Palestine – History and Geography Can Unblock Deadlock

Written by David Singer. January 20th 2014.

It is a pity the US State Department chose to focus this week on the private remarks of Israel’s Minister of Defence labelling US Secretary of State John Kerry as being delusional and messianic – rather than concentrating on PLO Chairman Abbas’s very public remarks in the Jerusalem Post that go to the heart of the 130 years old Jewish-Arab conflict:

“Israel’s problem is that the Palestinians know more than the Israelis about history and geography. We talk about what we know”.

Is Abbas correct in his contention or has he become a victim of his own propaganda?

The answer depends on how one views Abbas’s following statement to the United Nations on 26 September 2013:

“However, as representatives of the Palestinian people, we have long been aware of our responsibilities towards our people and had the necessary courage to accept a two-State solution: Palestine and Israel on the borders of 4 June 1967, establishing a Palestinian State on 22% of the land of historic Palestine.”

Are the West Bank and Gaza in fact 22% of historic Palestine or do they comprise only 5% of historic Palestine?

The answer to that question first involves an answer to this question:

“Is Jordan 78% of historic Palestine – as the PLO Charter claims – or is Israel 78% of historic Palestine – as Abbas suggested at the United Nations?

Resolution of the conflict will stand a far greater chance of success – and be more enduring – if Jews and Arabs can first reach a consensus in answering this fundamental question.

That is a challenge that should excite Kerry as he seeks to find a way through the complexities of a conflict whose solution has eluded so many eminent people, organisations and Committees before him – including those appointed by both the League of Nations and the United Nations.

Agreement that Jordan comprises 78% of historic Palestine would greatly enlarge the territorial field within which the Jewish-Arab conflict can be resolved – making the conflict much easier to settle.

Jordan’s inclusion could materially advance the prospects for the creation of a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan – the subject of the current negotiations – or open up other alternative solutions to end the conflict if they fail – which seems destined to happen.

Kerry needs to urgently determine if there is any consensus between Israel, the PLO and the Arab League on the history and geography of “Palestine”.

History books and atlases can be used to resolve any disagreements – supported by eminent historians and geographers well qualified to express their opinions.

To achieve this end result Kerry could instruct his State Department to prepare a questionnaire for Israel, the PLO and the Arab League to complete by a specified date.

To ensure the process is fair and transparent – Kerry could recommend a panel be constituted comprising Kerry as Chairman and six history and geography experts – three appointed by Israel and three jointly appointed by the PLO and the Arab League – with Kerry holding a casting vote should the experts be equally divided.

The questionnaire could possibly include these questions:

  1. When was “Palestine” first so named and by whom?
  2. Was the name of “Palestine” prior to its change “Eretz Yisrael”?
  3. When was “Eretz Yisrael” so named and by whom?
  4. Is Israel 78% of “Palestine” or only 17% of “Palestine”?
  5. Is Jordan 78% of “Palestine” or does it form no part of “Palestine”?
  6. Is the “West Bank” 22% of “Palestine” or 4% of “Palestine”?
  7. When was the “West Bank” first so named and by whom?
  8. Was the name of the “West Bank” prior to its change  “Judea and Samaria”?
  9. When was “Judea and Samaria”  so named and by whom?
  10. When was “Jordan” first so named and by whom?
  11. When were “Palestine’s borders” first defined and where were they located?
  12. Did the Mandate for Palestine include what is today called Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza?
  13. Were the West Bank and Transjordan unified into a single territorial unit between 1950-1967?
  14. Where was the border between Israel and Jordan immediately prior to the outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War?
  15. What date did the Arab residents of the West Bank become Jordanian citizens and on what date was their Jordanian citizenship terminated?
  16. What settlements were established by Jews in the West Bank prior to 1948?
  17. Who was the last sovereign power to legally occupy the West Bank and for what period did such occupation last?
  18. On what date and in what part of Palestine were the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine relating to the reconstitution of the Jewish national Home in Palestine postponed or withheld?

