There are really only two ways to consider the borders of Israel when it declared independence in May 1948: the entirety of the Palestine Mandate OR the proposed border put forward by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947. As discussed below, only one of these is legally valid, while both options demonstrate that Israel does not occupy any “Palestinian Land.”
May 1948 Borders: the Palestine Mandate.
When the Ottoman Empire broke up, the French and British assumed control of various mandates until the local populations were able to establish their own functioning governments. The French took the Lebanon and Syrian mandates, and each of them became countries in 1943 and 1946, respectively, after the last of the French troops withdrew. The British took the Palestine and Iraq mandates. Iraq declared its independence in 1932. As for Palestine, the situation was more labored and complicated.
The 1922 international mandate made clear that the British were to help the Jews reestablish their homeland in the territory. However, the land east of the Jordan River was viewed as a land that the British could option to separate (Article 25), which they did. That land ultimately became the Kingdom of Jordan.
Regarding the rest of the Palestine Mandate, the British had a difficult time dealing with a local Arab population which did not want to see a flood of Jews enter the area. The multi-year Arab riots between 1936 and 1939 led the British to consider dividing the land between the Jews and Arabs (the 1937 Peel Commission which was not adopted) and placing a cap on the number of Jews allowed to enter the territory (the 1939 White Paper which was enacted).
By the end of the devastation of World War II, the British had enough rebuilding to do at home and the Jews clearly needed to have the cap on immigration terminated, so the Brits asked the United Nations to tackle the issue in 1946. The UN General Assembly voted to partition the land between the Jews and Arabs in a non-binding vote in November 1947. All of the Arab countries voted ‘no’ and the partition never took place.
When the British withdrew their last troops in May 1948, the Jews declared the new Jewish State of Israel. Like the Mandates of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, the British troop withdrawal was accompanied by the declaration of a new state on the ENTIRETY OF THE MANDATE, including areas which have now become known as Gaza and the West Bank.
May 1948: the 1947 Partition Plan.
When Israel declared its independence, the Arab community was still seeking to control the entirety of the Palestine Mandate itself. It rejected the State of Israel in 1948 the same way it rejected the 1947 proposed UN Partition Plan. It considered both illegal, null and void, invasions of their own Arab land.
When five Arab armies attacked Israel when it declared independence, the invasion did not start at Jerusalem. For the Arabs, all of the land was a single contiguous unit. The lines of the Partition Plan were as invisible and irrelevant as the proposed borders of the Peel Commission.
And so it was for the Jews.
The 1949 Armistice Lines / the Green Line.
When the international community talks about “occupation” today of “Palestinian Land,” they are referring to the borders as they existed before the outbreak of the Six Day War in June 1967. These were the frontier areas that came into being at the end of the 1948-9 Israel War of Independence. These Armistice Lines established between Israel and a number of the invading countries were drawn in the maps in green, so also became known as the “Green Lines.”
The Egyptian army took over the Gaza Strip area. The Israeli-Egyptian truce specifically stated that those Armistice Lines were not to be construed as final borders. Similarly, the Jordanian army took over much of eastern Palestine, which over time became known as the “West Bank.” The Israeli-Jordanian agreement also stated that the lines were not meant as borders.
However, Jordan took a number of particularly hostile moves. Not only did it evict all Jews from the “West Bank,” it annexed the territory in 1950 in a move not recognized by almost the entire world. It took a further step of granting all of the Arabs who lived in the West Bank Jordanian citizenship in 1954 (Jews were specifically excluded from becoming Jordanians).
From 1949 until 1967, the land was divided between Israel, Egypt and Jordan. There was no Palestine.
It was in this window of time that many countries began to recognize the State of Israel. While the frontiers of the land were subject to possible modifications as outlined in the two armistice agreements, the countries recognized the Israeli sovereignty up to those lines. And so it is until this day.
The 1967 “Borders”
The fighting continued to rage between the Israelis and Egyptians and Jordanians between 1949 and 1967.
Arab fighters would cross the Green Line into Israel from Egypt and Jordan and kill Israelis in night raids and Israel would retaliate. The United Nations would debate the “Question on Palestine,” particularly as over 700,000 Arabs who fled the fighting zone were not allowed to return to towns in Israel. And the Palestinian independence movement would develop, with the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, whose stated mission was to destroy Israel and reclaim the entirety of the Palestine Mandate for Arabs.
As fate would have it, the Jordanians attacked Israel in June 1967, after Israel launched a preemptive defensive war against Syria and Egypt which were about to attack. The Jordanians lost all of the West Bank which they had illegally annexed, the Egyptians lost Gaza and the Syrians lost the Golan Heights.
The 1949 Armistice Lines which were established and understood to be temporary, somehow morphed into the minds of many as the 1967 “borders,” implying a new sense of permanence, even though the war did the exact opposite – it reestablished Israeli control of the entire Palestine Mandate and reclaimed its boundaries of May 1948.
Israel did itself no favors. Rather than clearly state that its borders had been reestablished, it “annexed” the eastern portion of Jerusalem which had been under Jordanian control and only established military rule over the West Bank. It did this – much like it handed control of the Jewish Temple Mount to the Jordanian Waqf – in the hopes of winning over global support for peace. So much for that theory.
No Palestinian Land / No “Occupation”
As the history above details, the Palestinians quest for self-rule has been aspirational. The global community has attempted to create a new sovereign Arab Palestinian country, or to somehow give the Arabs who reside in Gaza and the West Bank self-determination. The Arabs in Gaza got self-determination in 2005 when the Israeli troops left the area, and the majority of Arabs in the West Bank also have some self-determination in “Area A” and to a lesser extent in “Area B” when Israel handed control of select lands to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as part of the Oslo II Accords of 1995.
But there is no “Palestinian Land” beyond these lands which the PA controls. The balance is Israeli territory as it was from the time Israel declared its independence. The 1967 War did not begin “occupation” of “Palestinian Land”; it brought Israeli territory back under Israeli control from the Egyptians and Jordanians who invaded Israel back in 1948.
As the only “Palestinian Land” that exists today are those which Israel handed to the Palestinian Authority, it is impossible for there to be any “occupation.” The Palestinians will get only get more “Palestinian Land” if and when Israel gives incremental land to the PA.
The international community had defined being gay as a mental illness until 1973, and homosexuality is still considered a crime in roughly half of the member states of the United Nations. Almost all of those same UN countries also refuse to recognize the existence of the Jewish State and believe there is a “colonial occupation” of “Palestinian Land.” They may never come to accept gays or the Jewish State.
It took the western world a long time to accept the mental well-being of homosexuals, and perhaps one day soon, they will realize the rights of Jews to live throughout their homeland and that there is no illegal occupation of Palestinian land.