Netanyahu said much that was good today during his speech before Congress. But there’s one issue that he didn’t quite nail, and I wish he would have.
Leave aside the fact that one should never have to “negotiate” for “peace,” where “peace” means that your neighbors stop attacking you without any justification. The point I made on my podcast on Sunday was that, even if both Obama and Netanyahu agree that the 1967 borders would not be the final result of any negotiations between Israel and the “Palestinians” (Obama referred to his use of the phrase “land swaps” as entailing this), it still makes all the difference whether the parties to the “negotiations” conceive of those borders as the baseline, as the starting point.
To say that those borders are, even implicitly, the starting point of the negotiations, is to concede something that couldn’t be further from the truth: the idea that Israel was not justified in taking the land it took during the Six-Day War. To accept the 1967 borders as a starting point is to deny that in 1967 Israel was fighting a proper war of self defense, that it took that land because doing so was necessary to eliminate the threat against its citizens’ lives, and that it was therefore justified in doing so.
Netanyahu nearly said that he rejected those borders as a starting point, when today he mentioned specific territories that must remain part of Israel. But he did not explicitly reject the idea of the 1967 borders as a starting point, only the idea that they would be an ending point. Perhaps not explicitly rejecting them as a starting point was just one of the many “generous concessions” Netanyahu is prepared to make for “peace.”
I think the 2011 borders should be both the starting point and the ending point. I wish Netanyahu agreed.