The questionnaire would seek to flesh out the extent to which Jewish and Arab historic and geographic narratives coincide – with the objective of eventually reaching a joint consensus in answering the questions posed.

The questionnaire should be answered by Israel, the PLO and the Arab League before Kerry presents Israel and the PLO with his proposed framework agreement for peace.

If the parties cannot first agree on the territory within which the Jewish-Arab conflict is to be resolved – how can meaningful and serious discussions on Kerry’s framework agreement even be contemplated or commenced?

Kerry needs to focus on this issue – rather than concerning himself with negative comments affecting him personally.

Abbas’s claimed knowledge of history and geography needs to be tested.

The result could be Kerry’s key to ending the current deadlock and resolving the conflict.

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  1. Leon Poddebsky

    David Singer’s analysis and proposals are impeccable but “the international community “refuses to invest any energy in learning facts, truths, intricacies and nuances. (“That’s hard work.”) The Canadian and Australian Governments are commendable exceptions.
    Only a sudden realisation on the part of the “international community” that its ideas are counterproductive and could lead to disastrous consequences globally, might induce some sobriety into its thought processes.

    • Leon

      Your insightful comments are another reason why Israel the PLO and the Arab League should be asked to respond to a questionnaire along the lines proposed by me.

      Surely they can agree on the history and geography of Palestine. if they can’t – how can they ever agree on bringing peace to a country that has different boundaries for each of them?

  2. I think the whole problem is they see us as interlopers and no amount of talking will convince them otherwise.

    Why does anyone think they can be trusted?

    My biggest question is

    “How on earth can Kerry seriously expect Israel to talk ‘peace’ whilst rockets are being lobbed into Israel?”

    • Shirlee, they see us not as interlopers but as dhimmis – second- or third-class subjects who should never have any independence. To them, we’re inferior. Just watch some of the PLO propaganda being broadcast daily on TV.

      • Shirlee

        Kerry would no doubt tell you that rockets being fired into Israel is precisely why Israel needs to reach a peaceful settlement with its neighbours.

        What he ignores is that twenty years of trying have not brought peace – and the way things are going along the same dead end road – another twenty years will see the adversaries still in the same position.

        Kerry needs to take up Abbas’s challenge by adopting a new approach and asking:

        “Who is telling the truth about the history and geography of Palestine – the PLO or Israel?”

        Abbas and the PLO have refused to accept the legal validity of what the League of Nations decided in 1922 in unanimously endorsing the mandate for Palestine – which the UN subsequently preserved in article 80 of the UN charter in 1945.

        The PLO – which Abbas heads – declares in its own Charter that such decisions were “null and void”.

        Whilst the Arabs continue to reject such established international law – the continuation of the conflict is certain to occur.

        The sooner the mandate and article 80 are acknowledged as binding legal decisions by the PLO and that Jordan comprises 78% of historic Palestine – the sooner some hope of peace might emerge.

        That is why I am proposing a questionnaire along the lines in my article. it might seem trite to many people but if a consensus can be reached by Israel, the PLO and the Arab League on the answers – then this could be the starting point for a real effort by Kerry to seek a peace agreement that will really work and be enduring.

  3. David,

    You tell me, who is Kerry dealing with on the Arab front?

    Yes I know it’s Abbas, but what right has he to speak for the Arabs of Gaza?
    None as I see it and I’m sure Kerry hasn’t been having a coffee and a chat with Hamas.

    Seeing as his term as President is well and truly past it ‘use by’ date, what right does he have to speak for the Arabs of Judaea and Samaria too?

    Kerry is dealing with Abbas, but supposedly he is dealing with the so-called Palestinian people. Half of whom are talking and half of whom aren’t.

    The whole thing is a joke.

    How on earth can anyone in his right mind think there will be any peace ever or that anyone has the right to discuss it.?

