From November 2009

Love is Strong as Death


Song of Solomon 8:5-7
5 Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee. 6 Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.

Here, I. The spouse is much admired by those about her. It comes in in a parenthesis, but in it gospel-grace lies as plain, and as much above ground, as any where in this mystical song: Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? Some make these the words of the bridegroom, expressing himself well pleased with her reliance on him and resignation of herself to his guidance. They are rather the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, to whom she spoke (v. 4); they see her, and bless her. The angels in heaven, and all her friends on earth, are the joyful spectators of her bliss. The Jewish church came up from the wilderness supported by the divine power and favour, Deut. 32:10, 11. The Christian church was raised up from a low and desolate condition by the grace of Christ relied on, Gal. 4:27. Particular believers are amiable, nay, admirable, and divine grace is to be admired in them, when by the power of that grace they are brought up from the wilderness, leaning with a holy confidence and complacency upon Jesus Christ their beloved. This bespeaks the beauty of a soul, and the wonders of divine grace,

1. In the conversion of sinners. A sinful state is a wilderness, remote from communion with God, barren and dry, and in which there is no true comfort; it is a wandering wanting state. Out of this wilderness we are concerned to come up, by true repentance, in the strength of the grace of Christ, supported by our beloved and carried in his arms.

2. In the consolation of saints. A soul convinced of sin, and truly humbled for it, is in a wilderness, quite at a loss; and there is no coming out of this wilderness but leaning on Christ as our beloved, by faith, and not leaning to our own understanding, nor trusting to any righteousness or strength of our own as sufficient for us, but going forth, and going on, in the strength of the Lord God, and making mention of his righteousness, even his only, who is the Lord our righteousness.

3. In the salvation of those that belong to Christ. We must go up from the wilderness of this world having our conversation in heaven; and, at death, we must remove thither, leaning upon Christ, must live and die by faith in him. To me to live is Christ, and it is he that is gain in death.

II. She addresses herself to her beloved.

1. She puts him in mind of the former experience which she and others had had of comfort and success in applying to him.

(1.) For her own part: “I raised thee up under the apple tree, that is, I have many a time wrestled with thee by prayer and have prevailed. When I was alone in the acts of devotion, retired in the orchard, under the apple-tree” (which Christ himself was compared to, ch. 2:3), as Nathanael under the fig-tree (John 1:48, “meditating and praying, then I raised thee up, to help me and comfort me,” as the disciples raised him up in the storm, saying, Master, carest thou not that we perish? (Mark 4:38, and the church (Ps. 44:23), Awake, why sleepest thou? Note, The experience we have had of Christ’s readiness to yield to the importunities of our faith and prayer should encourage us to continue instant in our addresses to him, to strive more earnestly, and not to faint. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, Ps. 34:4.

(2.) Others also had like experience of comfort in Christ, as it follows there (Ps. 34:5), They looked unto him, as well as I, and were lightened. There thy mother brought thee forth, the universal church, or believing souls, in whom Christ was formed, Gal. 4:15. They were in pain for the comfort of an interest in thee, and travailed in pain with great sorrow (so the word here signifies); but they brought thee forth; the pangs did not continue always; those that had travailed in convictions at last brought forth in consolations, and the pain was forgotten for joy of the Saviour’s birth. By this very similitude our Saviour illustrates the joy which his disciples would have in his return to them, after a mournful separation for a time, John 16:21, 22. After the bitter pangs of repentance many a one has had the blessed birth of comfort; why then may not I?

2. She begs of him that her union with him might be confirmed, and her communion with him continued and made more intimate (v. 6): Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm.

(1.) “Let me have a place in thy heart, an interest in thy love.” This is that which all those desire above any thing that know how much their happiness is bound up in the love of Christ.

(2.) “Let me never lose the room I have in thy heart; let thy love to me be ensured, as that deed which is sealed up not to be robbed. Let nothing ever prevail either to separate me from thy love, or, by suspending the communications of it, to deprive me of the comfortable sense of it.”

