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Friday, May 20, 2011

The issue isn't "1967 lines." It is the Jordan Valley.

Obama's speech has certainly created a lot of controversy in the pro-Israel community, and most of it is centered on this one section:

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. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.

Some are saying that this means a return to the 1949 armistice lines, others are a bit more optimistic that the "land swaps" could potentially mean significant land swaps - not necessarily in a 1:1 ratio - where Israel could keep significant parts of the West Bank, not having to uproot most of the Jews who live in Judea and Samaria.

The media is, predictably, getting it wrong more often than they get it right. CAMERA found four mistakes in a three-paragraph AP article on the speech. It is obvious that reporters are not being as careful with their words as the President was.

Netanyahu's reaction, as reported in the media, seemed to be centered on the "1967" issue. However, the important part of his statement about borders was not the western border of "Palestine," but the east - the border with Jordan:
Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.
This is one of those issues that the media never really understood, probably because there are relatively few Jews living near the Jordan (though there are some settlements there.)

Israel has always maintained the importance of maintaining a military presence in the Jordan Valley. The Clinton parameters included it, although not indefinitely. It also included three "early warning" radar stations within the Palestinian Arab state.

The Obama speech seemed to preclude that possibility by saying "permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt." So in this sense he is calling for something beyond Camp David, and something that many Israelis - even those opposed to settlements - would be reluctant to agree to.

Should Jordan's kingdom come crashing down and become replaced with an Islamist government - not too far-fetched, especially when you look at the results of the latest Pew Global Attitudes poll, where Jordanian Muslims are shown to be more Islamist than most Middle East countries - Israel cannot rely on "Palestine" to be a buffer. On the contrary, in all likelihood "Palestine" and Jordan would confederate the way the PA has with Hamas.

Israel simply cannot afford to go back to being a nation that is merely nine miles wide. It needs strategic depth, and that means some sort of presence in the Jordan Valley to deter aggression. Otherwise, Israel is just a sliver of land backed up against the sea.

This is the most problematic part of Obama's speech, and the issue cannot be swept under the rug any more.