The Fallacy Of The Pre-1967 Borders

January 6, 2013  

Op-ed: Palestinian call for return to pre-1967 borders attempt to bypass historical realities, omit two decades of military defeats

Riccardo Dugulin

At the end of May 2011, President Obama stepped away from a long-standing US policy and recognized the necessity for Israel to accept pre-1967 borders as a condition for peace with the Palestinian Authority.

Centered on a quasi-dogmatic view of the region, the idea evokes a basic misconception that has been jeopardizing the already feeble chances for durable peace and security both for Israel and the Palestinians.

When addressing the issue of the territorial changes that followed the 1967 war, it has now become common knowledge for Western and Arab decision-making circles that the most moderate position available is the one offering a two-state solution broadly defined by the borders Israel had with Arab states prior to the Six Day War.

This theoretical situation offers a major insight into the fallacy crippling peace-oriented groups and pro-Palestinians activists. In reality, never as in the period between 1948 and 1967 were the Palestinians in Gaza, Judea and Samaria under a more overt and transparent military rule by foreign powers. Prior to 1967, Arab populations living in those areas did not see their aspirations of self-administration addressed and the notion of a separate state for the Palestinians was merely utilized to negate the existence of a Jewish State.

If the basic idea for Nasser or King Hussein of Jordan was to “drive the Jews to the sea,” their personal intentions were linked to the glory with which such an event would provide them. The ultimate defeat of pan-Arab nationalism left the Palestinians as shattered as their previous protectors since, deprived of the relative safety of Arab-controlled safe havens, they no longer had the impunity to prepare terrorist operations.

The logical question that arises from such considerations is why the notion of “1967 borders” has become so sacred in the political discourse of international organizations, pressure groups and militant groups?

Entry into adulthood
Beyond the simple control of land, the call for returning to the “1967 borders” may be read as an implicit way of negating reality by those who have not been favored by it.

While Arab states denounce the Israeli military presence in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, little is mentioned about their persistent military occupation of these territories for two decades. The underlying reason originates from the fact that Western commentators have bought into the ‘Arab solidarity’ argument, which in some twisted logic would consider the perpetrator of an injustice less of a criminal if both the criminal and the victim were Arabs in the process of fighting a non-Arab power.

The different calls from Arab states to go back to the 1967 demarcation lines highlight their relative willingness to at least recognize the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, yet depriving the region of the basic tool for attaining peace: The common assurance of security. In fact, “1967 borders” embody the collective Arab ethos of the period during which the sovereignty and security of the State of Israel could be put in danger. The years prior to 1967 represent an era during which Arab States, not the Palestinians, were at the heart of the war against Israel. As a result, the defeat also meant the beginning of a cycle in which states would solely be sponsors of terrorist organizations, thus no longer being in the spotlight.

For the Palestinians, the 1967 defeat meant what may be considered as an entry into adulthood. They lost the ability to use the territory they claim as “theirs” under the protection assured by the presence of powerful armies, thus also losing the opportunity to wage terrorist attacks. Consequently, calling for the return to these borders is an effective strategy the Palestinian leadership chooses to follow while trying to bypass historical realities and omit two decades of military defeats.

The real puzzle is then why international organizations, Western governments and pressure groups are so easily seduced by an idea that lacks any meaningful rationale. Similarly to 1948, in 1967 the borders between Arab states and Israel were not recognized as an official start for a two-state solution, as it was revealed in the notorious Khartoum resolution of 1967. The reality on the ground is that Palestinian factions do revert to previously rejected positions as soon as the situation is no longer in their relative favor.

The notion of “1967 borders” should be argued against, not only in the light of the arguments brought up by political parties and security experts but because it stems from a discourse clearly divergent from peace.

Enduring peace and stability can only be achieved by a clear recognition of the events that took place in the past and of the concrete situation unfolding at present, notably the Palestinians’ unwillingness to enter negotiations based on shared interests.

By supporting the concept of “1967 borders” the international community reverts back to a period in which Arab powers established military occupation in Gaza, Judea and Samaria while waging and supporting terror attacks on Israel, a fallacy drastically undermining peace-oriented efforts.

Riccardo Dugulin holds a Master degree from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po) and is specialized in International Security. He is currently working in Paris for a Medical and Security Assistance company. He has worked for a number of leading think tanks in Washington DC, Dubai and Beirut. Personal website:

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