What does Obama's stand on the 1967 borders achieve?

US President Barack Obaa Mr Obama showed an icy irritation with the lack of progress in the peace process

President Barack Obama's tough line on the Middle East peace process may do more to convince people in the Arab world that America is on their side than all the talk of comparing their uprisings to the Boston Tea party or Rosa Parks' civil rights protest.

American presidents have talked before about the 1967 borders.

In one sense it is obvious that any Palestinian state will be based on Gaza and the West Bank, the lands occupied by Israel after the Six Day War.

But what Mr Obama has just said is new.

Negotiations are often more about the sequence in which things happen rather than the end point. He has said agreement about the borders should be the basis for talks - not their conclusion but their starting point.

In an exclusive BBC interview with Andrew Marr, to be broadcast in its entirety on Sunday, the president explained his thinking.

"Our argument is, let's get started on a conversation about territory and about security," he said.

"That doesn't resolve all the issues - you still end up having the problem of Jerusalem and you still end up having the problem of refugees - but if we make progress on what two states would look like and a reality sets in among the parties that this is how it is going to end up, then it becomes easier for both sides to make difficult concessions to resolve those two other issues."

Mr Obama may be known for his cool but there seemed icy irritation at the lack of progress.

He said: "The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome."

It is hard to believe he was not riled by the Israel prime minister giving the go ahead for more settlements when he had called for them to stop.

The leading - if undeclared - Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney doesn't like it.

He said: "President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends."

The Israeli prime minister didn't like it.

His office issued a furious statement: "Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of US commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress.

Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centres in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed deep disappointment, saying, "a return to 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations, even with 'land swaps' is a non-starter, when at least half of the Palestinian rulers are committed to Israel's destruction".

There is positive reaction too, of course.

But this is tough stuff, hard to swallow for the current Israeli government. So what does it achieve?

It is hard to see how it makes talks more likely. Perhaps it casts Mr Netanyahu as part of the problem, as yesterday's man. Maybe it will play a part in dissuading the Palestinians from demanding what Mr Obama called a "symbolic" vote on independence at the United Nations.

It does put Mr Obama on the side of the Arab Street more eloquently than his declaration that backing democracy is America's top priority (funny that Saudi Arabia didn't get a mention).

But perhaps above all it fits with his post-Bin Laden projection as a hard-headed risk taker.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Obama's seems influenced by a pc crowd there is no reasonable reason to side with the Palestinians.

    They have made no attempt at peace
    Have no claim to the land
    Obama did need to be lectured to by Bibi

    When is Obama going to lecture the Turks who treat the Kurds far worse and don't suffer from islamic terrorism as Israel does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    One day there will be renewable cars and energy and there will no longer be wars over oil, then there will be wars over land, water, food, ect...

    There will always be peace and there will always be war, as well..

    Pick and choose your battles wisely

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.


    Blame the pro-Arab US State Department.

    I'm not American. I wish the US didn't have a barrel (of oil) held to their heads by the Saudis, who spread radical Islamic teaching in the West and reward the families of Palesinian suicide bombers with wagons of cash.

    The Israelis objected strongly to US fighter plane sales to the Saudis. Threatens Israeli air superiority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    So you consider Saudi Arabia one of Americas enemies.
    Saudi Arabia believes it is "an Arab and Islamic duty" to support the Palestinian cause
    Yet you arm them to the teeth and turn a blind eye to their application of soft power against Israel

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.


    "Obama never mentions Israel's reliance on excessive, even lethal force, Gaza ghetto, or attack on Freedom Flotilla."

    He understands that Israel is under attack by the same Islamists who killed thousands on 9/11.

    If Israelis had sailed to Turkey on "aid" ships and beaten up Turkish commandos who tried to stop them, those who survived would still be in a Turkish prison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    193.margaret howard

    Palestine was never a country. Yes, there were Arabs living there but there were also a minority of Jews from communities that had been there since ancient times. People don't talk about those Jews or the Jews who fled from from oppression and killing in Arab countries to Palestine or the Arabs who entered Palestine from other countries.

