Obama’s ‘Contiguous’ Palestinian State Could ‘Split Israel in Half,’ Says Middle East Expert

By Fred Lucas | May 20, 2011 | 12:51 PM EDT

Map of Israel and its borders, 1949 to 1967.

(CNSNews.com) – In calling for Israel to return to its pre-Six Day War 1967 borders, President Barack Obama also said the Palestinians have the right to a “sovereign and contiguous state,” a proposal that technically would divide Israel.

“We believe 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,” Obama said on Thursday. “The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. … 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.”

“Contiguous,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means : 1.) being in actual contact: touching along a boundary or at a point; 2.) of angles; adjacent; 3.) next or near in time or sequence; 4.) touching or connected throughout in an unbroken sequence.

Establishing a Palestinian state based on territory that Israel gained in the 1967 Six Day War would be one thing. But a “contiguous” state might be another, as the areas that Palestinians hope to claim are not adjacent. In order to get the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into one contiguous nation, it would seemingly divide Israel on the map.

The word “contiguous” has been used before in relation to a Palestinian state, said Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, but it has rarely been defined.

“It’s concerning because how do you make Gaza and the West Bank touch one another?” May told CNSNews.com. “One way to do it is to split Israel in half. I don’t think the Israelis are going to be too keen on that.”

The Gaza Strip is in the southwestern corner of Israel and the West Bank is on the east side/center of Israel – the two areas are separated by vast Israeli territory.

“Could contiguous mean another thing? The Palestinians have talked about a corridor,” May said. “It could be a tunnel. It could be a train length or something. We don’t know exactly what he meant. Again, it’s not a new phrase. It’s problematic.”

Israel in 2011, and showing Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights.

Given the political conditions, with the leading Palestinian political party Fatah forging a unity agreement with the terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, May thinks the president’s proposal  is a non-starter.

“I would argue that it’s putting the cart well ahead of the horse when you have a Palestinian leadership that includes, of course, Hamas, which not only doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist on an inch of land, but it actively and is openly committed to the extermination of Israel and the Israelis for that matter,” May said.

“It is a mistake and it’s kind of odd at this point to still believe this is about claims to land,” said May. “It’s about much more than that. It’s about an ideology that Hamas has and certain parts of Fatah has that says you cannot have infidels ruling -- not ever, not anywhere -- on lands that Muslim armies have ever conquered.”

May added that Obama is in reelection mode, and would have offered a more realistic proposal if he was serious about dealing with the matter before reelection.

“It’s almost like he has written an analysis for a foreign policy journal rather than put into place any diplomatic process that could lead to negotiations, much less a settlement, which I think is impossible because Iran is behind Hamas,” said May. “Iran is behind Hezbollah. Iran has made it clear it will not recognize Israel. It is committed to the destruction of Israel and Iran seems to be the rising power in the Middle East at this moment.”