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July 6, 2016 6:17 am

The Green Line Is Not Israel’s Border

avatar by Ari Palley

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Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, along the Green Line. Photo: WikiCommons.

Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, along the Green Line. Photo: WikiCommons.

All peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians must properly address where Israel’s Eastern border is. The border is the Jordan River, not the “Green Line.”

Under international law, a state has the rights to all the land within its borders. It is likely that Israel will withdraw from territory east of the “Green Line,” but the starting point of negotiations must be that Israel has the rights to the territory up to the Jordan River. Many fail to understand the nature of the line dividing the State of Israel and the West Bank. Even world leaders, such as President Obama, are susceptible to this fundamental misunderstanding.

The “Green Line,” or the “1967 border,” is mistakenly considered Israel’s Eastern border, but it is simply an armistice line. Under international law, armistice lines have no legal significance in constituting a border. To name the armistice line  “the 1967 border” is misleading and factually incorrect.

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After the cessation of hostilities of the 1948 War of Independence, Israel signed bilateral armistice agreements with the warring countries, including Jordan. The Jordanian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement created the demarcation line along Israel’s eastern front, the “Green Line.” The name “Green Line” stems from the fact that the Israeli general was using a green marker on the map to indicate where the respective armies had to withdraw.

Israel’s preexisting border, as defined by the Palestine Mandate (the League of Nations Resolution of 1922 that gave the Jews the rights to Palestine), left Israel with the Jordan River as its Eastern border. This border was not changed by the armistice agreements, and Israel’s border remained the same even though Israel temporarily lost control of its territory between 1949 and the 1967.

The Jordanian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement specifically stated that the purpose and intention of the Armistice Agreement was to “eliminate the threat to the peace in Palestine.” The Agreement reiterates its intention in at least four different instances: (1) “…no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce,” (2) “The basic purpose of the Armistice Demarcation Lines is to delineate the lines beyond which the armed forces of the respective Parties shall not move,” (3) “This article shall not be interpreted as prejudicing … an ultimate political settlement between the Parties to this Agreement,” and finally (4) “The Armistice Demarcation Lines [shall not] prejudice … future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

Despite Jordan’s conquest of the West Bank in the 1948 War, Jordan cannot be assumed to be the rightful heir to the territory simply because of its conquest.  To determine Israel’s borders, we must refer back to the Palestine Mandate.

Finally, once a peace treaty is signed, any existing armistice agreements cease to have any legal relevance. Therefore, after the ratification of the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1994, which specifies the border between Israel and Jordan as the Jordan River, the Jordanian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement became outdated and legally irrelevant. Israel’s Eastern border is the Jordan river, not the “Green Line.” In all peace negotiations, it is critical to be cognizant of this fact.

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  • Yaakov

    It doesn’t matter where negotiations begin; all that matters is where they end.

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