Bird’s Eye: We start with Juan Cole, who looks at the issue of ’67 borders from a political viewpoint. Noted Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld (bio here) examines Netanyahu’s assertion that the ’67 borders are indefensible from a military perspective, and finds it lacking. And Gideon Levy writes in Haaretz about how Netanyahu’s speech looks in Israel, from the left.
* What lies Behind Netanyahu’s Bluster on ’1967 Borders’ Juan Cole Informed Comment
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s high dudgeon over the world community’s demand that Israel return more or less to ’1967 borders’ plays to two audiences, his domestic constituency among far rightwing ‘Greater Israel’ parties intent on usurping Palestinian land, and his American constituency among the third or so of US Jews who oppose trading land for peace. The ’1967′ borders are actually those that obtained before Israel launched its 1967 ‘Six-Day War’ on Syria, Jordan and Egypt. (There is no doubt that Israel launched this war, and that its aggressiveness with Syria in the previous six months contributed mightily to the tensions that led to it.)
The reason Israel has to go back to 1967 borders is that the annexation of territory from a neighbor through warfare is illegal according to the United Nations Charter, which is a treaty to which Israel and the United States are both signatories. ‘Greater Israel’ apologists attempt to get out of this difficulty by saying that countries used to conquer land away from their neighbors all the time. This is a bogus argument, since countries used to do a lot of things, including sponsor the slave trade; Britain even insisted on China allowing the sale of opium in the early 19th century. The world changed when World War II ended and the countries of the world established the United Nations to forestall any recrudescence of Axis techniques of conquest and rule. If Israel does not believe in the UN Charter, it should renounce its UN membership.
* Israel Doesn’t Need the West Bank To Be Secure Martin van Creveld Forward.com
When everything is said and done, how important is the West Bank to Israel’s defense?
To answer the question, our best starting point is the situation before the 1967 war. At that time, the Arab armed forces surrounding Israel outnumbered the Jewish state’s army by a ratio of 3-to-1. Not only was the high ground in Judea and Samaria in Jordanian hands, but Israel’s capital in West Jerusalem was bordered on three sides by hostile territory. Arab armies even stood within 14 miles of Tel Aviv. Still, nobody back then engaged in the sort of fretting we hear today about “defensible borders,” let alone Abba Eban’s famous formulation, “Auschwitz borders.” When the time came, it took the Israel Defense Forces just six days to crush all its enemies combined.
…Since the West Bank itself is surrounded by Israel on three sides, anybody who tries to enter it from the east is sticking his head into a noose. To make things worse for a prospective invader, the ascent from the Jordan Valley into the heights of Judea and Samaria is topographically one of the most difficult on earth. Just four roads lead from east to west, all of which are easily blocked by air strikes or by means of precision-guided missiles. To put the icing on the cake, Israeli forces stationed in Jerusalem could quickly cut off the only road connecting the southern portion of the West Bank with its northern section in the event of an armed conflict.
The defense of the West Bank by Arab forces would be a truly suicidal enterprise. The late King Hussein understood these facts well. Until 1967 he was careful to keep most of his forces east of the Jordan River. When he momentarily forgot these realities in 1967, it took Israel just three days of fighting to remind him of them. Therefore, just as Israel does not need the West Bank to defend itself against ballistic missiles, it does not need that territory to defend itself against conventional warfare.
* Netanyahu’s Speech To Congress Shows America Will Buy Anything Gideon Levy Haaretz
It was an address with no destination, filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions. Only rarely is a foreign head of state invited to speak before Congress. It’s unlikely that any other has attempted to sell them such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony as Benjamin Netanyahu did yesterday.
… How can an Israeli prime minister dare to say his country “fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely” without spitting out the entire bitter truth – as long as they aren’t Palestinian. Suddenly Netanyahu marvels at the Arab Spring, but where was he when it began? He was on his standard scare campaign, warning of the dangers of an extremist Islamic regime and rushing to build a fence along our border with Egypt. And yesterday, suddenly, it’s “the promise of a new dawn.” Apparently there is no end to hypocrisy.
…And how dare he speak about freedom of worship in Jerusalem at a time when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been denied that freedom for years. Freedom of worship in Jerusalem is for Palestinians aged 35 and up, sometimes 45 and up; sometimes even 65 isn’t old enough. And for the 2 million people of the Gaza Strip, there is no such freedom at all.
How can Netanyahu praise the peace with Egypt, when it’s easy to guess he would have voted against it? The man who explicitly said he would do his level best to destroy the Oslo Accords suddenly says he’s in favor of peace with the Palestinians. Last night we saw that the Americans will buy anything, or at least their applauding legislators will.