THE LONG ROAD TO THE PROMISED LAND
Where are Israel’s Borders?
BY Gunter David
The ’67 borders. Everybody is talking about them. But they are never explained. They came to the fore when President Obama said in a speech the other day that peace between Israel and the Palestinians should be based on the ’67 borders. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been meeting with the president, told his host it was out of the question. He declared them “indefensible.”
What are the ’67 borders? The year is misleading. They actually are closer to the borders that came into being after the cease-fire in 1949, at the end of Israel’s Independence War. On November 30, 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of Palestine between Arabs and Jews. Until then, Palestine had been under British rule or mandate as prescribed by the League of Nations, the predecessor of the UN.
The partition plan was rejected by the Palestinian Arabs, who subsequently attacked the Jews. The latter welcomed the plan as their return to their Biblical homeland. Leadership of the Jewish community in Palestine accepted the partition even though it gave them a minimal territory.
On May 15, 1948, with the withdrawal of the last British troops from Palestine, David Ben Gurion, leader of the Yishuv, the Jewish community, declared the founding of the state of Israel. Surrounding Arab states promptly attacked the new country, but when a cease fire was declared in 1949, Israel had become considerably larger than when the war began. Most importantly, Israel included a good part of Jerusalem, which became its capital. According to the partition, the city was to be under international control.
As for the Palestinian Arabs, they never had a chance to found a country of their own. What today are called the Left Bank and the Gaza Strip were the remainder of Palestine when the war had ended. The ruler of Trans Jordan annexed the West Bank of the Jordan River, and declared himself king of the expanded country of Jordan. Egypt annexed the Gaza Strip.
In 1967, advance Israeli intelligence warned its government of impending war by the Arab countries. Israel promptly struck first. The result was the Six Day War, in which Israel took the rest of Palestine, all of the Sinai Desert, and a section of Syria.
Israel also reclaimed the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall – the remainder of the Holy Temple built by King Herod – from which Israelis had been barred during Jordanian rule. Once it had been called the Wailing Wall, where Jews prayed, then stuck little slips of papers, messages to God, between its stones. But on a day in June, 1967, thousands and thousands of Israelis flowed into the Old City, back to their holy places and to the Wall, where they once more sent messages to heaven.
In time, Israel and Egypt made peace. Israel withdrew from Sinai, as well as from a section of the Golan Heights which it had taken from Syria. It also made peace with Jordan. Over time, some 300,000 Israelis have settled in the West Bank. The Palestinians consider the settlements an invasion of their territory. In past negotiations there had been talk of swapping land, with Israel giving up some of the settlements, or trading areas of Israel populated by Arabs for the Palestinian land settled by Israelis.
But going back to the quasi 1949 borders?
Gunter David and his parents fled Germany, their native country, as soon as Adolph Hitler rose to power. They settled in Tel Aviv, in what was then Palestine, where Gunter grew up. He subsequently moved to the U.S., where he worked on major newspapers for 25 years. The Evening Bulletin of Philadelphia nominated him for the Pulitzer Prize. He has returned to Israel numerous times, as a newsman and to visit family and friends, and covered the Yom Kippur War in 1973. His second career was as a family therapist and addiction counselor. Dalia, his wife of 57 years, is also from Israel. His fictional accounts of his family’s life in Berlin and resettlement in Palestine appear in the pages of Wild River Revew.