The Myth of Israel’s Stolen Land – A Chronology of Failed Peace Initiatives

Editor’s note: This article provides a detailed chronology to help you understand this complex issue in full. For more focused articles, read Self-Inflicted Statelessness: The Palestinian Story and The Annexation of the West Bank by Jordan.

Has Israel stolen land?

The very short answer is NO.

No, because all the land Israel has acquired since its founding has been either won in war; legally purchased by Jews in the last 100 years with assistance from the Jewish National Fund; or has always belonged to the Jews. Historically, war is how all countries gain land, the victor gains extra territory, for example:

  • The annexation of Texas by the US, although voluntary, triggered the Mexican-American War (1846), which Mexico lost.  US gained what has now become, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico and part of Colorado.  However, this was prior to the United Nations, and the US got to keep their new territories. Imagine if Mexico demanded the return of Texas and all the oil billions?
  • After the Potsdam conference in 1945, Germany lost territory east of the Oder and Neisse rivers, which fell under Polish control. About 15 million ethnic Germans living in this territory were forced to leave. Germany’s eastern border was shifted west to reduce its size and included the expulsion of German populations living outside this new border in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary.
  • In 1950 China stole the whole country of Tibet, and no one cared. No protest marches around the world.  The Chinese Government call it The Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. This resulted in over 1.2 million Tibetan deaths (one in every six) and the Dalai Lama fleeing to India. The Central Tibetan Administration calls it The Chinese Invasion of Tibet.  Nine years later the UN General Assembly condemned the invasion.  No comment, ever, from the UN Security Council which is meant to maintain international peace and security, although China is a one of the five permanent members, so perhaps it is unsurprising.

The Israeli/Palestinian disputes are not about land, nor were they ever: the Muslim Arabs don’t want Israel to exist.  The land dispute is the Excuse and not the Reason. It is all misdirection; pay attention to the wrong thing, so you will not notice something else.

1947-1948

In accordance with the United Nations Partition Plan (1947), both the Arabs and the Jews were offered some land, and the possibility of having their own state. The Arab League was opposed to any partition whatsoever, wanting to keep all the land for themselves, and especially opposed to the establishment of Israel. Israel accepted the UN offer, and the Arabs (who have since 1964 re-branded and re-marketed themselves as Palestinian) declined, deciding instead to persuade their co-religionists (Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Transjordan, Syria and Yemen) to join them in attacking Israel, whose sovereignty they refused to acknowledge. 

From the very first day they tried to eradicate Israel.

Israel became an independent state on 14 May 1948 and the very next day, on 15 May 1948, Israel was attacked, by 8 different armies.  Had they won there would not be the current situation of stateless Palestinians.  It is more likely that Jordan would have annexed most of the region, rather than setting up another Arab country.  But they lost, losing in battle, even the territory offered to them by the UN, which they had previously declined.  Tragically, the Palestinians themselves are the authors of their own loss, their self-assured hubris, leading to nemesis, which ultimately resulted in self-inflicted retributive justice.  This loss is known in Arabic as al-Nakba (The Catastrophe), although more accurately it should be called The Debacle.

As a result of this war, Israel kept the original territory offered to them by the UN Partition plan, plus gained 60% of the territory allotted to the Arabs, (let me repeat: which they had rejected), Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip and Jordan annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

To clarify, in 1947 most of the land set aside by the UN Partition Plan for an Arab State in the West Bank and East Jerusalem became occupied territory, but occupied by Jordan, not by Israel. 

That seems simple enough.

1967-1968

In the War of 1967 between Israel and The United Arab Republic (which subsequently split into Egypt and part of Syria), Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, who again attempted to destroy the Jewish state, Israel was again victorious and this time captured the Golan Heights from Syria, The West Bank including East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.  By the end of the war Israel had gained territories four times its original size. But unlike China, Israel was not permitted to keep it all.

In accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1968) and the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel (1979) the Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt in 1982. This resolution calls for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories in the 1967 conflict without specifying the extent of the withdrawal. The resolution therefore neither commands nor prohibits total withdrawal.  Resolution 262 also calls upon Arab states to accept that Israel has a right “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.”

UNSC Resolution 242 was ultimately rejected by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat because it implied Arab recognition of Israel’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence, something the PLO could not do.  Perhaps if Mr. Arafat had signed this document, he might have been assassinated by his cohorts like Anwar Sadat, for deigning to acknowledge Israel’s existence. This rejection of UNSCR242 aided the later claim of “stolen” land.

The Israeli Government was undecided regarding these new territories. Part of the Israeli Parliament proposed returning the West Bank to Jordan and The Gaza Strip to Egypt, in exchange for peace with both nations. Another proposal was to give the land to the regions’ Arabs who had now begun referring to themselves as Palestinians (The Roman name for the land of Judea) hoping that these stateless Arabs would finally build their own state.

