There is nothing holy about the 1967 borders

The current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have taken on a strange direction. Recently, the Palestinian Authority has become viewed as a state that was conquered by Israel in 1967, meaning that Israel has an obligation to return this territory to it rightful owners. But the historical reality shows different facts altogether. The conflict was always about the events of 1948. The Palestinians, between 1948 and 1967, did not ask for, request, or receive recognition or sovereignty in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In 1948, the Arab Legion attacked the fledgling State of Israel, and took over the area known as the West Bank. The residents became residents of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, who joined the “East Bankers” under one Kingdom. These events caused no outcry, the United Nations did not get involved, and nobody recognized a separate political entity in the West Bank, which at the time was on the armistice lines which would become known as the 1967 borders.

The Gaza Strip was conquered by Egypt in 1948. Although the area was physically separated from Egypt, its residents were subjects of the Egyptian Republic.

Israel asked Jordan not to get involved in the 1967 war. This was a defensive war, in which Israel conquered territory, and in the end, the Jordanian army left the West Bank. In the South, Israel took over the territories of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. However, previous to this war, during the entire period between 1948-1967, there was never a call for recognition of a Political entity within these borders, neither in Gaza nor in the West Bank. There was no demand, and there was no recognition.

Although it is surprising, it was only the attacked and besmirched Israel, who often faces hostile global opinion, who granted the Palestinians a greater level of autonomy, self-government, and recognition, than any other regional power. Indeed, Turkey, Syria, Iraq never granted the Kurds the level of autonomy that Israel granted the Palestinians.

In the Camp David Accords, Egypt refused to take back the Gaza Strip, even if it demanded every grain of sand in Sinai. Egypt could have received Gaza through the peace treaty, and recognized a separate Palestinian political entity in the region.

In today’s reality, following a thorough public relations blitz, most of the world believes that Israel conquered the State of Palestine and oppressed its people through occupation. The Palestinians never had sovereignty, a police force, an independent judiciary or a legislature, all of which they have today, following Israel’s initiative.

These historical facts cannot be overlooked in today’s negotiations. Israel is ready for painful concessions for  the sake ofpeace. However, there will never be peace, if the other side does not internalize that they also must give up something. Israel must give up areas of its homeland that it has longed for for over 2,000 years. Israel is ready to give up the lands upon which its history was composed.

This history is not a narrative or myth, but has a factual basis in various historical writings, which are accepted by the central religions in the area. However, Israeli is ready to concede on areas of its historical homeland,  because it acknowledges that there is another people who desires recognition of peoplehood and sovereignty. However, it becomes difficult to accept this other, when we are told that the state that arises must be free of Jews, refuses to recognize Israel’s legitimate rights, whose history is “engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts,” as is stated in Jeremiah.

Anyone who seeks the “peace of the brave” must accept the other and its identity, live beside him, and accept its legitimate place in this region. Just as our negotiators should not demand that Palestinians refrain from being employed in Israel, as such, the Palestinians must drop their preposterous demand.

If Israel and Palestine must be sister states, the relations between them must be those of siblings, not of hostility.

Therefore, before speaking of the borders of peace, we must speak of the essence of peace – the kind of reality that we seek. In the end, borders are mere semantics. The settlements are a very small percentage of the land of the West Bank, and symbolize the potential for relations between the sides. Indeed, before the Oslo Accords, the markets in Palestinian cities were filled with Israeli consumers, while Israel’s coastal cities were filled with Palestinians who came either to work or to enjoy the Mediterranean culture. There was a time in which the possibility of working in Israel was a cause for celebration, as it solved financial problems for extended families. The mutual exchanges of populations for work and commerce facilitated fruitful working relations between the populations.

This reality was not forgotten but was actively erased from the collective memory, in order to create a false narrative that speaks of occupation, hatred, and animosity, preventing the possibility of reaching a true peace.

It would be best if each side were to take a new approach based on the recognition of the other, preventing the spread of a bogus narrative which attempts to falsify history, and accept the authenticity of the historical connection to the land – acknowledging sites such as Rachel’s tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

This truth must be agreed to amongst us and be explained to the world. It must be agreed upon with our neighbors in order to build a cooperative future for all the nations of the region.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center
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