(3.) “Let me be always near and dear to thee, as the signet on thy right hand, not to be parted with (Jer. xxii. 24), engraven upon the palms of thy hands (Isa. 49:14), be loved with a peculiar love.”

(4.) “Be thou my high priest; let my name be written on thy breast-plate, nearer thy heart, as the names of all the tribes were engraven like the engravings of a signet in twelve precious stones on the breast-plate of Aaron, and also on two precious stones on the two shoulders or arms of the ephod,” Exod. 28:11, 12, 21.

(5.) “Let thy power be engaged for me, as an evidence of thy love to me; let me be not only a seal upon thy heart, but a seal upon thy arm; let me be ever borne up in thy arms, and know it to my comfort.” Some make these to be the words of Christ to his spouse, commanding her to be ever mindful of him and of his love to her; however, if we desire and expect that Christ should set us as a seal on his heart, surely we cannot do less than set him as a seal on ours.

3. To enforce this petition, she pleads the power of love, of her love to him, which constrained her to be thus pressing for the tokens of his love to her.

(1.) Love is a violent vigorous passion.

[1.] It is strong as death. The pains of a disappointed lover are like the pains of death; nay, the pains of death are slighted, and made nothing of, in pursuit of the beloved object. Christ’s love to us was strong as death, for it broke through death itself. He loved us, and gave himself for us. The love of true believers to Christ is strong as death, for it makes them dead to every thing else; it even parts between soul and body, while the soul, upon the wings of devout affections, soars upward to heaven, and even forgets that it is yet clothed and clogged with flesh. Paul, in a rapture of this love, knew not whether he was in the body or out of the body. By it a believer is crucified to the world.

[2.] Jealousy is cruel as the grave, which swallows up and devours all; those that truly love Christ are jealous of every thing that would draw them from him, and especially jealous of themselves, lest they should do any thing to provoke him to withdraw from them, and, rather than do so, would pluck out a right eye and cut off a right hand, than which what can be more cruel? Weak and trembling saints, who conceive a jealousy of Christ, doubting of his love to them, find that jealousy to prey upon them like the grave; nothing wastes the spirits more; but it is an evidence of the strength of their love to him.

(3.) The coals thereof, its lamps, and flames, and beams, are very strong, and burn with incredible force, as the coals of fire that have a most vehement flame, a flame of the Lord (so some read it), a powerful piercing flame, as the lightning, Ps. 29:7. Holy love is a fire that begets a vehement heat in the soul, and consumes the dross and chaff that are in it, melts it down like wax into a new form, and carries it upwards as the sparks towards God and heaven.

(2.) Love is a valiant victorious passion. Holy love is so; the reigning love of God in the soul is constant and firm, and will not be drawn off from him either by fair means or foul, by life or death, Rom. viii. 38.

[1.] Death, and all its terrors, will not frighten a believer from loving Christ: Many waters, though they will quench fire, cannot quench this love, no, nor the floods drown it, v. 7. The noise of these waters will strike no terror upon it; let them do their worst, Christ shall still be the best beloved. The overflowing of these waters will strike no damp upon it, but it will enable a man to rejoice in tribulation. Though he slay me, I will love him and trust in him. No waters could quench Christ’s love to us, nor any floods drown it; he waded through the greatest difficulties, even seas of blood. Love sat king upon the floods; let nothing then abate our love to him.

[2.] Life, and all its comforts, will not entice a believer from loving Christ: If a man could hire him with all the substance of his house, to take his love off from Christ and set it upon the world and the flesh again, he would reject the proposal with the utmost disdain; as Christ, when the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them were offered him, to buy him off from his undertaking, said, Get thee hence, Satan. It would utterly be contemned. Offer those things to those that know no better. Love will enable us to repel and triumph over temptations from the smiles of the world, as much as from its frowns. Some give this sense of it: If a man would give all the substance of his house to Christ, as an equivalent instead of love, to excuse it, it would be contemned. He seeks not ours, but us, the heart, not the wealth. If I give all my goods to feed the poor, and have not love, it is nothing, 1 Cor. 13:1. Thus believers stand affected to Christ: the gifts of his providence cannot satisfy them without the assurances of his love.
– Matthew Henry Commentary

Self-Exultation of Pride


1 Samuel 15:17
And Samuel said, When thou was little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed you King over Israel? [Dake A.R.B.]

