Daily Israel Report

Thomas Friedman ‘Solves’ the 'PA Homeland' with Sour Lemons

Columnist Thomas Friedman, who once would “herd cats” before solving the PA-Israeli problem, has the final solution: The 1947 Partition Plan.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/19/2011, 12:51 PM / Last Update: 6/19/2011, 1:15 PM

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who once wrote he would rather “herd cats” than trying to untangle the Palestinian Authority-Israeli problem, now has the final solution: The United Nations 1947 Partition Plan.

In his latest column, Friedman wrote Sunday that re-adopting the 1947 Partition Plan, which the Arab world rejected at the time and instead tried to annihilate Israel, as a solution to the age-old Arab-Israeli struggle really is “very simple.”

His proposed re-wording of the Partition Plan would state, “This body reaffirms that the area of historic Palestine should be divided into two homes for two peoples — a Palestinian Arab state and a Jewish state. The dividing line should be based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed border adjustments and security arrangements for both sides. This body recognizes the Palestinian state as a member of the General Assembly and urges both sides to enter into negotiations to resolve all the other outstanding issues.”  

Friedman’s term that “historic Palestine should be divided into two homes” implies that none of the land really is Israel’s home.

In a column last year, Friedman disparaged efforts by U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He wrote, “This conflict is now broken into so many different pieces it may take a whole State Department of its own to resolve it….

"Who in the world would want to try to repair this? I’d rather herd cats, or become John Thain’s image adviser, or have a colonoscopy, or become chairman of the ’bad bank’ that President Obama might create to hold all the toxic mortgages. Surely, any of those would be more fun.”

Now, in a column under the headline “What to Do With Lemons,” he writes that the president and his Secretary of State “have made quite a mess in Israeli-Palestinian relations, where they’ve alienated all sides and generated zero progress. They’ve been inconsistent — demanding a settlements freeze then backing down — unimaginative and politically wimpy. Then again, the actors they’ve had to work with were both lemons — a Palestinian government that was too divided to make any big decisions and an elusive right-wing Israeli government that was strong enough to make big decisions but had no will to do so.”

His solution of making ”lemonade" out of the lemons actually includes the same stumbling block that has remained for two years, if not longer: “Negotiations,” which Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas defines as Israel’s accepting the Arab world demands or face consequences ranging from a unilateral declaration of a PA state to a human invasion on Israel from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan or even a third intifada.

Friedman argues that his version of the Partition would give the Palestinian Authority “negotiations based on the 1967 borders” while “Israel would get a U.N.-U.S. assurance that the final border would be shaped in negotiations between the parties, with land swaps, so theoretically the 5 percent of the West Bank where 80 percent of the settlers live could be traded for parts of pre-1967 Israel.”

His eventual solution is exactly what U.S. President Barack Obama has suggested and which has been rejected on all fronts.

Friedman’s solution also goes against what he wrote in another column several months ago: “Even if Israel agrees to swap land with the Palestinians so that 80 percent of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank can stay put, it will mean that 60,000 will still have to be removed. It took Israel 55,000 soldiers to remove 8,100 Jewish settlers from Gaza, which was never part of the Land of Israel [sic]. Imagine when today’s Israeli Army, where the officer corps is increasingly drawn from religious Zionists who support the settler movement, is called on to remove settlers from the West Bank.”