Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Green Line – The Most Talked-About Line in the News

Myths of the Green Line

The Green Line was actually the ceasefire line established between the Israeli army and the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The line was drawn in 1949 following the War of Independence and it held until the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967. . It got its name from being drawn with a green pencil on the map used in the negotiations.

The Green Line encompassed 78% of the British Mandate territory. A large part of this mountainous area in central Israel was transferred to Jordanian control. It was annexed to Jordan who referred to the region as the West Bank. In Israel the same territory is called Judea and Samaria. A narrow strip along the southern Coastal Plain was given over to Egyptian control, and called the Gaza Strip. Another way of referring to the Green Line is the borders of June 1967 or the ’67 borders for short, even though they were set in 1949 and not in 1967.
Within the Green Line: rights to minorities
Palestinians, Bedouins and Druze who found themselves inside the boundary of the Green Line received Israeli citizenship, and were integrated into the State of Israel. Palestinians and Bedouins who remained in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) received Jordanian citizenship and were integrated into the Jordanian Kingdom. From 1967-1988 there were close ties between the citizens of the West Bank and the Kingdom of Jordan, ties that Israel made possible and even encouraged. In 1988, the king of Jordan at the time, King Hussein, announced the severance of ties between Jordan and the West Bank, thereby adopting the position espoused by the Palestinian organizations, chiefly the PLO, that a Palestinian state should be established in this region.
The residents of the Gaza Strip were left stateless. They did not receive citizenship from Egypt or from Israel. This piece of land’s status remained legally ambiguous, which has had severe ramifications on its inhabitants.

The Green Line as a point of controversy
The Palestinian organizations, and especially the PLO which was established in 1964, refused for many years to recognize the Green Line as a border, just as they refused to recognize the State of Israel`s right to exist. This position gradually softened. In the Palestinian “Declaration of Independence” that was read in Algeria in 1988 and in the Oslo Accords of 1993, the PLO agreed to set the Green Line as Palestine's border. But other large Palestinian organizations, mainly Hamas, have to this day refused to officially recognize the Green Line as the borders of a Jewish State. The PLO’s recognition of the Green Line contradicts their other major demand on Israel – the right of return. The PLO insists that Palestinian refugees who lived in towns inside the boundaries of the Green Line up until 1949 be allowed to return to their original communities inside Israel.

The Green Line defines Israel’s sovereignty in the world’s eyes
The State of Israel has never officially declared its establishment according to set borders, so the Green Line serves as the de facto border of its sovereignty. Today, most of the countries in the world and many international organizations view the Green Line in the “West Bank” and the “Gaza Strip” as the sovereign borders of Israel.

What is Resolution 242 and what is its connection to the Green Line?
Resolution 242 is a resolution based on a British-American initiative following the Six Day War (you can find the full version on the Knesset website). Its clauses called, among other things, for “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied” during the Six Day War, and for “Termination of all claims or states of belligerence and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area, and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force." The resolution also speaks of the need “For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area”; “For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem”; and “For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones.” The resolution was accepted almost immediately by Egypt and Jordan. Israel accepted it in December 1967, and Syria only after President Assad rose to power.

The meaning of the resolution is the subject of political and legal contention, mainly surrounding two principle points:

* The extent of the Israeli withdrawal - The resolution specifies withdrawal from territories without defining border lines on June 4, 1967. The UN Security Council decided that since there was no reference in the resolution itself to a full withdrawal, any future peace agreement would require that Israel withdraw from “territories” and not “all the territories” conquered during the war. Therefore, the State of Israel deems it quite proper to conduct negotiations that suit a new reality of safe, recognized borders that are not where they used to be.
* A solution to the refugee problem - Resolution 242 also refers to a fair solution to the refugee problem , without addressing the scope of the solution in detail. Israel does not view the resolution as guaranteeing the right of return, whereas the Arab side maintains that the resolution promises full return.

In summary, Resolution 242 does not require Israel to return to Green Line borders which would leave Israel vulnerable to attack, nor does it offer a solution to the problem of refugees. You should also be aware of the following facts quoted by prominent diplomats:

* Prof. Eugene Rostow, who helped draft Resolution 242 and served as Dean of Yale Law School and American Undersecretary of State: “UNSC 242 authorizes the parties to make whatever territorial changes the situation requires - it does not require the Israelis to transfer to the Arabs all, most, or indeed any of the occupied territories. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty awards to the Arabs more than 90 percent of the territory Israel captured in the Six Day War…” (Resolution 242, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1993, pp 18-19).
* Former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson: “It is clear however, that a return to the situation of June 4, 1967, will not bring peace. There must be secure and there must be recognized borders..." (Address on Sept. 10, 1968).
* President Johnson and UN Ambassador Goldberg agreed that the map of Israel’s minimal security needs, which was prepared on June 29, 1967, by the American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Earle Wheeler, meets the conditions of Resolution 242. According to the map, Israel must leave the Golan Heights and about two-thirds of Judea and Samaria under its sovereignty.

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