Neither of these proposals came to fruition, because in 1967, the Arab League held a summit in Khartoum, Sudan and issued their Three No’s: 

  • NO peace with Israel
  • NO recognition of Israel
  • NO negotiation with Israel

How exactly does one return territory to a non-sovereign entity that does not want peace, that will not acknowledge one’s existence let alone recognize one’s own sovereignty, and will not negotiate with one?

The 1968 PLO Charter

The following year the PLO went even further and revised their charter. Their 1968 charter states: 

Article 9: Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it. They also assert their right to normal life in Palestine and to exercise their right to self-determination and sovereignty over it.

Article 19: The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel is entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations; particularly the right to self-determination. 

Article 20: The Balfour declaration, the Mandate of Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed to be Null and Void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.

Article 21: The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine and reject all proposals aiming at the liquidation of the Palestinian problem, or its internationalization.

Article 22: Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-a-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world.  Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.

(It’s not about the land, Israel cannot exist.) 

Article 23: The demand of security and peace, as well as the demand of right and justice, require all states to consider Zionism an illegitimate movement, to outlaw its existence, and to ban its operations, in order that friendly relations among peoples may be preserved, and the loyalty of citizens to their respective homelands safeguarded.

The 1968 Charter also removed from the original 1964 Charter, Clause 24 which began, “This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area. Its activities will be on the national popular level in the liberational, organizational, political and financial fields.”  Thus, the Charter in its original 1964 form made no territorial claims over the West Bank and Gaza. Deleting this clause made it easier to retroactively claim occupation and theft.

As the facts of history demonstrate, Israel has not stolen land, it won land in war, returned some, and then was unable, and possibly also unwilling, to fully withdraw, without receiving acknowledgment from the Arabs. 

1988-1996

In 1988 Yasser Arafat finally acknowledged Israel’s right to exist, or at least he claimed to. He also renounced terrorism. Israel dismissed these claims as deceptive propaganda exercises because the PLO Covenant had not been changed. In addition, the First Intifada (“shaking off” in Arabic) which started in 1987, continued until September 1993.

Subsequently to his renunciations, Mr. Arafat attended negotiations at the 1991 Madrid Conference and the 1993 Oslo Accords. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin insisted on changes to the Charter as part of the Oslo Accords. Mr. Arafat agreed to this and exchanged letters of intent with President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair, indicating that the Charter was to be amended and even specifying the articles that needed removal. Three years later, in 1996 the Palestinian National Council met in Gaza and did not revoke or change the covenant. Rather, it issued a statement saying that it had become aged, and that an undefined part of it would be rewritten at an undetermined date in the future.

2000

In 2000 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met with U.S.A. President Bill Clinton, and Yasser Arafat, PLO Chairman and President of Palestinian Authority, in an attempt to conclude a new 2 state plan.  He offered all of Gaza, and 94% of the West Bank with East Jerusalem as the capital. Mr. Arafat declined, claiming the offer was humiliating. (Mr. Arafat, an Egyptian by birth, is the co-founder of Fatah, a paramilitary organization, which sought Israel’s replacement with a Palestinian state. Fatah operated within several Arab countries, from which it launched attacks on Israeli targets for many years. A Second Intifada of suicide terrorism was launched in 2000.)

2005

In 2005, Israel disengaged entirely from Gaza giving the Palestinians complete control. In 2006, the elections of the legislative body of the Palestinian Authority were held. In Gaza, Hamas, a terrorist organization, dedicated to the obliteration of Israel, was voted into power. Gaza has never had another election. Hamas members immediately killed many Palestinian Authority members in a spate of brutal extrajudicial killings. Gaza was converted into a terrorist base instead of being developed into a sustainable society for the good of the people. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank was controlled by Fatah.

2008-Present

In 2008 Israeli PM Ehud Barak met with US President Barak Obama and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (which replaced the PLO) and offered all of Gaza, and 94 percent of the West Bank with East Jerusalem as the capital, and extra land. This offer included near-total withdrawal from the West Bank and relinquishing Israeli control of Jerusalem’s Old City. Mr. Abbas declined. (Mr. Abbas is known as a staunch Holocaust denier and the financier of the militant group Black September, who in the 1972 terrorist attack at the Munich, killed 11 Israeli athletes and a German policeman.) 

As late as the year 2000, there were still UN member states that refused to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate state created by the UN, (ironically, some who were created around the same time in the same manner). The countries who do not acknowledge Israel are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Comoros, Djibouti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysian, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, and Yemen. 

The articles of the 1968 Charter identified by Arafat as nullified, some of which are enumerated above, were meant to be deleted from the PLO Charter. Yasser Arafat died in 2004, and in 2009 Fatah officials confirmed that the charter would remain unchanged.

Summary

Perhaps the solution for a peaceful resolution is not to get Israel to make another offer, but to get the Arabs to accept the existence of a Jewish state, and hopefully once they desire their own state more than they desire the destruction of Israel, we might finally have peace in the region.

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