    Yasser Arafat was an Egyptian.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    102 TrueToo
    If somebody came along and gave part of your country away like that, would you be happy to agree? Tough doesn't even begin to describe it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    187.margaret howard

    Since the Arabs keep on attacking Israeli civilians and the superior Israeli military to try to expel the Jews then they must expect greater casualties.

    In 1947 the UN proposal divided the land between Jew and Arab.The Jews accepted it. If the Arabs had accepted it they would have had their state on far more land they will ever get now. Bad choice. Tough, live with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.


    If you claim, "The goal posts have moved," then there must be a goal. You see?

    America's interests COINCIDE with the morality of helping Israel against the enemies baying for her destruction. They are also America's enemies, when you think about it.

    Obama got wild applause at AIPAC yesterday, despite talk of '67 lines. Didn't that make your day?

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    @187 margaret howard

    You seem disappointed in the number of 'deaths'. How very odd !!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Obama has aggravated me to max. His approach to Israel/Palestine conflict remains lop-sided, a barrier to meaningful discussion. He says: "Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakable. And we will stand against attempt to single it out for criticism in international forums."
    Obama never mentions Israel's reliance on excessive, even lethal force, Gaza ghetto, or attack on Freedom Flotilla.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    168 "So what then is the goal."

    Not getting this, are you?

    '67 borders, or not '67 borders.

    Either way, it's not America's problem.

    The US is out of money, out of patience, and has far more important things to worry about.

    Nothing between the River Jordan and the Med has any genuine strategic importance to the US.

    The Likud/AIPAC free ride on US taxpayers is over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    184 powermeer writes:
    "Why haven't you started in 1946 and included 6-Day War and Yom Kippur War?"
    Yom Kippur war:
    Arab dead 8 000 - 18 500
    wounded 18 000 - 35 000

    Israeli dead 2 500 - 2 800
    wounded 7 000- 8 800
    6-Day War:
    Arab dead 15 000 plus 300 000 Palistinians displaced

    Israeli dead 759

    You seem to pick your wars well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Jews don't belong in Palestine. They are of Caucasoid grouping of the homosapien and therefore originated from modern day middle/northern Europe regions. They were itinerant and tribal much like the Travellers of today, and after being thrown out of Egypt found themselves among native Palestinians - that's where their religion was formulated 6000 years ago. Every else is history.... or fantasy??

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.


    And you don't understand what I wrote - you merely read what you wanted to read. I wrote that Israel invaded Egypt in 1967 and not the other way round like u & your ilk suggest. You can carp on about closing the Strait being an act of war as much as u want (Israel closing off Gaza and bombing the nakba out of them isn't!!). Israel invaded Eygpt. U & your ilk are either obtuse or deceitful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    margaret howard: "Let the figures speak for themselves:
    Casualties 1987-2010:
    Palistinian dead: 8 000
    Israeli dead: 1 500"

    Why haven't you started in 1946 and included 6-Day War and Yom Kippur War?

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Re #164 "the state of israel is a non entity. [...] Allah is with the righteous and Allah tests his worshipers!"

    Israel does exist.

    And fanatical Allah followers have been testing the rest of us for over half a century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Israel very successfully defended it's pre-1967 borders in the 6 Day War. This makes Netanyahu's claim that the pre-1967 borders are "indefensible" (I'm sure that he meant undefendable) a lie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.


    I am only stating that Ben Gurion, the leader in 47-48, subscribed to Plan Dalet, and believed that a Jewish state would not be viable unless its demographics achieved a Jewish/Arab ratio much higher than the initial UN plan. This could only be achieved in his eyes by what we today call ethnic cleansing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.


    You said "founded on," making it appear you believe Israel is a racist state. Israel is not trying to ethnically cleanse today's Israeli Arabs. You've been visiting funny websites.


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