For thus saith the Lord:
What more could I have done to disclose My approval towards you? My glory that rose upon you, the honor, the anointing, the prosperity, wisdom and knowledge; confirming My Word with signs and wonders, giving you power over all the power of your enemies?

You spoke with trembling before me, seeking Me eagerly, often; asking counsel before undertaking even the most menial of tasks, utterly reliant upon Me, walking with Me in close proximity, enveloped in My glory and love.

When you were little in your own sight and obeyed My commandments unconditionally; you owned My Cause and I owned your endeavors, crowning you with honor and majesty; and yet, after all of this, you have forgotten Me, when I multiplied your small beginnings and enlarged your borders: then you ate and were filled, forbearing to remember that I alone Am He that giveth you power to get wealth, and not your own might, power or ability can procure any good thing without Me.

Your heart was lifted up in pride and self-exultation, relying upon yourself and your personal ability, thereby disqualifying yourself from the fulfillment of My promises to you. You turned aside from Me and though you still continued My work with a form of Godliness you denied the power thereof, wrongly assuming that it was because of yourself that you had power, yet it was not because of you, but in spite of you.

You sought your own honor more than Mine, for in giving you power I expected you to use the power for the advancement of My Kingdom. To whom much is given, much more will be demanded in return, with a severer obligation in showing obedience.

It is inexcusable to seek profit for yourself and thereby destroy My honor; in defiance of conviction you constantly justify yourself, instead of judging yourself and thus avert being judged; your heart being so impenitent that you refuse to confess your own sin, laying the blame upon everyone else except where it truly belongs, before the door of your stubbornness and rebelliousness.

And now, day by day with a spirit of burning and a spirit of conviction I earnestly seek to change your mind and attitude before destruction overwhelms you with shame and sorrow; alas, you have become so intent upon self-enrichment, to the exclusion of all else that your spiritual ears became deaf, and your spiritual eyes blinded to the true condition of your true state, losing your true direction.

You continuously provoke Me with your willful disobedience, wiser in your own esteem and deliberately pitting your will against Mine. By refusing My rule you make yourself unfit to rule over men; degrading justice with your wrath and bitterness by rejecting those righteous ones who would not yield to your domination and manipulation.

Even at this late hour it is not too late to return to Me, for why should you destroy yourself for that which does not profit you, that which the thief enters in to steal, that which the moth and rust corrupts.

If you come with humbleness and sincerity, bringing every high thought into captivity and subjection to My Will, I will then speedily deliver you from the snare of the fowler and reverse my decision purposed against you.

Consider carefully, though our relationship be interrupted, the barrier separating us can only be restored by you. You must be willing to do My Will, which will be regarded as a true expression of obedience which I will not fail to honor.

A Sound Heart is Life – Envy rottenness of Bones: “Rumpatur, quisquis rumpitur invidia–Whoever bursts for envy, let him burst.”


Proverbs 14:30
30 A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

The foregoing verse showed how much our reputation, this how much our health, depends on the good government of our passions and the preserving of the temper of the mind.

1. A healing spirit, made up of love and meekness, a hearty, friendly, cheerful disposition, is the life of the flesh; it contributes to a good constitution of body; people grow fat with good humour.

2. A fretful, envious, discontented spirit, is its own punishment; it consumes the flesh, preys upon the animal spirits, makes the countenance pale, and is the rottenness of the bones. Those that see the prosperity of others and are grieved, let them gnash with their teeth and melt away, Ps. 112:10.

Rumpatur, quisquis rumpitur invidia.
Whoever bursts for envy, let him burst.

– Matthew Henry Commentary

Misery and Shame of the Slothful


Proverbs 13:4
4 The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.

