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’67 Was Always the Only Option

Why we should be shocked by Bibi’s shock

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A hill outside Ramallah, in the West Bank.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Two Haaretz op-eds together make the definitive case that the way to achieve two states—the stated objective of both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu—is to negotiate, as Obama put in his speech yesterday, “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Daniel Gideon Levy, one of the paper’s more left-wing columnists, cites the Palestinian who came in from Syria during the Nakba Day protests and traveled to Jaffa, to see his immediate ancestors’ hometown. “Maybe now we will begin to understand its roots and solutions,” Levy writes of the bitter conflict. “Maybe we will begin to understand that for the Palestinian people the 1967 borders are the mother of all compromises and concessions, a compromise that is far more painful for them than for us.” 1967, in other words, is the most Israel can get in exchange for the crucial renunciation of the right of return. And Ari Shavit, a centrist, argues from the other side: “Without accepting the principle of 1967, Netanyahu’s other principles will remain full of holes,” he observes. These principles “will end up the latest unimportant remarks by an unimportant prime minister.” Both writers are saying the same thing: That for Israel, which after years of inaction is faced with the Palestinian push for U.N. recognition, ’67 is the most it can reasonably expect to get. Therefore, it is the only sensible premise.

Now for the punch-line: Those two op-eds were published yesterday morning.

That is, both were thought up, written, and published before Obama’s speech, in which he became the first U.S. president to explicitly, publicly call for the 1967 border to be the basis for negotiations—to the apparent shock of Netanyahu, the Likud Party, the Republican Party, and various right-leaning American Jewish groups.

The ’67 borders are just part of the deal: They are what you agree to in order to get an end to right of return, a demilitarized Palestinian state, and a U.S. veto at the U.N. in the meantime—all things Obama also proposed. So why was Netanyahu surprised and appalled? Why the petty angry phone call with Secretary of State Clinton? The writing was on the wall, on the morning of, in the Israeli press. The necessity was there. And it remains.
For Mideast Peace, Israel Needs To Own Up to Palestinian Pain [Haaretz]
Netanyahu Must Move Forward and Accept 1967 Borders [Haaretz]
Obama and Netanyahu Face a Turning Point [NYT]
Related: Obama’s Mideast Speech [NYT]
Earlier: Bibi Gets What He Wants, Replies With Scorn

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Gideon Levy, right? But it might as well have been the other one; neither is reliable.

Any Palestinian who came from Syria was sent there by Assad to deflect attention from his murderousness. Pretending otherwise actually prolongs the conflict like all inflammatory language, and gives the Syrian murderer a pass.

Daniel says:

So Mr. Tracy’s argument is that because two Israelis in Haaretz wrote that that ’67 lines should form the basis of negotiations, that therefore Netanyahu should not have been surprised or angry that Obama disclaimed 44 years of previous US policy, and more recent explicit written assurances on the question?

Mr. Tracy cannot be considered a serious objective writer.

fred lapides says:

there is no objective writer. anywhere. we see things not as they are but as we are.

Ridiculous. There’s a reason Abba Eban (not exactly a right wing fanatic) called those borders “suicide borders”. Israel can’t afford that. The biggest mistake Bibi made since he got into office was giving approval to the insane two state solution.

Anyone who thinks that an Arab run Judea and Samaria would be any different at all from the Arab run Gaza Strip isn’t simply delusional. They’re blind and stupid.

H/Ramat-Gan/Israel says:

And now Haaretz is the gospel according to Mr. Tracy. Ha Ha Ha

Sorry but I have to put it straight Mr. Tracy – You are lying to your readers when you suggest that Haaretz is a mainstream newspaper that represent must Israelis. But as a reader of Tablet in the last months I am not surprised from your last deception.

Marc Tracy says:

@fw ugh. too many Levys.

And I of course agree you with about Syria’s motives, as I wrote at the time. That doesn’t mean the feelings of the Palestinians cruelly used as pawns by Assad aren’t genuine.

david blank says:

If you are simply going to reproduce Haaretz editorials then why do we need The Tablet.

Haaretz has less than 7% of the market yet deserves to be copied twice to the exclusion of all the rest.

Keep cranking your liberal agenda and The Tablet will disappear within a year!

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

If you go over the legislative history of UNSC Resolution 242, you will see that the USA and the UK insisted that Israel not be obligated to give up ALL the land it won in a defensive war in exchange for secure and recognized boundaries (the latter phrase quoted by Obama). They recognized that the ’49 cease fire lines inherently could not constitute secure boundaries. 242 was painstakingly worded to achieve that end. There was no mention of land swaps.

