Shlomo Gazit served the State of Israel as head of its Military Intelligence Directorate and as President of Ben Gurion University. Amos Lapidot is a former Commander, and Giora Ram is a former Deputy Commander, of the Israeli Air Force. Nachik Navot and Avner Azulai both served as senior officials in the Mossad; Naomi Chazan and Yael Dayan both served as Members of Israel’s Knesset; and Michael Ben Yair served the State of Israel as its Attorney General.
What do these Israeli public servants have in common?
Last week, all of them–along with dozens of other distinguished and patriotic Israelis–signed their names to a proclamation which asserted:
“Recognizing A Palestinian State Based On The 1967 Borders Is Vital For Israel’s Existence.”
The proclamation, which ran in major Israeli newspapers (and was re-run in The New York Times by the pro-Israel, pro-peace organization JStreet–read the full text here), called on the Israeli public “to support the recognition of a democratic Palestinian state as a condition for ending the conflict, and reaching agreed borders on the basis of the 1967 borders.” Such recognition, the declaration insisted, “is the only way to guarantee the resolution of the conflict by negotiations, to prevent the eruption of another round of massive violence and end the risky isolation of Israel in the world.”
Are they right? Are the dozens of distinguished Israelis who signed that proclamation correct in their collective assessment about the path to Israeli-Palestinian peace?
I don’t know. Solving the mideast peace conundrum is not within my skill set. I do know, however, that in the days since President Obama outlined his framework for re-starting negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians–a framework that included, among other things, using the 1967 borders as a starting point for territorial discussions, with the explicit understanding that negotiated land swaps would ultimately adjust those borders–a brazenly opportunistic lineup of hawkish, right-wing idealogues, some in official positions, some not, but all equally strident, have sought to cast our President as stupid at best, anti-Israel at worst.
Such criticism is, of course, shameful. It’s shameful not so much because it ignores the emphatic caveats within Obama’s framework, and not so much because it ignores the consistency of that framework over three different administrations. No, the criticism is shameful mostly because it insults the legions of sophisticated, thoughtful, loyal Israelis who believe that using the 1967 borders as a starting point for territorial discussions is a legitimate and promising path to peace.
Ninety prominent Israelis signed last week’s proclamation–ninety thoughtful, accomplished, wizened participants in the history of modern Israel who believe in a framework for peace negotiations consistent with the one laid out by President Obama. Whether the path they urge would lead them and us to the destination we all desire is, for now, a question without a definitive answer. We know, though, that the path of the past several years has been a road to nowhere. We know, too, that the eminent Israeli signers of last week’s proclamation are not stupid, and they’re certainly not anti-Israel.
And neither is President Obama.