Here is, 1. The misery and shame of the slothful. See how foolish and absurd they are; they desire the gains which the diligent get, but they hate the pains which the diligent take; they covet every thing that is to be coveted, but will do nothing that is to be done; and therefore it follows, They have nothing; for he that will not labour let him hunger, and let him not eat, 2 Thess. 3:10. The desire of the slothful, which should be his excitement, is his torment, which should make him busy, makes him always uneasy, and is really a greater toil to him than labour would be.

2. The happiness and honour of the diligent: Their soul shall be made fat; they shall have abundance, and shall have the comfortable enjoyment of it, and the more for its being the fruit of their diligence. This is especially true in spiritual affairs. Those that rest in idle wishes know not what the advantages of religion are; whereas those that take pains in the service of God find both the pleasure and profit of it.
– Matthew Henry Commentary

Glory in Reproach


1 Corinthians 4:9-10
We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake.
Luke 6:22
Blessed are ye, when men shall…reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.

Do not be deterred from this fullness of spiritual life by the fact that the world has long since pronounced every one of its possessors a madman. The world has some good ground for its verdict. A madman is one who sees, or thinks he sees, what others see not; illumination of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit abiding with the believer [John 14:16-23] he sees what the blind world sees not, and shapes his conduct in accordance with the heavenly light.

Hence, those who see not what he sees must think him beside himself, and express their pity that reason has been dethroned. If you are unwilling to be an unintelligible and sadly misunderstood person in the eye of the world, an enigma to your best friends, who know not the experience of the indwelling Spirit, we advise you to wait till you have conquered the world in so far as to live without its good opinion.

By the grace of God the thing can be done “Be of good cheer,” says the great Representative and Exemplar, “I have overcome the world.” – Daniel Steele.

Trials may come, but they are all good. I have not been so tried for many years. Every week, and almost every day, I am bespattered in the public papers. Many are in tears on the occasion; many terribly frightened and crying out, “Oh, what will the end be?” What will it be? Why, glory to God in the highest, and peace and goodwill among men. – Wesley.

It is not the many who reform the world; but the few who rise superior to that public opinion which crucified our Lord many years ago. – Charles Kingsley
– The Christian’s Daily Challenge – E.F. & L. Harvey

Trust Him to unravel thy mysteries


2 Chronicles 9:1-2
And when she came to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart. And Solomon told her all her questions; there was nothing hid from Solomon which he told her not.

“I came and communed with that mighty King,
And told Him all my heart; I cannot say
In mortal ear what communings were they.

But wouldest thou then know, go too, and
meekly bring
All that is in thy heart, and thou shalt hear,
His voice of love and power, His answers
Sweet and clear.

“Oh, happy end of every weary quest!
He told me all I needed, graciously, –
Enough for guidance, and for victory
O’er doubts and fears, enough for quiet rest;
And when some veiled response I could not read,
It was not hid from Him, – this was enough
Indeed.” – F.R. Havergal

Tell Him all that is in thy heart. He knoweth how to solve thy hard questions, and make all thy perplexities clear. Trust Him to unravel thy mysteries, and then give Him time to make known to thee what is not hid from Him.
– Daily Meditation for Prayer

The “Coup” in Iran and What it Means


From Rubin Reports

The “Coup” in Iran and What it Means

Posted: 28 Nov 2009 11:03 AM PST

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By Barry Rubin

For a couple of years it has been visible; for months the opposition has been talking about it. What’s happening is the gradual takeover of a huge amount of power by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Iranian government has generally been radical since the revolution, 30 years ago. But now the most extremist faction of all has taken over, pushing out its rivals.

Of course, Spiritual Guide Ali Khamenei is the most powerful man in Iran. But obviously he has no problem with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being president and the IRGC becoming the power behind the throne.

This is important because the IRGC is the most fanatical and risk-taking part of the regime. It is very much committed to expanding the revolution and maintains the regime’s links with foreign revolutionary and terrorist groups.

Oh, and it will also be the institution that will have actual possession of Iran’s long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

Not only are these people nobody can make a deal with, but they are also the ones most likely to make a war some day.

