Obama’s Reference To Israel’s 1967 Borders Creates Faux Controversy

It’s been barely four hours since the President’s Middle East policy speech at the State Department and already the fake controversy has developed:

Buried in his blithering, blathering, self-congratulatory, hectoring speech on the Middle East today, Barack Hussein Obama dropped this diplomatic nuclear bomb:

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. 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. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

COME AGAIN?!?!?!?!?  WHAT?!?!?!?!?!

In other words, Obama is now ready to advocate the next step of his plan to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.

The Simon Weisenthal Center has already denounced what they call a return to Israel’s “Auschwitz Borders,” and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has already said the President’s proposal is unacceptable, and Mitt Romney accused the President of throwing Israel under the bus.

However, as Jeffery Goldberg notes at The Atlantic, nothing Obama said today is different from the basic U.S. negotiating position for the past twelve years:

I’m amazed at the amount of insta-commentary out there suggesting that the President has proposed something radical and new by declaring that Israel’s 1967 borders should define — with land-swaps — the borders of a Palestinian state. I’m feeling a certain Groundhog Day effect here. This has been the basic idea for at least 12 years. This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba. This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. So what’s the huge deal here? Is there any non-delusional Israeli who doesn’t think that the 1967 border won’t serve as the rough outline of the new Palestinian state?

As Goldberg notes, Hillary Clinton said pretty much the same thing Obama did today back in 2009, and its interesting that none of the critics are recognizing the fact that the President handed the Israelis a strong assurance on an issue that has been of concern for months now:

A much bigger deal: Obama’s forthright denunciation of the unilateral Palestinian plan to seek the General Assembly’s endorsement this September of statehood. Also a big deal: The President’s statement that the Hamas-Fatah pact “raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel — how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.” This doesn’t sound like a radical departure from long-term American policy. Or even a mild departure.

That’s because it isn’t, and perhaps that’s why several major American Jewish organizations have released statements praising the speech. The people claiming that the President has abandoned Israel are either (1) misunderstanding what he said, or (2) lying. I will let the reader decide which.


FILED UNDER: Middle East, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. mantis says:

    Everything the president says creates a fake controversy. His opponents are dominated by shameless liars of the worst kind. Look at what you quoted from the Spectator:

    In other words, Obama is now ready to advocate the next step of his plan to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.

    It’s a given to them that Obama is planning to destroy Israel. He just is, because he is, and if you disagree you’re worse than Hitler. This is so far into crazytown I would say the author should seek help with his mental disorder, but there are millions more just like him.

  2. Chad S says:

    President takes a benign position. Political opponents freak out. Vast majority of americans ignore them. Rinse. Repeat.

  3. tom p says:

    The people claiming that the President has abandoned Israel are either (1) misunderstanding what he said, or (2) lying. I will let the reader decide which.

    I am soooooooooooooooooooooo dissappointed.

  4. commentkazi says:

    Damn you and your facts. You must not have gotten the memo.

  5. Dan Rather says:

    The people claiming that the President has abandoned Israel are either (1) misunderstanding what he said, or (2) lying. I will let the reader decide which.

    – Doug Mataconis

    The April 2004 letter to which Netanyahu refers, was written by then-President George W. Bush to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and states “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”

    — Jake Tapper

    Well, someone here is certainly lying about whether Obama has changed the official U.S. position on whether Israel should be expected to retract into its pre-1967 borders. Tapper’s got documented evidence on his side, and Mataconis has… well, mantis, I guess… on his side.

  6. Andyman says:


    Obama said that the 1967 boundaries would be the “basis”, i.e. starting point, for a final agreement. Certainly he hasn’t argued that they have to be the exact final borders. In this he’s quite consistent with the previous administration.


    It’s always, always, always lying with this crowd.

