Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The disastrous idea of "land swap"

Palestinian Arab negotiators are flocking to wire service reporters to float ideas, and today another one came up - the idea of a "land swap" where PalArabs get the same number of square kilometers from Israel that Israel keeps from settlements.

Once again, we have a situation that would sound reasonable if both sides were reasonable, and it utterly disastrous once one understands the Arab psyche.

People tend to forget that before the Six Day War, Israel's borders were just armistice lines. The Arab world did not accept those borders as being anything close to final and they were using military, terrorist and diplomatic ways to try to shrink the Jewish state.

After 1967 and especially after 1973, however, the Arab attitude changed. Once they saw that they could not defeat Israel militarily they dedicated their efforts to get back the land - and the honor - that they lost. Sadat famously said that he'd rather go to war than lose a single grain of sand of the Sinai, and the entire existence of the PLO is largely due to Arab governments using them to get the West Bank away from Jewish control. While they never truly gave up on the idea of Israel's destruction, their more immediate concern was to get back the 1967 losses and that forced them to implicitly recognize the Green Line as being meaningful. In other words, 1967 and 1973 allowed Israel to solidify its hold on the 1949 borders to the point that the world accepted them far more than they did before 1967.

A land swap would smash the idea of the 1949 Green Line as a border of Israel, and it would bring Israel back to its pre-1967 situation, in more was than one. The Arab world would still consider the settlements to be Arab land - there is no question about that - and now they would also gain leverage on 1949 Israeli lands, which haven't been on the table in decades. Every point of contact has the potential of becoming another Shebaa Farms, another excuse to whittle Israel down, another set of terror attacks coupled with impassioned pleas against the intransigent Israelis refusing to give only a couple of kilometers here and there of ancient Arab land - and Westerners believing them. They will insist on a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, cutting Israel in half, and that corridor will have to grow in width year after year.

The Green Line was an impossible border for Israel to live securely, and moving it towards the West - allowing even more of Israel to be in rocket range - is not only stupid militarily and from a security point of view, but it will open the doors for the entire Arab world to again believe that they can drive the Jews into the sea.

cross-posted at Yourish