Furthermore, if the land swaps are “agreed upon” why do you need 242’s careful wording that precluded obligating Israel to give up all the land it won?

Resolution 242 promised Israel “secure and recognized boundaries”, which implicitly recognizes that the ’49 or ’67 lines were not legally “borders” that must serve as a jump off point for negotiations.

Now given that abu Mazen & any other Palestinian leader on the horizon (or in the imagination) does not have Israel’s best interests at heart, strange as it may seem, and given that they regularly and routinely tell their people (in Arabic) no land swaps and that Palestine must be Judenrein, what will the Pals “agree to” regarding land swaps? What does Israel do when they don’t agree (and after PaliLeaks, it seems even less likely that they would)? Obama has basically precluded Israel from getting secure and recognized boundaries unless the Pals deign to grant us secure and recognized boundaries.

You say that this is the best that Netanyahu could hope for. That may well be true, but in effect that says more about Obama real attitude toward Israel more than anything else.

Obama may or may not have thrown Israel under the bus (I think he has) but he has definitely thrown Resolution 242 under the bus.

Shabat Shalom,


Gene says:

Jaffa seems to be inside 1967 “borders”, not outside. Maybe Mr. Levy was too blind to notice that?
“in order to get an end to right of return”. You cannot get end to the “right”, any “right”. If it is a “right” then it is a “right” – it is untouchable, like the “right” to have freedom of speech or the “right” to live within SECURE borders.

Gene says:

Semantics plays a big role in our life

H/Ramat-Gan/Israel says:


I don’t know what ‘Centrist’ mean but Ari Shavit was always Labor-Meretz guy. Maybe to you it’s ‘Center’ but to me and many others it’s ‘Left’

If we look at the substance – Obama emphasized yesterday that the so called ‘Right of Return’ will be dealt only at the end of the process – so here goes the main tenant of your article….to the trash.

Marc R says:

I agree (I think) with H above.

Yes, Marc, the 1967 borders are something you give up to get an end to the “right of return.” So why didn’t President Obama say that the Palestinians must give up the “right of return” since this is also something that has, by reports, always been American policy and is a necessary part of the deal?

I certainly agree that his speech was, on balance, quite pro-Israel. But it really would have been fair, if he were only stating aloud what “everyone knows” will be the eventual parameters of a deal, if he included that one as well. That’s fundamental and non-negotiable to Israel.

By making Israel give up what you admit it must agree to without doing the same (in full, not in part) for the Palestinians, this was an unfortunate shift in policy.

Herb Konti says:

People have to wake up to the fact that Israel risks looking like the Serbia of Milosevic — ethnic cleansing seems to have gone out of style in the rest of the world — why is it OK for any country in the Middle East now?

I begin to notice that every time Tablet runs a piece that dares to voice opinions that aren’t hard-line Bibi-licious and hawkish, a small cadre of Bibettes, responding like dogs to a siren, begin howling in a poor approximation of wolves. Nonetheless, their atavistic cries are unsettling. What incohate fears underlie those bellicose vocalizations? What ancient wounds tear at their hearts? Sometimes I feel that if the Palistinians did not exist, the triumphalists would have to invent them.

Jerome says:

Obama said that the ’67 borders are the starting point of negotiations. He anticipated that any deal would involve land swaps.

The question I have for all the maximalists out there is what is the alternative? Do you want Israel to annex the entire West Bank? What do you do with all the Palestinians there? Give them full rights or deprive them of such right? Or maybe they should all be forcibly deported to Jordan?

If Israel were to get a deal based on the ’67 borders with no right to return it would be great deal for Israel. The borders may been indefensible in ’67, but with longer range and more accurate missiles how far away would such borders now have to be?

Finally, if you think Israel is under pressure now what do you think will happen in after another flotilla dares to break the blockade and the General Assembly votes to create a Palestinian state?

Bibi does not have the constitution to be bold, but Israel must (at least appear) to be ready to make real and painful concessions for true peace or else it will find itself caught a wave of events over which it has no control.

perot says:

Opinion is opinion

And in this case , Bullshit is still Bullshit

Solid work, Marc. As always.

Ellis Jayus says:

Take the President to Tel Facher in the Golan Heights…give him a machine gun and some heavy artillery…ask him which farms he would like to destroy and which vintners he would like to kill. Then tell him to just point and shoot. It’s that easy and it’s also the history of Syrian ownership of “The Heights.” Personally, Israel can negotiate whatever on the give-and-take Judea and Samaria. What Abba Eban meant by indefensible or suicide borders can be made crystal clear by a trip to the North. There is a mini-Masada in the Golan, a site not often visited by tourist, called Gamla. The inscription at the site: Gamla shall not fall again. Amen.

