It makes little difference what the border plan is

By Robin Shepherd, August 4, 2011
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Going head to head: Benjamin Netanyahu meets Mahmoud Abbas

Going head to head: Benjamin Netanyahu meets Mahmoud Abbas

It was always on the cards that Benjamin Netanyahu would make some sort of diplomatic push in August to forestall Palestinian attempts to get recognition for statehood at the United Nations the following month.

While much is being made of whether Bibi's apparent acceptance of the 1967 lines as the basis for proposed talks represents a climb-down, the real issue, as ever, is whether the Palestinians are serious about accepting a Jewish state in the Middle East at all.

What, after all, does it really mean to call the borders that existed before the Six-Day War a "baseline", "basis", or "framework" for peace talks? Sure, it's the end of the Greater Israel project. But that was only ever a dream of a tiny minority and almost no-one in Israel has believed it to be practicable for decades.

So all it comes down to is publicly saying what everyone who has ever argued for a two-state solution has always known: that bit over there is going to be the Palestinian state and this bit over here is going to be Israel.

The other issues can be worked out with a bit of goodwill and a readiness to compromise.

Simple, really.

Except that the whole thing's a mirage in the desert as long as the Palestinians remain fundamentally opposed to the long-term existence of Israel, as the polling evidence shows. And this is why Mr Netanyahu's insistence that they recognise Israel as a Jewish state is so important.

If the conflict was about who would compromise on what over land, it would never have begun. In 1947, David Ben Gurion accepted a two-state solution, on much worse terms than the one currently envisaged, by agreeing to UN Resolution 181: a two-state solution with Israel's blessing, from day one of the conflict.

The Palestinians rejected it, point blank, just as they have rejected every other compromise along such lines.

When you boil it all down, it is legitimacy, not land, that has always lain at the root of it all. Getting the Palestinian leadership to teach its people that Jewish statehood in the Middle East is every bit as legitimate as every other form of statehood in the region is the key to everything. Sixty-seven lines or no 67 lines, the rest is detail.

Robin Shepherd is director, international affairs, at the Henry Jackson Society and owner/publisher of The Commentator

    Last updated: 12:18pm, August 4 2011