The Fallacy Of The “Mutually Agreed Swaps” Formulation

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As we know, US President Obama did in fact call Prime Minister Netanyahu late on Thursday, ostensibly to congratulate him on his victory in Tuesday’s election. It is becoming clear, however, that the main substance of the call was not congratulatory at all, but was instead a lecture and a warning.

On Wednesday the New York Times reported that “several administration officials said that the Obama administration may now agree to passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution embodying principles of a two-state solution that would be based on the pre-1967 lines between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip and mutually agreed swaps.” Today the Jerusalem Post reported that, despite the fact that Netanyahu has made clear that his position on a Palestinian state has not changed, “Obama told Netanyahu that the US ‘will need to reassess our options following the prime minister’s new positions and comments regarding the two-state solution.'” The Times of Israel confirms that this is a reference to backing Israel at the UN, and possibly, specifically with respect to the same possible UN Security Council resolution discussed in the NY Times.

It’s important to understand, in practice, what such a resolution would mean. The formulation of “1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps”, by using the words “mutually agreed,” provides a surface appearance of evenhandedness. This appearance, however, is deceptive.



Obama and Abbas best buds
US President Obama with PA President Abbas

Anyone with common sense can understand that, even in a situation in which two sides to a conflict both genuinely want to reach a compromise solution, it is impossible to force those two parties to come to an agreement on precisely what that compromise should look like. This is even more obviously the case when one side has repeatedly stated, as PA President Mahmoud Abbas has, that he “would never give up an ounce” of his demands. (It’s also interesting to note that no one in the US administration seems to remember this comment by Abbas — in stark contrast to Jen Psaki’s pledge yesterday that “we can’t forget about those comments” that Netanyahu made in the run up to the election.)

There is nothing evenhanded about a resolution that targets only Israel for disapprobation when negotiations fail, as any UN resolution undoubtedly would, and continues the decade and half long pattern of leaving the Palestinian Authority free from any consequences. If such a resolution were to pass, the PA’s recalcitrance would become enshrined in international law, and all they would need to do to secure all of their demands — for a return of “refugees”, for a capital in Jerusalem, for borders that would render Israeli territory indefensibe — is to continue to say “no” to anything less and watch as the international community punished Israel.  When pressure is being exerted only on one side — in this case, the only side that has consistently shown willingness to make concessions for the sake of compromise — a mandate to reach a “mutual agreement” is in fact nothing more than an insistence that Israel capitulate entirely to Palestinian demands.

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