In May, President Obama unleashed a whirlwind when he declared that the “borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Those on the right insisted that he had adopted the Palestinian narrative, and they mischaracterized his position by saying he had called for Israel’s “retreat” to the ’67 borders. Those on the left insisted that nothing had changed in the U.S.-Israel relationship, and Obama was merely restating what everyone had assumed to be the operating principle all along.
In the middle were those who insisted that the remarks did not represent a fundamental shift, but that Obama had intended the provocative phrase as a wake-up call to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose tight embrace of the status quo would soon be met by the Palestinians’ call for unilateral independence at the United Nations.
It appears Netanyahu himself has accepted this centrist interpretation after all, saying Monday that he and the United States were working on a document that essentially took the Obama framework as a start of negotiations. An unnamed Israeli official told the Associated Press, “We are willing in a framework of restarting the peace talks to accept a proposal that would contain elements that would be difficult for Israel and we would find very difficult to endorse.”
In fairness, Netanyahu appeared to be responding to a speech Obama gave to delegates of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in May, a speech whose rhetoric was a lot more nuanced and reassuring to the pro-Israel audience than his previous remarks.
Netanyahu’s bid is a welcome sign of a thaw in relations between Jerusalem and the White House. We hope all sides can capitalize on it to jumpstart the moribund peace process and head off a diplomatic showdown next month at the United Nations.