LAND FOR WAR
By Dr. Efraim Karsh & Asaf Romirowsky
Passed in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War, Resolution 242 established the principle of "land for peace" as the cornerstone of future peace agreements between Israel and the Arabs, to be reached in negotiations between the two sides. Israel was asked to withdraw "from territories occupied in the recent conflict" — the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.
The absence of the definite article "the" before "territories" was no accident: Issued a mere six months after Israel's astounding triumph over the concerted Arab attempt to obliterate the Jewish state, the resolution reflected acceptance by the Security Council of the existential threat posed by the 1949 armistice line, memorably described by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban as "Auschwitz borders." The Security Council expected negotiations between Israel and the Arabs to produce a more defensible frontier for Israel, one consistent with, in the words of the Resolution's other key formulation, the right of every state in the region "to live in peace with secure and recognized boundaries."
In the 44 years that have followed, Israel has persistently striven to make peace with its Arab neighbors. It withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, constituting more than 90% of the territories occupied in 1967, as part of its 1979 peace agreement with Egypt. Repeated efforts to persuade Syrian President Hafez Assad to follow in Egypt's footsteps came to naught, however.
As for the Palestinians, their rejection of Resolution 242 was absolute. In 1967, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) rejected the U.N. proposal as a plot "concocted in the corridors of the United Nations to accord [with] the Zionist racist colonial illegal occupation in Palestine," acceptance of which constituted "a treasonable act not only against the Palestinian people but against the whole Arab nation." When the Carter administration informed Yasir Arafat of its readiness to inaugurate Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, should he accept Resolution 242, the PLO chairman categorically turned the offer down. "This is a lousy deal," he told an intermediary. "We want Palestine. We don't want bits of Palestine."
It was not until 1988, more than two decades after the Resolution's passage, that the Palestine National Congress grudgingly accepted Resolution 242. While this marked a major shift in PLO public diplomacy, Arafat remained committed to the PLO's phased strategy of June, 1974, which stipulated that any territory gained through diplomacy would merely be a springboard for the "complete liberation of Palestine." Shortly after the PLO accepted 242, Arafat's second in command, Salah Khalaf (better known by his nom de guerre of Abu Iyad), declared that "the establishment of a Palestinian state on any part of Palestine is but a step toward the whole of Palestine." Two years later, he reiterated this view at a public rally in Amman, pledging to liberate Palestine "inch by inch from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river."
Arafat remained committed to the PLO's phased strategy, even after signing the 1993 Oslo Accords. Five days before the signing, he told an Israeli journalist that one day there would be a "united state in which Israelis and Palestinians will live together" — that is, Israel would cease to exist. Even as he shook Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's hand on the White House lawn, Arafat was assuring the Palestinians in a pre-recorded Arabic-language message that the agreement was merely an implementation of the PLO's phased strategy.
The public diplomacy of Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, also ran contrary to the letter and spirit of 242. The Palestinians have consistently misrepresented the resolution as calling for Israel's complete withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines, while claiming that its stipulation for "a just settlement of the refugee problem" meant endorsement of the Palestinian "right of return" — the standard Arab euphemism for Israel's destruction through demographic subversion. They also sought to undermine the Resolution's insistence on the need for a negotiated settlement, seeking time and again to engineer an internationally imposed dictate despite their commitment to a negotiated settlement through the Oslo process.
When Israel offered, at the American-convened July, 2000, peace summit in Camp David, to cede virtually the entire territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the nascent Palestinian state and made concessions with respect to Jerusalem, Arafat responded with a campaign of terror unmatched in the history of the Jewish state. Seven-and-a-half years later, at yet another U.S.-sponsored summit, Mr. Abbas rejected Israel's offer of a Palestinian Arab state in 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and categorically dismissed the request to recognize Israel as a Jewish state alongside the would-be Palestinian state, insisting instead on full implementation of the "right of return."
Since the inauguration of the Obama administration, Mr. Abbas has dropped all remaining pretenses of seeking a negotiated settlement, striving instead to engineer international enforcement of a complete Israeli withdrawal without a peace agreement, or, indeed, any quid pro quo. Were the U.N. General Assembly to fall for the Palestinian ploy, it will not only reward decades of duplicity, intransigence, and violence -- and betray its own formula of "land for peace" -- but will be introducing a new and dangerous stage in the century-long feud between Arabs and Jews: that of "land for war."
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Dr. Efraim Karsh is Director of the Middle East Forum, Editor of the Middle East Quarterly, and Research Professor and Head of the Department of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College, University of London, U.K., and author most recently of the book, Islamic Imperialism: A History (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2007). A graduate in Arabic and Modern Middle East History from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and holding the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in International Relations from Tel Aviv University, Dr. Karsh has held academic posts at Harvard University, Columbia University, the Sorbonne, the London School of Economics, Helsinki University, the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies in Washington, D.C., and the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Founder and Editor of the scholarly journal Israel Affairs, Dr. Karsh has written extensively on Middle East politics, Soviet foreign policy, and European affairs. A regular media commentator, he has appeared on U.K. and U.S. television and radio and contributed articles to leading newspapers in Britain and the U.S.A., among them the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Telegraph, and The Times (of London).
Asaf Romirowsky is an analyst of Middle East affairs, an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, and an adjunct scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Former positions held by Romirowsky include Manager of Israel and Middle East Affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and Israel Defense Forces International Relations Liaison Officer in the West Bank section of Palestinian territory. Presently, he is serving in the IDF Reserves as a liaison officer to the Kingdom of Jordan.
Romirowsky earned a B.A. degree in Middle East Affairs and Contemporary Jewish History (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel); an M.A. degree in International Relations and Middle East Affairs (Villanova University, Radnor Township, Pennsylvania); and an M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies (West Chester University, West Chester, Pennsylvania). Currently, he is a doctoral student at Kings College, London University, London, U.K., where the focus of his study and research is on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
Romirowsky has written numerous articles and opeds that have appeared in magazines, national newspapers, and scholarly journals. He has traveled widely in the Middle East, visiting and observing life in such places as Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt, and Turkey.
The foregoing article by Dr. Efraim Karsh and Asaf Romirowsky was originally published in the Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2011, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (URL: http://www.meforum.org/3001/land-for-war)
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