WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman reaffirmed his support for Israel last week when he and another senator introduced a resolution stating the United States has a duty to help Israel defend and maintain its borders.
According to the, Hatch-Lieberman Israel Resolution, having Israel’s borders return to the 1967 armistice lines goes against U.S. policy as well as our national security.
Lieberman — the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced the resolution. It was co-sponsored by 28 senators, the majority of whom were Republicans, along with two Democrats, Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
The resolution comes in response to President Barack Obama’s remarks regarding a two-state resolution with defined Palestinian and Israeli borders. Obama made the remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee a few weeks ago.
“As President Obama rightly indicated in his recent speech to AIPAC, Israel’s borders as they existed on June 4, 1967, are not an acceptable endpoint for negotiations because they do not allow Israel to defend itself or respect the reality that hundreds of thousands of Israelis now live east of the 1967 borders,” Lieberman said last week. “This bipartisan resolution reaffirms that simple but important reality, along with the commitment of the United States to the security of our ally Israel.”
In his May 22 speech to AIPAC, Obama said “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with mutually-agreed swaps. …Israel and Palestine will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”
The comment drew criticism from both the Jewish and Arab communities.
June 5, 1967, was the start of the Six-Day War between Israel and neighboring Arab countries Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. When the conflict ended on June 10, Israel’s territory had tripled from its former nine-mile-wide strip, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, and Golan Heights.
Lieberman’s resolution highlights the United State’s obligation to defend its “liberal democratic ally.” The U.S. government “is resolutely bound to its policy of preserving and strengthening the capability of Israel to deter enemies and defend itself against any threat,” the resolution states.
“Israel is one of our nation’s most important allies, serving as a beacon of freedom and liberty in the Middle East and the world,” Hatch said in a press release announcing the resolution. “As a sovereign nation, it has every right to defend itself against those who would do her harm, and to protect its citizens against terrorists and their state sponsors. But boundaries that existed on June 4, 1967, placed Israel in a precarious military situation that threatened regional stability.”
The resolution also draws on a quote from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who referred to Israel’s pre-war borders as, “boundaries of repeated war” when he met with Obama in the White House last month.
On May 20, Netanyahu outlined his stance on generating peace between Israel and Palestine, touching on a speech Obama gave the night prior about the state of the Middle East. Netanyahu told the president his country was prepared to make “generous compromises for peace,” but that Israel “cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible.” The pre-war borders “don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground…over the last 44 years,” Netanyahu said.
In his May 19 address about the Middle East, Obama said no countries, including the U.S., can “impose” peace on the region. Instead, “what America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows: A lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples,” he said. He also mentioned his stance on “mutually-agreed swaps.”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford endorsed the recent resolution and “supports any reasonable measure that ensures the security of Israel,” Cathrine Fischer Schwartz, president and CEO of the federation, said last week.
Obama’s statement also was backed by the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization J Street that is based in Washington DC.
“[Obama] is correct in saying that Israel will only find security through granting the Palestinian people their freedom, and the Palestinian people will only achieve freedom if Israel finds security,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement.
However, not all groups share this belief, including the Woodbridge-based Middle East Crisis Committee.
“There’s a lot of problems with the so-called ‘two-state solution,’” MECC Chairperson Stanley Heller said Friday. “Israel is an apartheid state.”
Heller asked what would happen to Palestinian refugees if two new states were created.
As far as which borders should be used to define the territory, Heller said “Israel did its best militarily in 1967 when they had the borders that Netanyahu is claiming to be so hideous. In 1973, when they had their biggest borders, they did their worst.”
Schwartz, on the other hand, stated that based on a poll, “77 percent of Israelis oppose returning to the pre-1967 lines.”
Heller also questioned why returning to the pre-Six-Day-War boundaries would pose a national security threat for the US.
“Why do we have to claim that everything affects our national security,” he asked.