- When President Obama first made his controversial reference to the 1967 lines as the basis for future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, he introduced the idea that there would be “mutually agreed swaps” of land between the two sides. Yet neither UN Security Council Resolution 242 nor any subsequent signed agreements with the Palestinians stipulated that Israel would have to pay for any West Bank land it would retain by handing over its own sovereign land in exchange.
- So where did the idea of land swaps come from? During the mid-1990s, Israeli academics involved in backchannel talks accepted the principle that the Palestinians would obtain 100% of the territory, just like Egypt received 100% of the Sinai Peninsula, and they proposed giving Israeli land to the Palestinians as compensation for any West Bank land retained by Israel.
- In July 2000 at the Camp David Summit, the Clinton administration raised the land swap idea that had been proposed by Israeli academics, but after the collapse of the Camp David talks, President Clinton stipulated: “These are my ideas. If they are not accepted, they are off the table, they go with me when I leave office.”
- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resurrected the land swap idea in 2008 as part of newly proposed Israeli concessions. However, the Palestinians said they would demand land swaps of “comparable value” – meaning, they would not accept some remote sand dunes in exchange for high quality land near the center of Israel. Given the limitations on the quantity and quality of territory that Israel could conceivably offer, the land swap idea was emerging as impractical.
- What is the standing of ideas from failed negotiations in the past that appear in the diplomatic record? Just because an idea was discussed in the past, does that make it part of the diplomatic agenda in the future, even if the idea was never part of any legally binding, signed agreements?
The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
(Dore Gold – Weekly Standard)