Concerning Israeli Borders and Terrorism

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Historical Background and Legal Issues


Israeli Borders and Terrorism

By Mark C. Anderson, Doctoral Student,

Political Science, University of Idaho


Dr. Jack E. Vincent, Political Science,

Borah Professor, University of Idaho

It has been argued:
In the same day the Lord made a covenant with A-bram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the Euphrates.” (Genesis15:18).
This Old Testament presumed promise, by the God, to Abraham relates to current political divisions in Israel today as well as having major ramifications for peace in the Middle East in general.
Religious parties, in the ruling Likud Coalition, have based important policies upon the above quotation. Likud was first established in 1973. Although it was originally a federation of political parties, its two main components became Herat and the Israeli Liberal Party. Likud come to power in 1977, after 29 years of Israeli Labor Party rule. In June 1982, following a “hard line”, the Likud-led government launched a vigorous military campaign in Lebanon. The purpose was to destroy the bases of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Since then policy has vacillated between “hard line” and more conciliatory positions. A hard line strategy in this regard has been to create settlements in the “Occupied Territories” that have been conquered by Israel. In this connection, Likud has favored some degree of Palestinian self-rule, but it has also rejected the creation of a Palestinian state totally in control of all of the West Bank. In this connection, Jordan annexed the West Bank, once part of the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, in 1950, by conquest. Control was transferred when Israel gained control of the West Bank during the Six-Day War of 1967. Complicating the legal issues of title, Jordan, in 1988, ceded to the PLO all Jordanian claims to the territory.

However, Israel continues to occupy the West Bank, which presently contains a large Palestinian majority and Israeli minority. However, Israel and the Palestinians reached a number of agreements between 1993 and 1998, and almost all Palestinian population centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were theoretically transferred to Palestinian National Authority (this amounts to about 27 percent of the land area of the West Bank). In this connection, Palestinians in the West Bank are not considered Israeli citizens, but do hold Jordanian citizenship, if they lived in the West Bank before the Palestinian National Authority came to power.
Finally, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and many of those in religious based parties continue to speak of a return to “Biblical Israel,” following the promises made in Genesis, given in the above quotation. However, if taken literally, it also follows that other sections of Jordan and Syria would be eventually become incorporated into Israel.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the historical roots of the Arab-Israeli disputes over territorial claims in the Middle East, with the main focus on Palestine. We will cover the legal issues, based on actions taken, and try to ascertain the legal basis for Israeli and Palestinian border and territorial claims in this regard. The analysis should also help shed light on “terrorist” claims regarding the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, as well as Israel. Terrorism will be defined as a violent act of a “non-nation group” against a nation and/or its citizens. In this connection, we will also attempt to determine if the violent act is nation-state hosted or sponsored and the legal issues involved.
Since the collapse of the USSR, the worldwide balance of power has swung dramatically in favor of Western, industrialized nations, especially the United States. Nonetheless, since 9/11 there is growing concern, by a number of scholars, that the costs of military actions against “terrorism” may not only strongly negatively impact the economy of the U.S., but, will possibly could unleash powerful destabilizing forces, particularly in the Middle East, that may also negatively impact the current United States’ world power position (that many view as being in the dominant power position.)

The national liberation language of both Soviet Union and China, composed to stimulate Third World revolutionary action, has passed into the dustbin of history. Ironically, the Russia has its own “terrorist” problems in Chechnya. The People’s Republic of China has grave worries about its non-Chinese populations in its Western province (Xinjiang) and is much more concerned about internal security than supporting any “terrorist groups” at this time.
Thus, the United Nations, and the Security Council may find some common ground, regarding the fight against “terrorism,” even though significant divisions still occur in this regard, especially regarding the definition of “terrorism” as it applies in the Middle East. These seem to include the US unilateral military preemptive actions toward Iraq as well as various forceful actions employed by groups that are opposed to Israeli’s occupation of the West Bank; such as by Hamas, as well as Israel’s numerous responses to such actions, including pre-emptive strikes.
From the Arab perspective, Muslims have been dominant in the area of “Palestine,” for the better part of 1,300 years. Within two centuries after its rise in the 7th century, Islam spread from Arabia, mainly by force, into Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Spain, Persia and India. Further expansion occurred in the centuries that followed into Eastern Europe (including Russia), sub-Saharan Africa, and, Asia, in counties such as Indonesia, India, Pakistan and China.
From the Jewish perspective, some claim Israel can trace its lineage back three thousand years. Before the Roman occupation, King David, it is argued, captured Jerusalem and extended the kingdom of Israel into Syria up to the Euphrates River.1 Thus, the Kingdom of Israel, whether whole or split, often contained areas such as the East Bank of the Jordan River, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. Smith (2002) argues:

“The area called Palestine by biblical scholars more or less coincides with the

territory controlled by Israel and Judah around 860 B.C. Its boundaries

extended westward from the base of the Golan Heights in present-day Syria

to the Mediterranean Sea; then southward to Gaza, where the coast bends west

to border the Sinai Peninsula; then directly south to the harbor at the northern

tip of the Gulf of Aqaba; then north to beyond the eastern edge of the Dead

Sea; and finally, northwest to touch Lake Tiberias at the foot of the Golan.

These borders were not static. Areas east of the Jordan River were often

under Jewish rule. For brief intervals the frontiers of Israel extended beyond

Damascus to the Euphrates River in northern Syria, and for longer periods,

included the Golan Heights.”2

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