Your boss is obviously working you too hard.

RZS says:

Agreed that Obama’s speech was not “anti-Israel”, and that the feelings of the Palestinians regarding refugees are genuine. But genuine feelings aren’t necessarily legitimate – the refugees (whether they fled or were actively driven out) are the direct result of a war of annihilation begun by the Arab nations. They have as much “right of return” as do those Germans forced out of their homes in Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic at the end of WWII.

I don’t disagree with the idea that Israel should revert to the 1967 borders, while retaining the major settlement blocs and taking whatever military actions it needs to defend itself. But that – and the associated creation of a Palestinians state – have to be the END result of negotiations, not a precondition. Only after the Palestinian Arabs have renounced the right of return (a right they never had) and ensured Israeli security should they be allowed to have a state.

Israeli and Palestinian claims do not have equal merit – that is the premise accepted by those taking issue with Obama’s speech yesterday.

corey says:

“Israeli and Palestinian claims do not have equal merit – that is the premise accepted by those taking issue with Obama’s speech yesterday.”

And in this belief we have a demonstration of the tragic failure of imagination, the unwillingness to honestly consider the possibility that the “other,” the enemy, is as fully human as ourselves that is the biggest obstacle to peace, not only in Israel, but everywhere on this wounded planet, on all “sides.”

David Grossman (I’ll pause while some commenters take a moment to mutter in disapproval at the mention of his name) once wrote about his sadness upon realizing that a group of settlers he was addressing had absolutely no interest or willingness, even as a thought experiment, in imagining what the daily lives of the Palestinian villagers living outside their walls might be like. They knew, he said, that to do so would make it harder to hate them and see them only as enemies to be feared and/or eliminated.

Les Miller says:

As regards Bibi’s claim the 1967 borders are “indefensible”, they were defensible and they were defended. What army east of either the Jordan River or the 1967 border is capable of advancing into Israel? The only force that can breach these lines is a civilian group like the one we saw last week. Israel will be hard pressed to stop these “incursions”, even though traditional military advances will be repelled regardless of where the border is. A military attack on Israel is more likely to come in the form of missles launched from well beyond any border. Netanyahu won’t say this publically, but his concern isn’t defending his borders, it is keeping the settlements and maintaining control of the Jordan River. If Arabs are asked to accept the moral and political reality of war as a reason to give up their right to return, can’t the Arabs make the same argument about the settlers being returned to points within Israel; shouldn’t Jews accept the moral and political reality of peace within the region and agree to the repatriation within pre-1967 borders of the settlers? Is this the price for taking the “right of return” off the table?

I sense Netanyahu will make a deal before September. He does not want to risk a UN resolution that would create a Palestinian State on land that encompasses the settlements. He needs something in return for a Palestinian State and this will not be forthcoming after September. Truth be told, Israel waited too long and now they are running out of time to fashion a deal that will maintain some of their goals in return for a Palestinian State coming into existence. If Israel fails to get something done, the world, already impatient and even hostile towards Israel, will view the Jewish State as no better than 1970s South Africa. This legacy is not worthy of a Jewsih or Zionist State. Time is running out.

Pete says:

So typical Tablet. A “centrist” is now the opposite of “liberal” and represents the “other side.” This magazine is great (sometimes) for arts and culture, but your political reporting/opinion pieces are a complete joke.

RZS says:

Corey – I don’t mutter in disapproval at the mention of David Grossman’s name. In fact, despite my disagreement with many of his political views, I thought his latest novel “To the End of the Land” was excellent, probably the best novel I read this past year.

But my understanding that Israeli and Palestinian claims are not equivalent are not based on appraisals of humanity. They are based on fact. Israel overcame incredible odds to become strong and prosperous – it is a modern, liberal (in the classic sense) democracy with a thriving economy and cultural life. The Palestinians, despite being coddled by the “international community”, are the opposite. I don’t deny that many of them have awful, awful lives, but that is the direct result of their own actions. Both Israeli and Palestinian suffering is caused by Palestinian rejectionism, and it is disingenuous to not acknowledge that.

abc says:

Screw anyone who believes that Israel must ‘negotiate’ with an opposing faction that cannot clearly state it has a right to exist.

This alone, makes the entire discussion a joke.

Death to those who wish for Israel’s destruction and endless misery for those on the wrong side of the wall who cannot get their act together. Nothing to see here, move along..

eli says:

Unfortunately, if one followed Obama’s outline of an Israel of 1967 borders with no other defenses, that would lead eventually (hopefully not in my lifetime) to a destruction of the State of Israel and another Holocaust for the Jews living there who do not escape. Certainly there are large elements in the Arab/Muslim world who want to accomplish that.

