The truth about the green line....
The so-called green line is just a truce line between Israel and its Arab neighbours...
Frankly, the problem lies with the green line. Lines drawn with crayons have always had a bad life after the fact. Palestine has had many lines drawn for it and through it. The Sykes-Picot lines were finally drawn, after about a year of imperial bargaining, in 1916. They were kept secret, however, for at least a year. Britain appropriated to itself what it called Palestine and fought the Turks so that the land “from Dan to Beersheba,” based on a map of the Holy Land “under David and Solomon,” would be its alone. The “lines” and the references would cause troubles everywhere, including Mosul. In fact, the Sykes-Picot lines still make occasional reference--that is, troubles--in Iraq today. And when, or rather if, Israel and Syria ever come to discuss the hydrologics of a settlement, Sykes-Picot will be studied again.
One could concentrate on the United Nations partition lines of 1947. But, since no Arab country (save now Egypt and Jordan) has ever recognized the legitimacy of the Partition Plan itself, they and the Palestinians, who’d not negotiated with Israel until the early 1990s, and then only in secret, (or, for that matter, with the Zionists before Jewish independence) were stuck with what was called “the green line.” Like the Sykes-Picot lines, the green line was drawn with implements that were, to say the least, imprecise. The fact is that the relevant cartography was charted with the relationship of 1:50,000. It’s just possible that with that ratio, Gilo, which drove Hillary Clinton bananas, would have met the test of the most restrictive maps. But many other settlements would not.
What is the standing of the green line, so called? Actually, it has none, having been violated by the Jordanians, the Egyptians, and the Syrians, most dramatically in the run-up to the Six-Day War. But the appellation “green line,” that very rough marker, is an invention of commentators. In the absence of political realism, it has taken on historical weight. But each of the four armistice agreements signed at Rhodes in early to mid-1949 have specific provisions, inserted at the insistence of the separate Arab delegations with not a single Palestinian in attendance and with not a single allusion to the Arab state envisioned in the Partition Plan, asserting that the documents are without prejudice to future arrangements of boundaries. There is no mystery as to what that means. That is, already, in 1949, the usurping Egyptian state, the Syrian dictatorship, and the Kingdom of Jordan were contemplating what they attempted in 1967 and (with two of the above) again in 1973.
It is true that the manifest desire of the Israeli populace for peace was what pushed the political class into all of the risks they took. First of all, in trusting the table at which Yasir Arafat sat, and in more than trusting the impresario of the celebration on the White House lawn. This was Shimon Peres’s finest hour, his scurvy triumph of pushing Yitzhak Rabin and other Israeli realists into a negotiation they did not seek and which they feared. (For the record, as my writings in The New Republic reflected, I felt like a mourner at the wedding feast.) At the tail end of what a deceitful Ha’aretz columnist, Akiva Eldar, called “Clinton time,” Ehud Barak, a brave man in war and during peace negotiations, was also led down the marital path between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The prime minister had already agreed to a cockamamie division of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City, with decorous signs, when Arafat ran out of the negotiations with poor, panting Madeleine Albright, last year’s recipient of the “Teddy,” actually, running after him. End of parley.
Even the students at Tel Aviv University, the U.C. Berkeley of Israel, are no longer pushing the prime minister to make concessions to what are, really, the president’s fantasies. Now, Netanyahu doesn’t do politics out of caprice. He knows that there will be no “Greater Israel” or anything resembling it. Recall that his mentor, Ariel Sharon, emptied Gaza of all its Jewish settlers and settlements. And then emptied four settlements in Samaria on the West Bank. Nobody sane thinks that these four would suffice, that they were other than the beginnings of a vast and, yes, painful withdrawal from Jewish history. Some of the folk in these communities--and that’s what they really are--happen to be more like homesteaders and pioneers. Everywhere, they are characterized as fanatics. I’d trust the characterizers much more if they could so easily also associate Palestinian true believers with lunacy.
Here are the realities of Israel today. Everybody understands that 1967 really means 1949. They are silly borders--really, tokens of a fictitious past. The Arabs are lucky that perhaps as many as 100,000 Israelis may be dislodged from their homes. That gives them the hugest proportion of the West Bank--more, candidly, than I believe is safe.