The BBC reports that the IRGC now controls one-third of Iran’s economy, either openly or through front groups. This is probably too high. But more than one-third is controlled either by the IRGC or foundations under the control of regime hardliners so the basic idea isn’t far off. Moreover, Ahmadinejad has been appointing former IRGC commanders to a lot of top jobs, including cabinet ministries and provincial governorships.

Now the group has won a $2.5 billion contract to build a big railroad project. And the IRGC is taking control of intelligence, running key prisons, and taking custody of political prisoners.

This is one reason why foreign observers can underestimate the regime’s stability. With the IRGC playing such a central role, so well-armed, united, and ready to fight, any serious threat of a revolution or internal collapse would be blocked, no matter how much bloodshed it takes. The opposition and those critical of the regime are also aware of that fact.

Another reason why this is important regards Iran’s intentions after getting nuclear weapons. Whether or not it would fire off such armaments, Iran will certainly use them to become more powerful, threatening, and influential throughout the region. The loser here will be the United States, its interests, and policies.

Judging from his statements, President Obama seems to have the following picture of Iran: There are many factions; the supreme guide really runs the show; Ahmadinejad is just a noisy front-man without much power. Iran should be judged by its past record, which has often shown caution. In this conception, it is possible to engage Iran, appeal to its interest, and find some relative moderates or pragmatists who will make a deal.

One could argue this position two years, perhaps even a year ago. But it no longer applies. The Iranian regime has changed to become far more hardline and risk-taking.

My personal view is that Khamenei is preparing for his departure from the scene by putting the revolution into the hands of those who he trusts not to dilute it. While Iran is a country of endless factional bickerings, this analysis means that the power of Ahmadinejad and the IRGC will grow greater in the coming years. That provides still another reason why soft diplomacy won’t work and that a world where Iran–meaning Ahmadinejad and the IRGC–have nuclear weapons and long-range missiles is far more dangerous.

That doesn’t mean that Iran will immediately attack Israel with nuclear weapons. Even in the radical worldview that would be foolish. What is more likely is that Iran will systematically try to turn much of the region into Islamist satellite states, putting off any confrontation with Israel to the future. (This is parallel to the strategy of Arab nationalist regimes–despite their 1967 miscalculation and 1973 attempt at revenge–over the last half-century.)

Do you think the Arab states will choose to appease Iran or stand firm in the belief that President Barack Obama will go to war on their behalf?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

The Trouble with Soft Diplomacy: Endless Resolutions on Iran, No Resolution on the Issues


From Rubin Reports

The Trouble with Soft Diplomacy: Endless Resolutions on Iran, No Resolution of the Issues

Posted: 27 Nov 2009 09:50 AM PST

By Barry Rubin

In its own view, the Obama Administration has won a considerable foreign policy victory in the International Atomic Energy Agency vote to condemn Iran’s nuclear program. Winning such triumphs is the whole goal of a patient policy by the Obama Administration to cultivate wide support for criticizing Iran. The problem is that this is not the same thing as doing something about Iran.

The key development is that only three countries—Cuba, Venezuela, and Malaysia—supported Iran. China and Russia backed the U.S. position. It is being implied that this signals the possibility that they might support material sanctions against Tehran.

But that’s not true and thinking otherwise shows a real structural failure in how even supposed experts nowadays think about international affair. Voting for a resolution is a substitute for taking action, a fact that might prove to be the bane of the Obama Administration.

In addition, while the resolution is being touted as tough, it I based on an incontrovertible set of simple facts. Iran was criticized for two things: continuing to defy the previous UN resolutions by enriching uranium and building a secret nuclear facility.

It’s like passing a resolution to criticize, rather than arrest, someone you just saw pump a half-dozen bullets into a murder victim and then being pleased that it was nearly unanimous.

What’s really significant is that it is now clear the United States, having missed its September deadline for raising sanctions, is now going to miss the December deadline as well. The question is whether that process will even have begun before 2009 ends.