    Yes I know this is double Dutch but then so is the whole situation.

    • Shirlee

      You are 100% right – but Kerry is still negotiating with Abbas and so is Israel.

      How this triumvirate can ever reach an enduring peace agreement is indeed a real mystery.

      The answer is pretty simple – they won’t.

      That is why Jordan and the Arab League must be involved in any meaningful negotiations if there is to be any chance of a breakthrough.

      Answering the questionnaire will be the starting point for this to hopefully occur.

      Gaza will be put in the “too hard basket” for now – unless Egypt can be brought into any new negotiations as well – which could occur if the Arab League approves.

      • But didn’t Israel already offer Gaza to Egypt as part of the peace deal when they took back the Sinai?

        I wonder what Netanyahu and King Abdullah spoke about last week? I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall.
        Queen Rania is not exactly pro-Israel publicly. Privately might be a whole other matter.

  4. As I wrote more than seven years ago, (here:, The Medad Fraction Principle

    The hard fact is that British Mandate Palestine never was, and is not today, big enough to accommodate both a Jewish and an Arab state. The “two-state” solution never could succeed and never will. Like in mathematics, sometimes, to divide a number, you need to enlarge it first. The “Medad Fraction Principle”.

    • Yisrael

      There are already two states in British Mandate Palestine – Jordan and Israel. Stuck in between them is the West Bank – just 4% of the mandate territory still remaining unallocated between Jordan and Israel

      Creating a second Arab state in Palestine is as crazy as creating a second Jewish state in Palestine.

      Allocating sovereignty in the West Bank between Israel and Jordan makes far more sense -especially as Israel and Jordan have had a signed peace treaty since 1994.

      Kerry will find out all these facts if he sends out the questionnaire I have proposed.

      I would love to see Kerry and the State Department answer the questionnaire and publish their answers.

      I don’t know much about the “Medad fraction principle” but I do know a little about the “common sense principle” which should oblige Kerry to build his framework for peace on history and geography – not fiction and farce.

      • Leon Poddebsky


        Your facts are irrefutable and your approach is sensible, but when you say that the USA should build a framework for peace “on history and geography,” you are invoking a common sense ideal, but where have you factored in the following: the powerful Arab lobby; the EU’s pernicious influence; the USA preference for expediency over principle (and sometimes, unwittingly, even over self-interest); the personality and character quirks of US policymakers; the battle fatigue of the USA (and the West generally); the apparently superior stamina of the “Arab-Islamic world” over that of the West, despite the latter’s enormous objective advantages…….etc etc
        It comes down to determination: the West has lost its determination and so it takes the course of lesser resistance: whom is it easier to pressure, Israel or its mortal enemies?

        HOWEVER, Israel has faced difficult times before, and has resisted pressure from its “friends” before and has created miracles before.

      • Leon

        The hypocrisy and false grandstanding of those you have named must continue to be exposed and denounced.

        Having talkfests that are bound to end up in the shredder or serve as the basis for a personal biography is a waste of everyone’s time and more importantly give rise to false hopes and dashed expectations.

        If there is going to be an end to the conflict – it will only happen within a framework that is built on the history and geography of Palestine.

        If Kerry does not understand that simple concept by now – then he deserves the same fate as befell previous Presidents and Secretaries of State who failed to lay the above framework within which solutions might be found.

        That framework must include Jordan – 78% of historic Palestine.

        Until it does – the only benefits from Kerry’s frequent trips to the Middle East will be the frequent flyer points he amasses and the wonderful food he is served as he junkets between Jerusalem, Ramallah, Amman, Cairo and Riyadh.

  5. Why is the UNHRC able to find new homes for millions of refugees around the world while the UNRWA has a growing number of refugees (and employees)?

    Why does the UNRWA count as refugees people who never lived in Israel?

    Why does the UNRWA define as refugees people who left Israel from June 1st, 1946 until May 15th, 1948 when Israel didn’t exist until May 14th, 1948?

