The secret to Israeli Palestinian peace is exactly what the Palestinian side has been clamoring for, the return of all of the occupied territories to their rightful owner. You heard my right, for peace, we need to return all occupied territories to their rightful owner. This does not mean what you probably think it means. The first step is to define what the boundaries are supposed to resemble from historical documents and agreements. Once this has been accomplished, we can easily see who is occupying whose land and begin to either make the needed adjustments or find another form of compensation if returning the occupied territory proves to be overly difficult.
The first step is to realize that the armistice boundaries from 1949 are exactly that, cease fire lines, not true and set borders. Actual borders were to be determined through negotiations and actual peace treaties. Another piece to this dilemma is understanding the initial intent from the League of Nations statutes that the British establish a Jewish Homeland in all of what was called the British Mandate. So, the British Mandate was the intended borders for Israel. For some background on this, please refer to an earlier article The Myth of a Greater Israel. So, if the “Green Line” was never meant to be a final border, and considering that three quarters of the land supposedly to be dedicated to a Jewish State was instead given to form Jordan, what exactly should the current borders be for Israel?
Putting aside that Israel could claim not only the West Bank and Gaza, but also Jordan as rightful lands determined by the ratified treaty from the League of Nations, a treaty that supposedly is recognized by the United Nations, what about the West Bank and Gaza? Again, we need to consult the history of the Arab Israeli conflict. After the war of 1948 Israel held the lands by armistice that are defined by the Green Line while Jordan possessed the West Bank and Egypt the Gaza Strip. The armistice lines held as recognized borders for almost twenty years. There were no negotiations, therefore no peace treaties were established, thus making the Green Line/Armistice Borders the closest thing Israel had for actual and recognized borders.
From the establishment of these Armistice Borders until the Six Day War in 1967, there was no demand for Jordan or Egypt to turn control over the West Bank and Gaza for the formation of the Palestinian State. For all purposes, the residents of the West Bank were given Jordanian citizenship and the residents of Gaza were considered Egyptian citizens. Around 1964 came the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO Charter, also known as the PLO Covenant, stated in Article 19, “The Partition of Palestine, which took place in 1947, and the establishment of Israel, are fundamentally invalid, however long they last, for they contravene the will of the people of Palestine and their natural right to their homeland and contradict the principles of the United Nations Charter, foremost among which is the right of self-determination. (The actual PLO Covenant can be found here,) This call for the delegitimization of Israel came before Israel gained control of either the West Bank or Gaza. There was no cry from the PLO for Jordan and Egypt to surrender the West Bank or Gaza in order to form a Palestinian State. The cries for a Palestinian State only came after the Six Day War, which resulted in Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza.
Still, the new presumed borders for Israel included the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Gaza Strip from Egypt but were still were only new Armistice Lines. Israel remained a country with no defined borders leaving any claims to territory dependant upon peace treaties. Since the Arab Countries had declared that, there would be no negotiations with Israel and no recognition of Israeli existence, the prospect of actual borders seemed distant. After the Yom Kippur War, these same armistice lines were imposed and Israel retreated within these borders. By now, there was a full-blown PLO push to claim the West Bank, Gaza and all of Israel as the historical lands of the Palestinian peoples. This still did not change the PLO insistence on the total destruction of Israel. In time, the PLO demands came to be viewed by most, especially those in Europe and America, as claiming the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem rather than the more radical call for the destruction of Israel. This presumption is false as the PLO in all of its machinations still stands for the complete destruction of Israel.
When peace was finally made with Egypt, Israel offered to return to Egyptian control the entire Sinai Peninsula as well as the Gaza Strip. Egypt accepted the Sinai but refused to claim ownership of the Gaza Strip. The settled border between Israel and Egypt was recognized as leaving Gaza as land relegated to Israeli rule. Later, peace was made with Jordan. Israel offered to return the West Bank to Jordanian control but Jordan refused. This treaty established the border between Israel and Jordan as being the Jordan River. This left the West Bank as Israeli property. Coming under international pressure, Israel only annexed East Jerusalem leaving most of the West Bank and Gaza in territorial limbo. It was from this murky situation that the idea of a new state being formed out of the West Bank and Gaza for a Palestinian State.
My position is very simple. Boundaries after a war are determined by the terms of any accord or treaty. After numerous wars and flare-ups, Egypt and Jordan finally made a negotiated peace with Israel. The border for Israel agreed upon at these two negotiations and included in the treaty relinquished the West Bank and Gaza to Israeli control. By review of any peace treaty throughout history, Israel had established by treaty with Egypt and Jordan new boundaries that included both the West Bank and Gaza as Israeli land. By treaty, both the West Bank and Gaza are indeed occupied territories. The point everyone chooses to ignore is that the land belongs to Israel by ratified peace treaties and it is the Palestinians who are the occupiers. In former treaties through the ages, when land was ceded from the loser to the victor in order to end the conflict, the peoples of the ceded land usually were encouraged, forced even, to vacate their lands and reestablish themselves in their former country. Somehow, that did not occur after the peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. Instead, Egypt and Jordan not only denied to accept the refugees they had in their former territory, they went overboard and denied that these refugees had ever been citizens of their states. They basically handed over a ticking time bomb that has been exploding ever since.
My conclusion is that Israel would be within their rights to expel the former Jordanian citizens from the West Bank into Jordan and expel the Egyptian citizens from Gaza into Egypt. The other point of interest is that by treaty it is the Palestinians who are occupying Israeli land, not the other way around. It is well beyond the point that this problem be solved in the traditional manner. Just as numerous Muslim countries expelled their Jewish population sending them to Israel after confiscating every thing from them that had value, Israel would be within their rights to do the same. The main difference is the Israelis would more than likely make some payment of retribution for any losses of property or other items of value (such as a business or farmland or other non-transportable items). So, yes, the problem facing Israel can be resolved by ejecting those occupying land that is no longer theirs. It’s time for the Palestinians to return to Jordan, Syria, Egypt, or wherever else they may have originated. They have demonstrated how uncomfortable living is for them within Israel’s borders, but truth be told, the West Bank and Gaza belong Israel by the treaties with Egypt and Jordan. It’s as the old adage goes; “To the victor go the spoils.”
Beyond the Cusp