Is Jerusalem & Jordan Valley on the Table?
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed concern at reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, contrary to his prior statements, is willing to open negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) on proposed borders for a Palestinian state that would be very close to the 1949 armistice lines. The U.S. attempt to restart negotiations is apparently aimed at persuading the PA to forego seeking a unilateral declaration of statehood at the United Nations next month and to also persuade European governments to oppose the Palestinian statehood bid.
The 1949 lines (sometimes incorrectly referred to as the 1967 borders) were the basis of President Obamas policy statement on the Israeli/Palestinian situation on May 19 when he declared that, We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps. President Obama also said on May 22 that The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. Accordingly, under Obamas proposals, Israel would have to divide Jerusalem, withdraw almost completely to the 1949 armistice lines and relinquish the Jordan Valley, a strategically vital land barrier whose possession by Israel makes it possible for Israel to repulse an invasion from the east. All Israeli governments have regarded its retention as vital to Israels defense and security.
Prime Minister Netanyahu rightly repudiated this proposal at the time when he said before the U.S. Congress that, Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel
It is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they are necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow. And when I say tomorrow, I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean tomorrow.
Given this background, the ZOA is deeply concerned that reports that the Netanyahu government intends to negotiate on the basis of a near-total withdrawal to the 1949 lines. An Israeli official has observed that the borders proposed would be difficult for Israel to accept. The PA in turn would supposedly recognize Israeli as a Jewish state (Official: Netanyahu ready to discuss border package, Jerusalem Post, August 2, 2011).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, Has Prime Minister Netanyahu placed Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley on the negotiating table? We are deeply concerned to read reports indicating that he is on the point of backing down on his correct insistence that a return to the 1949 armistice lines, or anything similar to them, is out of the question. This is especially so at a time when the PA continues to engage in incitement to hatred and murder in its media, mosques, schools and youth camps and has signed a unity government agreement with the kill the Jews Hamas terrorist organization. It is also astonishing when we have it direct from Mahmoud Abbas himself that, as he put it in May, Palestines admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.
Israel should be delegitimizing the PA by exposing its continuing record of incitement to hatred and murder and glorification of terrorism, not legitimizing it by renewing negotiations based on a further, major and dangerous Israeli concession. Israel should also be calling on an end to U.S. aid to the PA.
Whatever the truth to reports that the PA would reciprocate by recognizing Israel as Jewish state, it would be a strategic error for Israel to make such a vast and dangerous concession in return for averting a PA resort to the UN for recognition of Palestinian statehood. The PA is violating its Oslo commitments, specifically the 1995 Oslo II agreement, by seeking to alter the political situation by any means other than negotiations with Israel. Oslo II stipulates that Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. Rewarding the PA with a major concession for agreeing not commit this violation is the last thing Israel should be doing.
Prime Minister Netanyahu admirably explained in May why it was wholly inappropriate for Israel to even consider returning to the 1949 lines or lines very similar to them. It would be a serious strategic error for him to reverse himself and accede to this proposal and we dearly hope that reports indicating he is about to do this are completely wrong. If, as we hope, these reports are mistaken, we urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to immediately and publicly repudiate these reports.