Iranian delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh, in his response, told us everything we need to know about Tehran’s position and future developments:

“Neither resolutions of the board of governors nor those of the United Nations Security Council…neither sanctions nor the threat of military attacks can interrupt peaceful nuclear activities in Iran, [not for] even a second.”

I believe him, except for the “peaceful nuclear activities” part. But guess what? This supposedly tough resolution doesn’t exactly contradict that point. It only expresses “serious concern” that Iran’s refusal to cooperate with inspections means “the possibility of military

dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program” cannot be excluded.

So that’s it. In November 2009 the United States after almost a year of effort by the Obama Administration persuaded a UN to vote that Iran might be developing nuclear weapons but it can’t tell and insists that Iran abide by promises it made years ago.

What makes this important enough for you to be reading about at this moment is that it is a model for the kind of multilateral, soft diplomacy that is now in fashion. Indeed, the U.S. government has not even announced yet that Iran is obviously refusing to make a deal. Statements by Western countries indicated that Tehran was being given one more chance for the one hundredth time.

At some point in the not-distant future, the idea is that President Obama will make one of those, “We interrupt this program to bring you a special message from the president of the United States” moments that begin, “My fellow citizens…” In other words, he springs into decisive real action and does something tough.

One is beginning to suspect that this moment will never come on any international issue.

As a British officer said after the Battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolution, one more victory like this and there may be no one left to report it. After a certain point, someone who believes that soft power is sufficient must be soft in the head.

Hillary’s Bombshell: Obama Administration Subtly Launches Dramatic Policy Change on Peace Process


From Rubin Reports

Hillary’s Bombshell: Obama Administration Subtly Launches Dramatic Policy Change on Peace Process

Posted: 27 Nov 2009 11:28 AM PST

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By Barry Rubin

In a one-paragraph statement welcoming Israel’s ten-month-long freeze on building apartments in existing West Bank settlements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a major statement. The dramatic new U.S. stance on Israel-Palestinian Authority peace agreement is camouflaged by  brevity and subtle wording. But make no mistake: this is one of the most important foreign policy steps the Obama Administration has taken.

Here is the statement in full:

“Today’s announcement by the Government of Israel helps move forward toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

Clearly, this approach builds on the 2000 Camp David meeting and the December 2000 plan of President Bill Clinton. Ironically, the latter is called the Clinton plan, so the name need not change since now it is renewed and extended by another Clinton.

These 77 words are worth analyzing in great detail. First, there is what the United States is offering the Palestinian side:

“The Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps…”

One should first ask, which Palestinians? Hamas and Islamic Jihad don’t favor this approach and Hamas still runs the Gaza Strip. To pretend that Israel can or should make a peace treaty with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) which has no authority over the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is ludicrous. Whatever deal Israel makes with the PA, it could—indeed, probably would–be attacked by Palestinians from Gaza the next day. The conflict cannot be ended by anything the PA does by itself. Without a real commitment to overthrow Hamas the United States can never make peace.

The second issue is that what Clinton lists is not the entire Palestinian goal since the PA also demands a right for all Palestinians to go and live in Israel, thus subverting that country and destroying the state. This is no mere throw-away line but a very strongly held demand. Anyone who thinks that the PA is just going to drop it—no matter how much land or money it is given—knows nothing about Palestinian politics.

The word “based” in the phrase, “based on the 1967 lines” is carefully chosen to imply flexibility as to where the exact border would be drawn. In fact, the PA has always said that it must get the 1967 boundaries completely, never mentioning the word “swaps.” Therefore, when Clinton says that this is a Palestinian “goal” she is wrong.

It tells a great deal that the idea of “swapping land” so that the PA gets the equivalent of the same number of square miles as Jordan ruled before 1967 is an Israeli idea, another example of Israel’s willingness to compromise. Remember that the original Israeli position was that it annex about four percent of the West Bank.

Hence, by whittling down the demands she is making the typical negotiators’ error of putting forward a false stance and then finding out the negotiation fail. But at the same time, however, Clinton is trying to define how the United States sees a reasonable Palestinian demand that it will accept. In other words, she is implying: this is all you’re going to get.

