The US State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs has featured a map on its website – which both rejects and corrects the misleading use of the terms “1967 boundaries” and “1967 borders” – which have never existed in relation to any territorial subdivision between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
As the accompanying map makes clear:
- There was a 1950 armistice line that separated Israel from the Gaza Strip
- There was a 1949 armistice line that separated Israel from the West Bank.
The use of dishonest and untruthful verbiage such as “boundaries” and “borders” has been a major factor in causing what now appears to have led to an irretrievable breakdown in negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) designed to create a second Arab State in former Palestine – in addition to Jordan.
Absent from this State Department map is there any mention of these aberrant terms.
Instead the map seeks to present an honest and accurate position of the current territorial relationship that exists between Israel, the West Bank (“Judea and Samaria”) and Gaza.
PLO propaganda – aided by sloppy media journalism – have been the drivers in introducing these false and misleading terms into the political diplomatic lexicon.
This campaign of deception and media indolence can at least be traced back to October 2007 – when USA Today under a headline – “Abbas wants return to pre 1967-borders” – reported PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas telling Palestine TV:
“We have 6,205 square kilometers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We want it as it is.”
There were four “small” problems confronting Abbas – that he was not prepared to recognise and USA Today to question or challenge:
- There had never been any pre-1967 borders – only the 1949 and 1950 armistice lines.
- Those armistice lines had been agreed between Jordan, Israel and Egypt – long before the PLO came into existence in 1964.
- The PLO in 2007 at best still only “had” about 40% of the West Bank it had obtained under the 1993 Oslo Accords. Israel “had” the other 60% – also granted under the Oslo Accords.
- The Jews had a better legal claim to “have” at least that part of the West Bank they had lived in prior to 1949 – before being driven out by six invading armies – as well as those areas defined as State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes as stipulated by article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
Undeterred by these roadblocks – Abbas continued making these misleading demands – with Islam On Line reporting the following statement by Abbas on 9 December 2009 under the headline – “Abbas Names 1967 Borders as Precondition for Talks” –:
“We will renew negotiations if the settlements are completely halted and the 1967 borders recognized as the borders of the Palestinian state,”
The New York Times obligingly gave credence to Abbas’s claims on 19 May 2011 with a story under a banner headline “Obama sees ’67 borders as starting point for peace talks” followed by this misleading report accompanied by a supposedly accurate map showing the “Green Line Pre-1967 border”:
“A day before the arrival in Washington of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Mr. Obama declared that the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — adjusted to some degree to account for Israeli settlements in the West Bank — should be the basis of a deal. While the 1967 borders have long been viewed as the foundation for a peace agreement, Mr. Obama’s formula of land swaps to compensate for disputed territory created a new benchmark for a diplomatic solution.”
Suitably emboldened with the New York Times unquestionably uttering the same nonsense as he was – Abbas sent a letter to the UN Secretary General dated 23 September 2011 applying for membership of the the UN.
Abbas – signing as “President of the State of Palestine [a non-existent legal entity –ed.], Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization”- brazenly repeated his earlier claims – this time seeking to implicate most of the international community in his fantasy.
“Furthermore, the vast majority of the international community has stood in support of our inalienable rights as a people, including to statehood, by according bilateral recognition to the State of Palestine on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the number of such recognitions continues to rise with each passing day.”
Abbas was at it again in 2012 – as BBC News reported him saying:
“Palestine for me is the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital. This is Palestine,”
With Abbas last week choosing the path of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in preference to resuming negotiations with Israel – he surely has succumbed to his own propaganda and sown the seeds for his own fall from grace.
He has shown himself unwilling to be bound by the procedures laid out in the Oslo Accords, the Bush Roadmap and Security Council Resolution 242 – the internationally laid down parameters under which an end to the Jewish-Arab conflict was to be negotiated and resolved.
An opportunity could now be opening for negotiations between Israel, Egypt and Jordan – the parties to those 1949 and 1950 armistice lines – to try to transform them into lasting and permanent borders.
A little bit of intellectual honesty can go a long way.
David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network.