America Turns Its Back On '242'
By Shmuel Katz - Aug. 21, 2003
Does the administration really want Israel to return to the 1949 armistice lines? If not, why the threats?
Early in August 1939 - just a month before Hitler invaded Poland - British prime minister Neville Chamberlain was still hoping that the Polish government could be persuaded to make concessions to Hitler and thus "avert" war. Chamberlain realized that the Poles, remembering only too well how he had sold out the Czechs, would not listen to him, so he asked US president Franklin Roosevelt to pressure the Poles; but Roosevelt politely declined.
Winston Churchill, as a member of parliament, approached foreign secretary Lord Halifax and told him that "he had no wish to be more Polish than the Poles, but he was anxious that the government should not put pressure on the Polish government to take action which in their view would be destructive of their state."
President George W. Bush evidently does not have such wise counselors.
It is bad enough that the Bush administration joined some of Israel's worst ill-wishers - not to mention outright enemies - and behind our back dictated a road map mortally affecting our future. But now the US is trying to dictate to Israel what amounts to a weakening of our defense mechanism against Arab terror.
Secretary of State Colin Powell threatened that loan guarantees recently accorded Israel would be cut if the government did not amend its plan for a security fence designed by experts to block Arab terror - and to adjust the line to Bush's dream for the Arab state.
What the administration wants is that Israel should return to the 1949 Armistice lines, as demanded by the Arabs, or even to the original 1947 partition plan, and to put up a Palestinian state on the other side of these lines.
Bush seems to want to forget that the very idea of a security fence arose as a result of the latest Arab terror campaign against our civilian population. In that campaign they killed 800 - adults, youths and infants in arms. In the US that would mean, proportionate to population, 40,000 dead, more than 10 times the number murdered on 9/11 in New York.
THAT CAMPAIGN moreover brought down on Israel an unprecedentedly serious economic crisis, and severe economic constraints. Hence Israel's request for American aid - hence America's loan guarantees.
But nobody would have believed that the US government would want to use the loan guarantees as a means of pressure to get Israel to take action which would weaken its defenses against Arab terror.
The threat pronounced by Powell, however, carries a deeper connotation. Those lines of 1949 are seen by the Arabs as marking the phase leading to Israel's annihilation.
This is no secret. It has been drummed into us for decades through every Arab channel of public information and clerical admonition.
It has served as the motto for the Arab wars on us. Let me bring here the words written in 1964 - three years before the Arab aggression of 1967 - by the world's foremost Islamic scholar, Professor Bernard Lewis:
"The official Arab demand," (he wrote in his The Middle East and the West) "is no longer for the immediate destruction of Israel but for its reduction to the frontier laid down in the 1947 partition proposal, obviously as a first step towards its ultimate disappearance. Since Israel, clearly, would not submit voluntarily to such a truncation, and since the Arab states alone are unable to enforce it, this amounts in effect to a demand for an imposed settlement by the great powers."
Bernard Lewis only did not foresee that the imposed settlement contemplated by the US, with Britain, Saudi Arabia, et al, would be called a road map.
This is not all. The administration thus comes into stark conflict with the one legally binding resolution on the dispute by the UN Security Council, Resolution 242 of November 1967. That resolution, the outcome of a lengthy debate in the council, specifically rules out an Israeli withdrawal to the armistice lines of 1949. The resolution required Israel's "withdrawal from territories captured" in the Six Day War to "secure and recognized borders."
It rejected a pro-Arab French proposal for an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories captured in that war.
Resolution 242 was far from providing Israel's security needs, let alone assuring Jewish historical rights as projected in the League of Nations Mandate of 1922. Indeed, an official survey commissioned by president Lyndon Johnson and carried out at that very time by the Chiefs of Staff Committee headed by General Earle G. Wheeler, found that Israel's "minimum security" required it to hold on to practically the whole of the lands retrieved in the Six Day War, in Palestine (Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip) as well as the Golan Heights and a small corner of Sinai.
Significantly, that report was kept secret and was at once suppressed by Washington (no doubt because of cross-currents between the Pentagon and the State Department). It saw the light of day only 11 years later.
Meantime Israel, the victim of repeated aggression by the Arab states, did not at once accept the concept of withdrawal contained in Resolution 242. Only after a protracted debate in the Israeli cabinet, and because that resolution did at least make it clear that there would be no return to the 1949 lines, did Israel accept the resolution in May 1968.
It was, let it be recalled, the American and British delegates on the Security Council who fought hard in the council for what became the official text of Resolution 242.
Now the US disavows that UN Resolution, embraces the counter-resolution (threatening the existence of Israel) - and, through its secretary of state, threatens Israel with sanctions for not conforming.
The writer, a co-founder with Menachem Begin of the Herut Party and member of the first Knesset, is a biographer and essayist.
©2003 Jerusalem Post
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