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Thursday, January 10, 2008 

No change is big news.

Quite why the BBC is hyping up President Bush's statement while in Israel on the peace talks is unclear. Despite claiming that it's his strongest statement pressing Israel to give up land that it's settled since 1967, he's in actual fact said absolutely nothing that he hasn't before.

The point of departure for permanent status negotiations to realize this vision seems clear. There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish a Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.

These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent.

The only thing he says about the Israeli settlements is that their expansion should be ended. Nothing whatsoever about their dismantlement back to the 1967 lines, which is the only way that a "viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent" Palestine will be established. Bush is instead quite clearly giving his backing to the building of the "security wall", which cuts deep into the West Bank and slashes off all the major settlements on the Israeli side. That such a state established along those lines could never be viable is unmentionable.

The only really new thing that Bush mentions is the idea of compensating the refugees that were dispersed upon the creation of Israel in 1948. This is probably the only way to resolve the issue now, without going from a two-state solution to a one-state solution. This should be the main point of compromise: the Palestinians have to accept that the refugees aren't going to be able to return, and the Israelis for their part accept that settlements in the West Bank and the security barrier have to go. East Jerusalem would then be the only major sticking point.

One last thing:

Security is fundamental. No agreement and no Palestinian state will be born of terror. I reaffirm America's steadfast commitment to Israel's security.

For those who argue that Israel itself was born of terror, the irony will long continue to be bitter.

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