Daily Israel Report

Whose Yesha?

The U.S. State Department does not recognize that the Six Day War ever occurred - or at least so it seems from a map of Israel on its website.
First Publish: 7/4/2003, 4:30 PM

The Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs section features a map that looks like it was printed between 1948 and 1967. Gaza is the same color as Egypt, and the area it refers to as the "West Bank" is the same color as Jordan. As opposed to the Golan Heights, clearly noted as "Israeli-occupied" (the area was annexed by Israel in the 1980's), Judea, Samaria and Gaza are clearly indicated as being distinct from Israel. Subtext on the bottom indicates that these areas are "Israeli-occupied," implying that they were officially part of another recognized sovereign country.

In fact, however, Judea and Samaria are unallocated portions of the Mandate for Palestine, and though occupied by Jordan until 1967, were recognized as such by only two countries in the world - Pakistan and Great Britain. The State Department map implies that Israel has no legal claims on these areas. However, over ten years ago, Eugene W. Rostow, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and former Dean of the Yale Law School, wrote in The New Republic that this is not true. Excerpts from Rostow's work:

It is common even for American journalists to write that [United Nations] Resolution 242 is "deliberately ambiguous," as if the parties are equally free to rely on their own reading of its key provisions.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Resolution 242, which as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs between 1966 and 1969, I helped produce, calls on the parties to make peace and allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until "a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" is achieved. When such a peace is made, Israel is required to withdraw its armed forces "from territories" it occupied during the Six-Day War - not from "the" territories, nor from "all" the territories, but some of the territories...
Five-and-a-half months of vehement public diplomacy made it perfectly clear what the missing definite article in Resolution 242 means. Ingeniously drafted resolutions calling for withdrawals from "all" the territories were defeated in the Security Council and the General Assembly. Speaker after speaker made it explicit that Israel was not to be forced back to the "fragile" and "vulnerable" Armistice Demarcation Lines, but should retire once peace was made to what Resolution 242 called "secure and recognized" boundaries agreed to by the parties. In negotiating such agreement, the parties should take into account, among other factors, security considerations, access to the international waterways of the region, and, of course, their respective legal claims.
...The heated question of Israel settlements in the West Bank during the occupation period should be viewed in this perspective. The British Mandate recognized the right of the Jewish People to "close settlement" in the whole of the Mandated territory. It was provided that local conditions might require Great Britain to "postpone" or "withhold" Jewish settlement in what is now Jordan. This was done in 1922. But the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine, west of the Jordan River, that is in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated, and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors. And perhaps not even then, in view of Article 80 of the UN Charter, "the Palestine Article," which provides that nothing in the Charter shall be construed… to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments…"
...Some governments have taken the view that under the Geneva Convention of 1949, which deals with the rights of civilians under military occupation, Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal, on the ground that the Convention prohibits an occupying power from flooding the occupied territory with its own citizens. President Carter supported this view, but President Reagan reversed him, specifically saying that the settlements are legal but that further settlements should be deferred since they pose an obstacle to the peace process.... [Reagan] said, "I have personally followed and supported Israel's heroic struggle for survival since the founding of the state of Israel thirty-four years ago: in the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely 10 miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel's population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again."
Yet some Bush [Sr.] administration statements and actions on the Arab-Israeli question... betray[ed] a strong impulse to escape from the Resolutions as they were negotiated, debated, and adopted, and award to the Arabs all the territories between the 1967 lines and the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem. The Bush [Sr.] administration seem[ed] to consider the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to be "foreign" territory to which Israel has no claim. Yet the Jews have the same right to settle there as they have to settle in Haifa. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip were never parts of Jordan, and Jordan's attempt to annex the West Bank was not generally recognized and has now been abandoned. The two parcels of land are parts of the Mandate that have not yet been allocated to Jordan, to Israel, or to any other state, and are a legitimate subject for discussion…