Barry says:

Jordan is Palestine.

Any Muslims who want to remain in Israel should be granted the exact rights granted to Jews in Saudi Arabia.

It’s time to stop the ‘Rules for Radicals’ situation. Jihad Monkey loses a war; Jihad Monkey suffers. The end. No sympathy for the society which produced the Fogel butchers.

Jerome says:

Barry is on to something. Maybe we Jews should imitate the the Saudis in terms of religious and human rights! It we can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.

Better yet maybe we should also build mile high walls around Israel. That way we can totally isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. Who cares what the goyim think anyway? Then we should add moats, put alligators in the moats and equip them with laser beams! How many Syrians would care to cross such a gauntlet? Not many, I’m sure. We’ll tell them where they can stick the keys to their Grandfather’s house!!! Also, while were at it, let’s put a finger in Obama’s eye. Who need the U.S. President when we have the support of Michelle Bachmann??

Too many of those post here live in cloudcuckooland. Israel is part of the world and it has to deal with things as they are, not how it wishes they were. Trends are not positive. If Israel does not act, coming events are likely to leave it with fewer, worse choices. Whether you believe Palestians have real grievances or not, Israel needs to pursue a settlement.

Maurice Carroll says:

Why did you leave out the title of Barack Obama in this article? Do you have something against him being President of the United States of America? By the way, that is his title.

How disrespectful?

Alana Newhouse says:

@fw: So now you’re a union organizer?

Terry, Eilat - Israel says:

Bullshit. I’m unsubscribing to this publisher of garbage.
This is the same crap as Haaretz, a bunch of traitors to their own people or J Street, the anti-Israel lobby.

Lou Adams says:

We have two narratives, a Jewish Israeli one and a Muslim Arab on; and so we see that many Jews support the Muslim one. Read haaretz any day and you can see the few, the proud, the arrogant proclaiming the Arab narrative daily. You can read their views on anti Israel, anti Semitic and pro Muslim websites calling out for Israels surrender and destruction One day, Israel will decide that security is more important than freedom of hate speech. I am pulling for today.

I guess reading the New Yorker review of Tony Kushner’s new play really got my blood going.

David Peters says:

Of course, this would be Tablet’s apologize-for-our-very-existence position, which is very convenient when you live in New York and not the eastern Galilee (where the Syrians could shell you), or the nine-mile-wide coastal plain (where you lived under Jordanian guns) or Jerusalem (where you could hide behind sniper walls). I guess Israeli Jews who democratically voted for Netanyahu deserve to be shot at and killed for their lack of good sense.

Of course, there is also the fact that calling for the 1967 lines to be starting point means the Arabs get a do-over: If at first you don’t succeed in wiping Israel off the face of the earth, you get to try again from where you started the last time, until you finally succeed.

If you purport to be a ‘New Read on Jewish Life’, I trust you will not be averse to amending to changing the verbiage from 6 Million to 12 Million at the recitation of the Kaddish, assuming you have assimilated to the point that you have forgotten it.

Howard says:

The 1967 borders have always been the basis of any actual solution, and the US has always said it.

The Israeli right, and increasingly the center, has never liked that reality so they huff and they puff when someone states the obvious.

None of that huffing and puffing really matters…. in the end the Palestinians will demand voting rights within current boundaries, and no force will be able to resist them or their moral claim, short of resorting to expulsion and genocide. The road to that Palestinian goal is long, but it is coming, aided and abetted by the short sighted architects of settlement.

Either there will be two states, a Jewish one and a Palestinian one side by side, along the general aproximate lines of 1949 and 1967… or there will be one, Jewish now, but Palestinian in the end.

To pretend otherwise is silly. The right has chosen the all Jewish option, which leads inevitably to the all Palestinian option as demography and international power shifts.

Obama reminded everyone that there is still another option, but when you get right down to it Netanyahu and the Israel right are just modern day Pharaohs… pushing back 10 times because they don’t know how to do anything else, but the explosion will come, not an exodus, but a Palestinian victory just the same.

Netanyahu and friends are in the historical frame of things the best friends of the Palestinians, assuring the territorial contiguity of the future Palestinian state by insisting on unitary Israel rule for the present. Proclaiming themselves the friends of the Jewish state, they assure its ultimate demise as a Jewish state. Funny how that works.

benj says:

There is no other option … than Jordan. There will never be a Palestinian State in Judea and Samaria, but part of it will be part of Jordan. There is no other solution. The PLO does not want peace with Israel, and anyway the 1967 borders are impossible to live with on the long term – not speaking of issues like Jerusalem and even Hevron that many if not most Jews will never accept to give to Arabs.

