Six Days, and Fifty Years
In June 1967, combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan launched a coordinated attack on the fledging nation of Israel. The attack took place one month after U.N. Peace Keeping Forces withdrew in response to Egypt’s objection to their presence in Egyptian territory and in Gaza. The Israeli Defense Force beat back the attack on all sides, bringing the war to a close in six days. The net impact of the war was that Egypt surrendered the Sinai Peninsula, Syria the Golan Heights and Jordan the territory on the west bank of the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem. The improbable outcome was that following the war, called the June War by the attackers and the Six Days War by the defender, Israel now had geographically defensible borders. The Sinai presented a significant natural divide from Egypt. By holding the Golan Heights, Israel commanded the high ground, a superior defensive position. The Jordan River created a natural boundary.
In November the United Nations Security Council met, then consisting of the U.S., U.S.S.R., U.K., France and Taiwan, the rump of pre-revolutionary China. Resolution 242, called Land for Peace, was the result of the conference. The gist of 242 was that Israel would return the acquired land in exchange for a peace treaty in which the combatant nations recognized Israel as a sovereign nation.
Eventually, Egypt and Israel reached a separate peace in 1978, by which Israel yielded the Sinai and Gaza. Syria failed to reach a peace accord. Syria has been preoccupied with more pressing matters.
In 1994 Jordan formally agreed to recognize Israel and permanently ceded the West Btank. Jordan and Israel have remained at peace. However, the West Bank was populated by the Palestinians. This may seem like burying the lede, but it’s helpful to know how the intractable Palestinian conflict came to be.
Land for Peace worked on the nation-state paradigm, which applied to Israel, Jordan and Syria. It made no provision for the Palestinians, refugees who had been under the protection of Jordan on the West Bank. The Palestinians were now residents of occupied territory under Israel’s military control. R242 remains the official framework for peace. The West Bank legally remains Occupied Territory, but there is no land to exchange for peace.
In the course of fifty years, the geopolitical facts have changed. Israelis have settled in the West Bank. The so-called two-state solution called for a separation of the West Bank as a Palestinian state. The settlements have made this division virtually impossible. What remains then is the status quo, an Israeli territory occupied by its military with a majority Palestinian population without sovereignty or any right of self-determination.
This summary obviously is a simplification of the situation, but does attempt to frame the issue accurately. The situation no longer can be considered a crisis. How long can the Israeli hold on the West Bank be called an occupation? At some point, the reality of the sharing of the West Bank has or will become accepted as fact. Some call it Israeli apartheid, some call it the rightful restoration of the Israeli homeland and the nation’s “manifest destiny,” a term used advisedly.
New thinking by the principals is overdue. The old paradigms no longer fit.