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THE BIG QUESTION — July 7, 2009

THE BIG QUESTION is a new multimedia project on the World Policy Blog.

Charles Cogan: A Modest Proposal

The irony—and the tragedy—is that the solution to the Arab-Israeli problem has been known for the last 40 years. Always, the answer is the same, as shown in the following commentary from The Economist in May 2007: “To arrive at peace, Israel would have to give up the West Bank and share Jerusalem; the Palestinians would have to give up their dream of the right of return and assure the security of Israel as a Jewish state. All the rest is detail.”

There is one detail that should be added to this tableau: the settlement must be accompanied by an international security force, including American and European troops. It would be unthinkable, given Israel’s territorial exiguity, that an international force run by troops from the West would not remain for many years in order to protect against Arab irredentism and Israeli expansionism.

Allowing the Palestinians to return to Israel, even in small numbers, would have a harmful effect on the state of Israel and on the future of that country. Just as the Germans are not going to return to East Prussia, and Mexico is not going to retake California, the Palestinians should not expect to return inside the armistice lines concluded as a result of the 1948–49 War.

The Six Day War of June 1967 constituted a clear break in American policy towards Israel. Before then, American aid to Israel was not excessive. Afterward, the situation was completely reversed, notably in the War of 1973 when the United States, faced with a desperate situation in Israel, sent in extremis and in plain sight a massive resupply of arms and ammunition into Lod Airport, in Tel Aviv, putting paid to the already tattered image of American even-handedness in the Middle East.

For Israel too, 1967 constituted a break with the past.

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