  7. Kelly says:

    The Palestinian Authority’s make an agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization, and Obama’s response is to suggest that Israel returns to the 1967 borders as a “starting point for peace talks? Perhaps the “starting point” should begin with the Palestinians denouncing Hamas and acknowledging Israel’s right to exist as a nation.
    Israel is on the front lines of this war every day, and has been for some time now. Rabid anti-Semitism is more or less de rigueur in Arab/Muslim society, accounting for some of the hatred fueling the terror. Israel is also despised for bringing democracy, success, and the rule of law to an area which knows very little about such things. In the hate-polluted and culturally stagnant waters that are modern Arab/Muslim affairs, Israel has been the local target of choice for the irrational fury of Islamic terror. As a consequence, Israel has excelled at combating terror like no other nation on Earth.

  8. Lech Dharma says:

    Why not make the 1948 borders the “starting point” for negotiations?
    Was there peace in Israel prior to 1967?
    As long as their is a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East, there will be Arab and Muslim factions in the area seeking to destroy it.
    It doesn’t matter whether “starting at the pre-1967 borders” has been the “official” American position for negotiating a peace plan for the past 12 years: It’s STILL a bad idea TODAY, and much more should be expected from the “most intelligent” President we’ve ever had.

  9. Greedy Banker says:

    Why should America have this, “unbreakable” bond with the racist apartheid state of israel? What do we owe the zionist for this privilege?

    America can and should not have a FAVORITE country with SPECIAL relations (billions of dollars of our hard-earned TAXES goes to the zionists) just as it CANNOT have a SPECIAL relationship with a specific American ETHNIC GROUP that is bestowed with SPECIAL RIGHTS OVER the rest of us in this country.

    What is good for Americans should be good for other countries!!!!

    America doesn’t even have a legal treaty with israel! If we did, it would define the zionist’s borders, but those murdering racist aparthied zionists are still in the progress of stealing MORE ARAB LANDS.

    If it doesn’t work like that in America it shouldn’t work like that in our relations with other countries. Treat every country the same. It’s pure baloney to maintain a SPECIAL relation with the zionists.

    Ask yourselves if it would be ok to send your sons and daughters to war to defend a bunch of ex-communists thugs from Eastern Europe, so they can continue hogging land that doesn’t belong to them?

    This thinking of having a SPECIAL BOND with the zionists has to change! Look where this special bond has gotten us. We losing our rights over it. Remember it the next time you’re hassled at the airport.

    What we have gotten from this special bond is 9/11 and the killing of our people and the Iraq war that designed by zionists with dual American and israeli citizenships. George Washington is turning in his grave!!!

    What a shame! The war on terror is designed to keep the zionists happy spending our money while our children die for them. Now they want us to attack Iran.

    Americans are not slaves to zionists!!

  10. Clive Rich says:

    As I’ve said before, all efforts should be aimed at getting the stakeholders in a state of mind where they are willing to do a deal. Until that point, debates about whether to do a deal based on pre-1967 borders or any other proposed compromise are irrelevant. I don’t know why the US can’t see this, and insist on orchestrating processes and proposals which won’t get anywhere. Israeli’s and Palestinians have to get to a point where they feel that peace is better than war.

    So, all efforts should go in to demonstrating that the benefits of peace for them and their children outweigh the benefits of being at war. Those benefits include stability, less violence, economic prosperity, educational progress and acclaim for sorting out a historic deal. What would stop the US funding economic co-operation between Israeli’s and Palestinians for example? As the history of the EU shows, peace can more easily be based on the prospect of economic progress than territorial deals.

    In 1918 the Versailles treaty tried to impose territorial and other restrictions on Germany and within 20 years the world was at war again. In 1948 the first step in setting up the EU was a trade agreement – a European coal and steel deal. The EU has prospered based on its trade ever since and the desire to preserve that benefit has encouraged the Western European nations to maintain peace among themselves for nearly 70 years – an unprecedented period. There will not be peace in the region till everyone is in agreement that they want peace. The US agenda needs to recognise that and help bring about this precondition for negotiations to start meaningfully.