The so-called 1967 Israel borders have no basis in fact, history, or even popular support among ordinary “Palestinian” residents. But don’t tell that to certain political leaders who have their minds made up.
The 1967 Israel borders: a cease-fire line only
What most people call the 1967 Israel borders is really a cease-fire line dating back to 1949. It was the battlefront between the Tzva HaHaganah LeYisrael (Israel Defense Forces) on one side, and whichever Arab forces were facing them on the other. This “Green Line” was never a permanent treaty line. Even the 1949 Armistice Agreement makes that clear (hat tip: News Real Blog).
Article II, Paragraph 2 clearly states:
[N]o provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question[.] [T]he provisions of this Agreement [are] dictated exclusively by military considerations.
In other words, the armistice agreement was just that: an armistice. It was never a permanent treaty between Israel and any Arab state, real or imagined.
King Abdullah I of Jordan, of course, annexed all the land between the Jordan River and the Green Line and put its troops all over it. There they stayed until 1967. The Green Line passed through Jerusalem, and the Old City lay to the east, so Jordan controlled it.
And what did Jordan do with it? The Jordanians expelled every Jew living in this territory, including those living in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. They then demolished the Jewish Quarter completely. But they never once absorbed the Arab residents of Jaffa and other neighborhoods west of the Green Line, who had fled when the war began. Not all the Arabs fled; those who stayed became citizens of the new Israel, with full voting rights. But those who did flee, moved into permanent camps in Jenin, Ramallah, and elsewhere. They always hoped to return to the towns they fled from—when larger armies somehow swept the Jews into the sea.
In 1967, the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan took a chance. The Egyptians moved almost all their armies to the Sinai-Negev border. Then the Egyptian navy closed the Straits of Tiran, the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba from the Red Sea. Israel waited for two weeks for Egypt to withdraw its troops and reopen ths Straits. During that time, Israel demanded action from the United Nations. The UN refused to act.
The Six-Day War
So Israel acted. The Israel Air Force destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground. Then the IDF hit the Egyptians in several places at once. The Egyptians panicked and ran like rabbits, across the Sinai and then across the Suez Canal. (An iconic cover picture of the June 23, 1967 issue of Life shows a Tzahal soldier wading into the Suez Canal, a captured Kalashnikov rifle in hs left hand. That picture would inspire a twelve-year-old boy to “make Aaliyah”, or go to live in Israel, as an adult. That man, Michael P. Oren, is now Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.)
King Hussein rashly attacked. He mistook IAF planes returning to base from blowing up Egyptian planes, for Egyptian planes coming to drop bombs on Israel. Israel turned right around and hit the Jordanians with everything they had. Fighting the Jordanians was the hardest part of the war for the IDF. But the IDF won, captured East Jerusalem, and reunified the city. In two days the IDF chased the Jordanians across the river. The IDF then captured the Golan Heights, after the Syrians had shelled Israeli villages since June 5, without let-up.
King Hussein tried to have all of Israel north of the Negev. Instead he lost all the land that his father had annexed, up to the Green Line. But if anyone was “occupying” territory, it was the King of Jordan. The so-called 1967 Israel borders are a historical fiction, and Jordan never intended to respect those borders. In 1967, they gambled, as did the Egyptians and Syrians. They lost.
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1967 Israel borders again: Resolution 242
The UN then passed Resolution 242. (The link might be broken, or the UN server might be slow.) Everyone assumes that that document mentioned 1967 Israel borders. It does not. It says that “Israel should withdraw from territories” taken during the war. It does not use the word the. Three times Arab ambassadors tried to put that definite article into the text, and three times the General Assembly left it out. So that resolution calls for Israel to return some, but not necessarily all, of the territories that it took.
Israel took the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula. Then in 1978, Israel agreed to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in return for a permanent treaty and first rights to buy oil from oil wells in that region. Therefore, Israel has already fulfilled Resolution 242.
President Barack H. Obama recently called for “contiguous” territory for a Palestinian state. The West Bank and Gaza are separate, of course, and a large part of the Negev separates them. Any attempt to join these territories would cut Israel in half.
Obama might want to let Egypt take back the Gaza Strip. But the West Bank is a ring of Israeli-controlled territory surrounding a patchwork quilt of alternating Israeli and Palestinian-controlled land. The Palestinians want all of it, and have agitated about “1967 Israel borders” since the war ended. They insist that Resolution 242 recognizes the 1967 Israel borders when it says nothing about borders, but only territories. They say that Israel has “flouted” Resolution 242 when the Resolution does not say exactly how Israel might fulfill it—or how anyone can still claim that Israel has not fulfilled it already.
Those UN delegates were devilishly clever fellows. By leaving out one word—the word the—they created a vague document. Israel could give back one square centimeter of land and say that it has obeyed the Resolution—and even the cleverest “international lawyer” cannot argue justly that Israel has not fulfilled it. And no claim on “1967 Israel borders” will help, either—because the Resolution does not mention them. Neither does any other document, except an armistice agreement that is kaput anyway. Jordan broke the armistice in 1967.
1967 Israel borders: ask the Palestinians
Israel’s enemies will then ask: what do individual Palestinian residents want? To ask that is to make the huge assumption that such people as “Palestinian” exist. But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that “Palestinian” means “Arab resident or former resident of British Mandatory Palestine before the 1947 Israeli War for Independence.” Well, Ynet News and Pechter Middle East Polls asked them. To make it interesting, they asked only those Arabs living in East Jerusalem. Their answer: NO! They did not want anyone to divide Jerusalem!And more of them want to stay citizens of Israel than want to become citizens (or subjects) of Palestine. And if their neighborhoods became Israeli neighborhoods, and the Israelis let them stay (as they did in 1967), most would stay.
And why shouldn’t they like it? Israeli authorities left them the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. As long as they’re not plotting to blow something up, they can stay as long as they please, and worship as they please. And no one will threaten to kill them for not being a good-enough Muslim. (Correction: no one can so threaten them. The city police protect them, just as they protect everybody in the city.) Your editor knows: he’s been to Jerusalem, and walked the streets of the Old City.
So what is Obama talking about? What 1967 Israel borders? They never had a firm basis to begin with. They were a military front—and when Jordan broke the armistice, they had no force whatsoever. Jordan has no claim to any 1967 Israel borders. Neither does the Palestinian Authority, for no one can inherit a claim from one who had no claim himself. And the Palestinians themselves, those that live in land that Israel administers, don’t even want to change that. Most of them like it just fine to live in Israel.
So where is Obama’s excuse now? What can he say tomorrow to the American-Israeli Political Action Committee? What possible case can he make? None. He cannot justify telling Israel to pull back to “1967 Israel borders” that have no definition. Before he spoke that phrase, he should have looked up the 1949 Armistice Resolution and Resolution 242. He either did not do this, or he ignored what he found. That makes him either a fool or a liar.
Significantly, Republican/Libertarian candidate Ron Paul also said that Obama had no business talking about 1967 Israel borders—because that is none of America’s business. Some will say that the roughly $3 billion in aid that we give Israel makes it our business. Paul would rescind that, and all other foreign aid programs, and let Israel go its way. That would be a better solution than to have to listen to Obama, or any president, talk about “1967 Israel borders” that don’t exist.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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