Adam says:

It’s easy to sit across the pond and pontificate what 6 million Jews living in Israel should and should not do.

The occupation has to come to an end, but remind me again, why did the borders of ’67 change to begin with?

Oh yeah, we were ATTACKED.
As long as the some Jews, who prize their liberalism higher than their people, continue to undermine our people, they can be rest assured that they will be ignored or villified, and they should, because they deserve it.

howard says:

Benj…. unless there is a Palestinian State in Judea and Samaria, there will inevitably be a Palestinian State in Judea, Samaria, … and Tel Aviv.

I call the Settlers and the Right “one state” advocates, and if you think that one state will be a Jewish one in the end, you must have missed the class about how babies are made, and the history lesson about what happens when a majority population begin to demand its rights from a ruling minority. Go and study.

babawawa says:

Howard, and everyone that thinks like Howard, you are dead wrong. We are in a spiritual battle – between good and evil, and the Jews of this generation are the reincarnated souls of the Jews who went out of Egypt 3500 years ago and died in the desert before getting to Eretz HaKodesh. (The goal: this time we’ll make it there, spiritually and physically.) They doubted G-d then and paid the price, and you are doubting G-d now. How can anyone, especially the Arabs who claim to be so G-dly, miss the Hand of Holy One in countless Jewish victories? Could any other people have stood against the millions of Arabs and won again and again? Remember the scuds? It’s a test: those that stand with the Jewish people, win. No compromise. Those that cop out with “we either give them something or we get nothing” “scenario lose. There will be no do-overs in this soul-repair. I believe this is the final battle, and the Palestinians are the final enemy we bury. I agree with the Rebbe: don’t convince the non-Jews who land it is, they know. Convince the Jews.” .P.S. For those of you who claim you don’t believe in G-d, that’s okay. He doesn’t require you believe in Him, just that you love Him. Check the Shema.

Howard says:

Aretz Yisroel will be possessed when Mosheach yavo… and not before. Your delusional rant is prime evidence that we’re not ready to be led back into the land.

The State of Israel is a Jewish self defense system… at best a tiny step toward redemption…. a practical measure… not the reestablishment of a Jewish kingdom in the land. You confuse it with the real thing. But in your own way you and Netanyahu are just lengthening the days of galute. Instead of building a strong Jewish state in part of the land, you dream of state in all of the land that will quickly not be a Jewish state at all…. assuring that galut will continue for many centuries to come.

Now, honestly, I don’t know that this is so bad. I’m pretty sick of false messiahs, whether from Chabad or from Zionist Socialists or from Likud. Our goal, even in Eretz Yisrael should be to live in the reality of galute, the galute decreed by HKBH in 70CE. By not giving Palestinians their state on some of the land, I’m pretty sure we guarantee the will quickly win it on all of their land, as they make babies and do what people everywhere do… demand and fight for their civil rights. Your work is hastening the Secular Democracy in All of Palestine, and you should expect your commendation from Fatah any day now.

Your fight to control the land is just your way of (unintentionally?) working to help the Palestinians and postpone the Moshiach.

So like false messianics everywhere your fight to bring the end is just prolonging the galute, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. In a crazy way, we’re on the same side….. your vision of success is my vision of Zionist failure and Jewish spiritual failure.

Time will tell who is right, and probably in my lifetime. But my faith is perfect, and I am confident that your vision is doomed. Your effort to force the end is failing, and the days of galute stretch out ahead of us for many many centuries and eons to come.

michael livingston says:

This is not convincing. Because it is “the only option” doesn’t mean it has to be negotiated away in advance. Suppose Obama had said, “And of course, a peace settlement will keep all the Jewish holy places and the largest settlement blocs in Israeli hands, and the Palestinians will accept Israel as a permanently Jewish State.” Would the other side not be complaining?

The only conclusion I can reach after readingl these comments is that they’re actually outakes from Phillip Roth’s “Operation Shylock” that were too over-the-top to keep.

benj says:

” unless there is a Palestinian State in Judea and Samaria, there will inevitably be a Palestinian State in Judea, Samaria, … and Tel Aviv.”

How exactly ? By the mysterious “demographic threat” that does not exist when you know the real numbers ?

They will be no Palestinian State first because Palestinians don’t want a State. They want to destroy Israel. There is nothing to talk about with them, PLO or Hamas. We can talk with Jordan and make a compromise with them. That’s what will happen in the end.


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’67 Was Always the Only Option

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