What Exactly are the 1967 Borders?
I get the impression that a lot of people don't even know what "the 1967 borders" are or why they tend to be considered the logical point of departure for any type of peace negotiations.
I will confess that I suffer from educator’s disease—i.e., the notion that, at a minimum, more information is a good in and of itself and that, hopefully, more information leads to a better quality of discourse.
I get the impression that a lot of people don’t even know what “the 1967 borders” are or why they tend to be considered the logical point of departure for any type of peace negotiations.
Now, granted, more knowledge does not necessarily dictate a particular opinion on the situation, but it strikes me as a good thing regardless of anything else.
So, here we go:
Since Israel has already withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, the issue at hand is the West Bank:
Here’s the 1949-1967 border:
Here are the borders from 1967-1979:
And then the border after the peace accord with Egypt:
Source for maps: click.
Now, according to the CIA World Factbook, the population of the West Bank is 2.6 million, with ~300,000 of whom being Israeli settlers in the West Bank itself and ~190,000 in East Jerusalem. In general, the Factbook places the ethnic breakdown at 83% Palestinian Arab and 17% Jewish. And, of course, one of the reason that settlements in the West Bank are controversial, and even considered provocative by some, is because said settlement increase Israeli claims on the West Bank, making a final settlement all the more complicated. It is also because of these settlements that the issue of land swaps are raised. There is also the whole problem of East Jerusalem.
At any rate, in terms of the basics: the reason why it might be considered proper for the territory in question to form the bulk of a Palestinian state is because it is territory primarily inhabited by Palestinian Arabs and contains Palestinian cities, like Ramallah (a city of over 27,000). In other words: the Palestinians are already there. They can either continue to be part of an occupied territory (sort of a no-man’s land state-wise), they can be made part of Israel proper (this seems rather unlikely in the extreme), or they can be made part of a Palestinian state. Of course, in theory, they could be forcibly removed, but moving over two and half million people would be highly difficult and costly (and I am unaware of anyone who wants to do that).
This is not, as I have seen analogized, giving Manhattan back to Native American tribes or returning the Southwest to Mexico. This is about territory where the people who claim it currently live.
“What did Obama say?” wrote Ofer Shelah, a columnist in the Maariv newspaper. “That any agreement with the Palestinians, if and when it is signed, must be based on the 1967 lines with border adjustments. Is there any Israeli or Palestinian who doesn’t know that this is what will happen? It’s the only game in town.
The reason for this, again, is that the Palestinians tend to live in areas contained by the pre-1967 lines (i.e., in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank). As such, where else is a Palestinian state going to be? And don’t tell me that some Arab country should donate land for a New Palestine, as some Americans like to suggest, because it is a nonsensical assertion. Even if such land were donated, how are over 4 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank going to relocate there and why would they want to do so? And that doesn’t even get into questions of infrastructure, economy and the like.
No, the basic answer is clear: any peace settlement will have to start with the basics of 1967 borders because, again, that’s where the relevant people are already located. It does make statements like “throwing Israel under the bus” or asking Israel to “commit suicide” seem disconnected to reality, to be honest. Indeed, if this is what people think, I would be interested in what the alternative would be/what they would do with the over two million Palestinians in the West Bank.
Now, none of this means it will actually happen (and it clearly is not easy), but the logic of the situation is quite clear. And, of course, one has to understand that complications that arise from the settlement situation, as the following map should make clear:
For more on that map, see: The West Bank Archipelago
None of this is easy (which may be the biggest understatement of my blogging career). However, the lack of easiness doesn’t change the basic facts of the ground in terms of what territories we are talking about.
This is, of course, why, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke of the 1967 borders, and why the former chief of staff of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did as well. It is also why a joint statement of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu issued a joint statement last November that stated the following:
The Prime Minister and the Secretary agreed on the importance of continuing direct negotiations to achieve our goals. The Secretary reiterated that “the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.” Those requirements will be fully taken into account in any future peace agreement.
To conclude, again I would ask: what it is the people think is being talked about when a two state solution is raised if not something based on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (otherwise known as something approximating the 1967 borders)?