Attention, Western media: there were NO 1967 'borders'

In their July 20 Washington Post article about an apparent deal to get Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, correspondents Anne Gearan and William Booth write the following:

Palestinian leaders have balked at returning to the bargaining table without a promise that negotiations over a future Palestinian state would be based in principle on the pre-1967 borders.

One problem with this sentence, but it's a huge one: there never were any pre-1967 "borders" between Israel and its neighbors -- only a 1949 armistice line that Arab leaders twice sought to erase when they waged existential wars to annihilate Israel in 1967 and again in 1973.  The Arab aggressors obviously didn't succeed.  Israel's victories resulted in the capture of Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem.

Now, the Palestinians essentially want a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem so as to convert the 1949 armistice line into the western border of a Palestinian state. 

But any way you want to slice it, a "border" still awaits a formal peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.  In the meantime, there is only a 1949 armistice line.

As to whether there is any validity to returning to the pre-1967 line, as the Post erroneously suggests, the international community in the form of the U.N. Security Council has ruled exactly in the negative.

After the 1967 war, the Security Council debated whether to demand a complete Israeli pullback to the 1949 line, as demanded by the Soviet Union and Arab countries.  Their position, however, went nowhere.  The Council, both after the 1967 war and again after the 1973 war, adopted resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from some, but not all, territories captured in these two wars.  The Council thus made it crystal-clear that the 1949 armistice line need never become a permanent "border."  A "border" between Israel and a Palestinian state remains to be determined as part of a future peace agreement.  We ain't there yet.  The Post shouldn't jump the gun.

When the Post insists on still using "border" as synonymous with "armistice line," it makes mincemeat of both history and international legality.

Golda Meir said it best in her autobiography: "When Arab statesmen insist that Israel withdraw to the pre-June, 1967, lines, one can only ask:  If these lines are so sacred to the Arabs, why was the Six-Day War launched to destroy them[?]"

Where Meir mentions Arab statesmen, substitute today the Washington Post.  Her question remains pertinent and valid today.  The Post should own up to its mistake.  There never was and still is no "border" there.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.

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