    • Leon Poddebsky


      You have given yet another example of the way in which the UN / “international community” breaches its own conventions [ in this case relating to the definition of a refugee] in order to harm Israel.
      In my view the UN and its various agencies regularly breach their own rules because within those bodies Israel’s mortal enemies hold sway by virtue of their numbers, by virtue of their wealth, by virtue of the prevailing sense that the UN is a club, something which instils a desire to conform even when the club behaves immorally, illegally or outrageously against Israel and against law and decency.
      It’s highly symbolic that 3 of the Secretaries-General of the UN were unsavoury people:
      U Thant triggered the Arab war of aggression in 1967 when he withdrew the UN “Peacekeeping Force” [ try to suppress your laughter]; Kurt Waldheim was a nazi;
      Kofi Annan said, ” Diplomacy is good, but diplomacy backed up by force is better.” [ although he was right, that’s no way for a UN VIP to talk.]
      ALSO let’s not forget the timidity (some would call it cowardice of the Western-esp. the EU)
      However, there are commendable exceptions: the current Australian and Canadian Governments.

    • Iro looks like I have to answer this!! Sorry Leon, it’s not what he asked.

      “Why is the UNHRC able to find new homes for millions of refugees around the world while the UNRWA has a growing number of refugees (and employees)?”
      Good question and considering that the so-called Palestinians receive more international aid money per capita than anyone in the world, it is clearly being misappropriated.

      Why does the UNRWA count as refugees people who never lived in Israel?
      Because for some inexplicable reason the definition of a Palestinian refugee according the to the UN is in a class of its own..
      A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.
      However a Palestinian refugee is “Palestine refugees (per United Nations Resolution 194) originally included Arabs whose normal places of residence were in Israel and Jews who had had their homes in Mandatory Palestine, such as those from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.[6] Their right of return was recognized in United Nations Resolution 194 of 1948.[7] Today, the term refers primarily to the patrilineal descendants of Arab refugees originating in the Mandate, as per the UNRWA definition.”

      Why does the UNRWA define as refugees people who left Israel from June 1st, 1946 until May 15th, 1948 when Israel didn’t exist until May 14th, 1948?
      That I don’t know and haven’t time to look it up

  6. Leon Poddebsky


    I absolutely agree with your view that the hypocrisy and grandstanding of “the international community” must be exposed ( and there is so much of it that it’s a full-time job.)
    In international relations, however, as far as I, an ordinary observer, can see, hypocrisy and grandstanding are rampant and conventional. The world’s (esp. the EU’s) policymakers are not impressed by appeals to morality, justice, history or geography: they have the ability to rationalise all of their transgressions against these.

    What does generally focus their minds on the imperative to alter course is their perception of their national interests. If Israel can demonstrate to the hypocrites and grandstanders of the EU and other culprits that attempts to do to Israel what was done to Czechoslovakia in 1938-39 will ultimately result in dire consequences for the culprits, it might restore sanity to them.

    • Well in that case if they want to get into bed with liars and fabricators they deserve everything that comes their way.

      You cannot build a foreign policy based on lies, lies and lies – as the EU and other hypocrites will find to their eternal shame.

      • Leon Poddebsky

        They have no shame.
        They are capable of uttering the most egregious and obviously mendacious assertions while maintaining a demeanour of faux authority, self-righteousness and gravitas. (Our own Bob is also a master of this skill.)
        When it comes to harming Israel, they even breach their own laws, rules and conventions as they have done when they accepted the PA into UNESCO, when they accepted the PA as a state into the UN, when they encourage illegal boycotts etc etc.
        They have to be convinced that their CONCRETE VITAL INTERESTS would be severely damaged.

  7. Leon or David

    Can one of your please answer the questions of Iro posted above.

    I have no idea as to the answer of the final question and don’t have time to look for it.