The 1967 Lines Are ‘Auschwitz Borders’
Once again, the United States is applying significant pressure on Israel to advance the Middle East peace process. Not satisfied with Israel’s freeing of more than 100 Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands, Israel is called upon, once again, to accept the 1967 armistice lines, better known to informed Mideast observers as the “Auschwitz Lines,” as the basis for a starting point to the peace talks.
To invoke the words of Abba Eban, one of Israel’s leading doves, who as foreign minister said the following at the United Nations just two years after the Six Day War:
We have openly said that the map will never again be the same as on June 4, 1967. For us, this is a matter of security and of principles. The June map is for us equivalent to insecurity and danger. I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz. We shudder when we think of what would have awaited us in the circumstances of June, 1967, if we had been defeated; with Syrians on the mountain and we in the valley, with the Jordanian army in sight of the sea, with the Egyptians who hold our throat in their hands in Gaza. This is a situation which will never be repeated in history.
Eban, perhaps one of Israel’s most articulate and astute politicians, adroitly described the fragility of Israel’s 1949-1967 map as the “Auschwitz” lines. Not a fan of Eban? Just one month before his assassination, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a Labour leader, said, “The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”
To the naysayers, yes, land swaps are on the agenda. Even so, in any formulation of a successful outcome to the negotiating process, defensible borders for Israel are essential to maintaining a lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. As Israel found out immediately after it unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in 2005, uprooting 8,500 settlers and its combined armed forces only to have the Strip turned into a forward launching pad for over 12,000 rockets fired at Israeli cities like Sderot and Ashkelon.
The need for Israel to have secure and defensible borders (as backed by previous American administrations and which has bipartisan support) is vital as it’s situated in a dangerous neighbourhood bordered by terrorists who seek to wipe it from the map. When world leaders cavalierly advocate that Israel return to the indefensible nine-mile wide 1967 lines, they fail to realize that due to the topography of the region, Palestinian terrorists would be given a significant hilltop advantage by placing major Israeli cities (along with Ben Gurion Airport) in the crosshairs of their dangerous weaponry. The resultant effect would see heavily populated Israeli communities within rocket range, sirens going off on a daily basis blaring “tzeva adom,” and Israel’s tourism industry and economy would grind to a standstill, paralyzed by the unrelenting terror. At the same time and in one fell swoop, Israel would lose its air superiority.
Security, as evinced by defensible borders, is vital to procuring an enduring peace that we all should yearn for. Importantly, even if a future Palestinian state is demilitarized, there will always be a threat from other Arab states who could attempt to cross the Jordan River and attack Israel. The notion of a frontier territory being a deterrent to a foreign attack is the consensus approval of most sanguine Israeli analysts. Former Israeli military commander Yigal Allon proposed that the Jordan Valley and Judean Desert west of the Dead Sea would go to Israel, while the rest of the more heavily populated West Bank would be given to the Jordanians who had occupied it previously. According to Dore Gold of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs (JCPA), Allon proposed that “Another purpose of the ‘topographical barrier’ was to safeguard the demilitarization that he recommended. Israel was to retain 700 square miles of mostly arid and unpopulated territory out of the 2,100 square miles that made up the West Bank, or roughly one-third of this disputed territory.” Gold further observed that “the Allon Plan continued to serve as a model for other Israeli prime ministers, as well. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the term ‘Allon Plus’ in 1997 to describe his vision of a permanent-status map. In that sense, an updated Allon Plan became the basis of an Israeli national consensus regarding the territorial contours of a permanent status solution.”
Indeed, UN Security Council Resolution 242 authorizes Israel to remain in possession of all the land until it has “secure and recognized boundaries.” Or, in laymen’s terms, if giving land away is a threat to your existence, you shouldn’t give it up. Curiously, were Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines reducing Israel to a nine mile wide diameter (with no buffer) this would not elicit international opprobrium, instead, an international consensus is galvanized.
Israel cannot survive and defend its territory unless it controls the Jordan Valley, a matter surely to be raised by Israeli officials in discussions with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Jerusalem. Though the root of this conflict isn’t territorial, it’s existential in nature due to the Palestinians’ continued rejectionist dictum of adopting the notorious Khartoum Resolution of 1967: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel and no recognition of Israel; that does not negate the need for Israel to have iron-clad security guarantees and incomparable defensive postures.
In recent months, we witnessed the instability that wreaked havoc in Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. We know all too well that our “friends” one week can be replaced by our enemies the next. As Benjamin Netanyahu said in his speech to the United States Congress in 2011, “For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow.”
As is axiomatic of Israel’s military doctrine, Israel must be the final arbiter of its own destiny. Not only can Israel’s national security not be outsourced, but it must be its own guarantor of its own security. That is why Israel cannot acquiesce to the reckless abandon of adopting the vulnerable pre-war armistice/Auschwitz lines.
At this important juncture in time, we must be reminded of the words of Golda Meir, a trade unionist and a Labour Prime Minister who said, “We have been forced to choose between what is dangerousand what is less dangerous for us. At times we have all been tempted to give in to various pressures and to accept proposals that might guarantee us a little quite for a few months, or maybe even a few years, but that would only leave us eventually in greater peril… If Israel is not strong there will be no peace.”
Bibi: You once observed that “… in the Middle East, the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend.”
It’s time that you take your own advice by not succumbing to the pressure being exerted on you to accept the Auschwitz lines. In so doing, you will actually promote peace and not imperil it.