There is also Clinton’s formulation of what Israel gets:

“The Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

This incorporates several Israeli demands:

–“An outcome which ends the conflict”: Israel insists that any peace treaty will explicitly end the conflict. Makes sense, right? But the PA refuses to agree to this principle. The reason is, of course, that it does not view getting an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem as an end to the conflict but only as stage one of a longer-term effort to wipe Israel off the map.

“Jewish state”: Israel wants Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Why: To show a real acceptance on the Palestinian side. In addition, though, it has a very practical side, avoiding a Palestinian claim to recognize “Israel” and then doing everything possible—like flooding it with Palestinian Arabs—to transform it into an Arab and/or Islamic state. (“Binationalism” is just a cover word to hide a step in that direction.)

–“With secure and recognized borders”: Israel wants borders recognized as a sign that full peace exists. The word “secure” here implies security arrangements to prevent future attacks.

–“That reflect subsequent developments”: This is a fascinating and new phrase. What can it mean other than this: Since so many Jews have moved into settlements, this new factor must be taken into account in shifting the borders. This is the Obama Administration’s version of its predecessor’s idea that Israel could keep “settlement blocs,” large towns built up along its border like the Etzion bloc and Maale Adumim. It could also be applied to Jerusalem, though that sensitive word is not mentioned in the statement.

–“And meets Israeli security requirements”: Another and stronger reference to security guarantees.

How will this statement be received in Israel? This raises a fascinating question: Was it coordinated with the Netanyahu government as part of the freeze deal? If so, the Netanyahu government has certainly proved itself to be flexible and peace-oriented. Certainly, there isn’t everything Israel wants in this statement yet it does encompass some important points taken out of the cabinet’s position on peace arrangements.

The more I think about this point, the more it makes sense to me that the position is a gesture toward Israel. This is a statement that favors Israel’s position while still offering the Palestinians, in the mind of the administration, enough to make them happy (wrong) and enough to show the world that the United States is even-handed (right for Europe; wrong for the Arab world).  It isn’t a blatantly pro-Israel stance but does incorporate key elements of what Israel wants to an extent greater than where the United States has gone before.

It also offers the Palestinians, or at least the PA, what it says it wants. Well, not exactly but in a way that Americans think is reasonably close. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the PA thinks. For more than thirty years the United States has been trying to formulate plans on the basis of what it thinks will satisfy Palestinian goals—the first Camp David meeting, the Reagan plan, the second Camp David meeting, and a thousand plans, conferences, statements, and initiatives in between.

Each time they fail because they aren’t addressing what the Palestinian leadership really wants. And today that is further complicated by there being two Palestinian leaderships.

The United States has endorsed the Israeli position that the PA must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, this is a big step forward and a victory for Israel.

ps: (in response to a reader’s question asking if this means the United States demands that Israel return to the 1967 borders):

It does NOT say the 1967 borders. Israel’s  formula for the last 15 year has been: “with minor modifications” to the borders.  I definitely don’t think this will lead to any breakthrough–the Palestinians will reject it and there is no treaty in sight for decades. In that sense, what it offers the Palestinians is not important because they will say no to everything short of all they want without their making any concesions.

Compare this statement to the Israeli government’s own program as well as to Israel’s position in the 2000 Camp David meeting and the subsequent [Bill] Clinton plan in December 2000. It is quite comparable. It includes recognition of the Jewish state, security arrangements satisfactory to Israel, changing the border, and end of conflict are four of the main six points. The fifth, resettling Palestinian refugees in a Palestinian state–no return, is unquestionably going to be endorsed by the United States. The sixth, a demilitarized Palestinian state, is also not mentioned either way.

Of course, Jerusalem is an important issue not explicitly mentioned here. But Clinton statement of  ["that reflect subsequent developments"] also must apply to Jerusalem, thus legitimizing post-1967 Israeli neighborhoods there. This is very significant.

As I said, this is not a statement endorsing everything Israel would like to have. But it is the best conceivable position that the United States, and especially the Obama Administration, could conceivably take.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.