Here's to the '67 Borders, the New Middle of the Road

There was a time, not long past, that the mere mention of the 1967 borders was seen by many in the Jewish community as an expression of disloyalty, of sacrilege, of foolhardy risk, almost of profanity.

Gradually, remarkably, there are signs that the route of the middle of the road has shifted. That we've come a long, long way. At this point, for many on the Israeli side and, in fact, on the Palestinian side as well, the middle of the road passes very, very close to the Green Line, the post-1948 war, pre-1967 war boundary between the West Bank and Israel.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview to be published in the Friday Jerusalem Post, states that "the world that is friendly to Israel... that really supports Israel, when it speaks of the future, it speaks of Israel in terms of the '67 borders. It speaks of the division of Jerusalem."

The Arab League has thrown its weight behind the 2002 Saudi-inspired peace initiative, which offers Israel full normalization of relations and comprehensive peace treaties with Arab countries in exchange for withdrawal from the territory captured in 1967, an independent Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, and a "just solution" of the Palestinian refugee issue.

Professor Alan Dershowitz, in these remarks from "Why are so many leftists so anti-Israel," a recorded address to the recent Limmud Conference of Jewish learning and discussion, held at the University of Warwick, Coventry, England:

"I had a recent event at [the University of California,] Irvine, which is among the most difficult universities and colleges for Jewish students to attend, because of the loud, vocal and persistent agitation among anti-Israel groups.

"I spoke to about a thousand students there, and I asked how many of the students, after my presentation, generally regarded themselves as pro-Israel, and 200, 250 raised their hands.

And I said, "Among those who just raised their hands, how many of you would support the existence of a peaceful, economically viable, democratic, pluralistic Palestinian state, side-by-side with Israel on borders approximating those proposed at Camp David and Taba.

"I think every single one of the people who said they supported Israel raised their hand. In other words, of the 250 who said they generally regarded themselves as pro-Israel, all of them were also pro-Palestine. They supported a two-state solution. They supported aspirations of the Palestinian people, consistent with peace and pluralism.

"I then asked how many in the audience regard themselves as pro-Palestinian, here because they're supporting Palestine. Probably 100, 150 raised their hands. Then I said, 'I want to know how many among you would be willing to accept a peaceful Israel, an Israel not occupying, an Israel not interested in acquiring more land, but simply living as a Jewish democracy living side-by-side with a Palestinian state.

"I was shocked, and so was everybody in the audience, shocked to see that not one person among the 100-150 who described themselves as pro-Palestinian, would raise their hands."

The story bears examination, and retelling, for a number of reasons, not least for this one:

In the process of relating the story, Professor Dershowitz has set out a concise outline for a middle-of-the-road position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, circa 2008.

It is a peaceful Israel, an Israel not occupying, an Israel not interested in acquiring more land, but simply living as a Jewish democracy living side-by-side with a peaceful, economically viable, democratic, pluralistic Palestinian state, on borders approximating those proposed at Camp David and Taba.

There was a time when the mention of 1967 lines was met with nothing more than one version or other of Abba Eban's 1969 comment to the German newspaper Der Spiegel:

"We have openly said that the map will never again be the same as on June 4, 1967. For us, this is a matter of security and of principles. The June map is for us equivalent to insecurity and danger. I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz."

Many of those who cite the "Auschwitz borders" quote as a bulwark against giving up all occupied territory, conveniently forget that Abba Eban was an outspoken and unabashed dove.

Many of those who oppose territorial compromise of all kinds turn a blind eye to Abba Eban's comment that an Israel which refuses to consider ceding land is "tearing up its own birth certificate.

"Israel's birth is intrinsically and intimately linked with the idea of sharing territory and sovereignty," Eban declared.

It's important to note that in an era of land-for-Qassams in Gaza and deadly Palestinian internal strife, any accord over borders is a distant prospect at best.

At the same time, there is growing awareness among Palestinians that maximalism, in particular the forms of long-distance Islamic extremism exported by Iran and Osama Bin Laden, could in the end kill the prospect of a Palestinian state altogether.

Even Hamas officials have spoken of being "able to live with" an interim situation of a Palestinian state along 1967 lines. "Where the Hamas Charter speaks of "an end to the conflict and the end of the occupation," Hamas, from Khaled Meshaal on down, is speaking clearly of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas official Razi Hamid told Army Radio in 2006.

"This is a new page today. We agree to an independent Palestinian state with the 1967 borders," Hamid said. "Today there is an opportunity to reach a political settlement."

So here's to the all new middle of the road, an especially useful view - and test of Palestinian intentions and aspirations - at a time when Bin Laden chooses to stake out the maximalist ground of a one-state all-Palestinian, all-Islamist solution.

Maximalists on both sides would have us believe that compromise invites murder. It's time for the quieter majority to stand up and point out that its maximalists who do the great majority of the killing around here.


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