Britain forwarded the idea of a homeland for Jewish peoples following the atrocities visited upon them during the war. The United Nations ultimately established the Jewish nation state. From its origin, Israel again had friends in high places as the United Nations was heavily influenced by western interests. Soon after Israel’s establishment, with the Cold War increasing in importance, the United States assumed the position of world leader from Great Britain and with it the responsibility of supporting the fledgling state of Israel.
There are two common threads in both the Biblical history and the twentieth century story. 1- Jewish people take control of a land mass based on their belief that the land was promised to them by God. 2- Neighboring peoples are upset at what they perceive to be a land grab and attack Israel. In fact the stories differ only in the final result because the United States continued to support Israel in the face of military conflict.
From these events a number of conclusions can be drawn. First, that it is extremely unlikely to maintain peace when the two sides in opposition start with two separate sets of assumptions. In this case Israel believes God favors them and the land should be theirs. The problem is that the neighboring Arab states have a completely different concept of God.
Second, and not surprisingly, peace is dependent on both sides giving up some of their core beliefs. Israel should disabuse itself of the notion that God favors the Jewish people above all others; this makes negotiation much more necessary. Arab countries must get over feeling like the level of one of their compatriots had its land stolen; this makes negotiation much more possible.
Third, it is not unreasonable that a third party point out these first two points. And that is essentially what Obama was doing. By suggesting to look at the pre-1967 borders Israel would need to accept that they did not find favor with God by expanding the country via war. Neighboring Arab nations and Palestinian groups would need to accept that the state of Israel is not going away.
It was just a suggestion. But it could act as the foundation for a long lasting peace.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected]