The Green Line

Much of the ongoing debate about the Israeli-Arab conflict surrounds Israel’s borders. The Arabs seek the creation of  a new state of Palestine, up to the “1967 borders.”  That term has also been used by US President Obama as a basis for a peace formula.  However, the term and plan are flawed at its core, as the “1967 borders” were deliberately and specifically never declared borders by the warring parties in 1948-9, for different reasons.

In 1922, the predecessor to the United Nations declared in the British Mandate the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people“.  Because of the 1936-9 Arab riots, the British back-tracked from the original international plan and began to devise a solution that created only small enclaves for Jews within an Arab state.  By 1947, their actions set in motion a compromise plan by the United Nations that would have created distinct Jewish and Arab states.  That plan was rejected by the Arabs. When the British withdrew from Palestine in May 1948, the Jews declared an independent state and five Arab countries went to war against Israel to destroy the nascent Jewish state.

The end of the war in 1949 did not fix borders, but established armistice lines where the fighting concluded. No peace deals were signed between the warring parties as each sought ultimately different borders: the Arabs still sought the complete destruction of the Jewish state; the Israelis wanted borders that were more defensible.

The 1949 Egyptian Armistice Agreement stated clearly that: “The Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary,…The basic purpose of the Armistice Demarcation Line is to delineate the line beyond which the armed forces of the respective Parties shall not move.”  The Jordanian Agreement had similar language.

From Israel’s perspective, as it was subject to constant attacks, riots, wars and blockades to destroy the country, it viewed the 1949 Armistice lines as insufficient to provide it effective security.  The sentiment was best summarized by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eben to the UN Security Council in 1967, after the Arab armies once again set out to destroy Israel.

Why does accuracy matter?  How would a Palestinian call for the establishment of a new state of Palestine along the “1949 Armistice Lines” or the “Green Line” be any different than calling for such action along fictitious “1967 Borders”? Because the 1949 Armistice Lines underscores fundamental truths:

  • that Palestine never existed as a distinct country
  • that Palestine was not ruled by Arabs, but by the British and Ottomans before 1948
  • that five Arab armies from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq attacked Israel in 1948 in an attempt to destroy it
  • the “West Bank” is a newly defined term on newly conquered territory
  • highlights that the “Palestine Question” has always been a civil war- about the allocation of land between Jews and Arabs in an area that was once part of the Ottoman Empire
  • the “armistice lines” were never a border and never intended to be a border

The deliberate use of the term “1967 borders” gives a false impression that those lines were at any time approved and permanent. Further, using the term “West Bank” for the area east of the Green Line, makes that area appear to have been an actual Palestinian Arab entity, and as such, implies that the “occupied territory” is occupied Palestinian Arab land. Those conclusions are all false, and all fall away by using the proper Green Line/Armistice Lines terminology.


Sources:

Palestinian call for 1967 borders: http://palestinianmissionuk.com/news/president-abbas-calls-on-quartet-to-recognize-1967-borders/

Obama call for 1967 borders: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/world/middleeast/20speech.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

1922 UN British Mandate: http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/2FCA2C68106F11AB05256BCF007BF3CB

1939 British White Paper: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/brwh1939.asp

1947 UN partition plan: http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/0/7F0AF2BD897689B785256C330061D253

1949 Egypt-Israel Armistice agreement: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/arm01.asp

1949 Jordan-Israel Armistice Agreement: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/arm03.asp

1967 Abba Eben to UN Security Council on constant threat of Arab states: http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/mfadocuments/yearbook1/pages/19%20statement%20to%20the%20security%20council%20by%20foreign%20mi.aspx

1969 Abba Eben Auschwitz borders: http://www.mefacts.com/outgoing.asp?x_id=10191

2002 Arab peace initiative does not use the term “1967 borders”: http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league/peace02.htm

FirstOneThrough article on “West Bank” and “Judea and Samaria”: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/names-and-narrative-the-green-line-west-bank-judea-and-samaria/

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