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Israeli Borders

No international question has been so much discussed and so little solved as the matter of Israel's borders. The State of Israel has never officially declared its establishment according to set borders. One of the basic responsibilities of a nationis its ability to defend and secure its borders. Border Security is an issue more complex than simply fencing.

In spite of the fact that international boundaries are a very important tool, maybe the most essential one for the stabilization of the relations between nations, an up-to-date, internationally agreed model of boundary making does not exist. Delimitation represents the preparatory work and the definition of the boundary in the treaty either by words or on maps, while demarcation represents the laying down of the boundary on ground after the treaty has been signed.

The border between Eretz Israel and Egypt was determined in 1906. The British then imposed the border marking on the Turks, after which it was meticulously demarcated by British and Turkish military delegations. This is the line running from Rafiah in the north to Taba in the south. But the border was shifted northward seven years later. When the British again marked the border in 1913, they arbitrarily made border alterations that benefited Egypt which was then in British hands at the expense of Turkish Palestine. The Turks paid no attention to the border in that area, and the British did as they pleased. Israel's borders at first were demarcated by the armistice lines established at the end of Israel's war of independence. These lines left Israel a mere 9 miles wide at its most populous area. Israelis faced mountains to the east and the sea to their backs and, in West Jerusalem, were virtually surrounded by hostile forces. The Green Line was actually the ceasefire line established between the Israeli army and the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The line was drawn in 1949 following the War of Independence and it held until the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967. . It got its name from being drawn with a green pencil on the map used in the negotiations.

The process of Palestinian "infiltration" began in the period immediately following the conclusion of the Armistice Agreements. It was at first a sporadic trickle of illegal crossings actuated in part by motives of family reunion. Efforts made by Israel to regulate this movement by agreement with the Arab states failed owing to the Arab refusal to legalise any transit of persons between their respective territories and Israel. As a result, these illegal crossings became a regular practice, which after a time degenerated into wholesale infiltration accompanied by theft and smuggling.

The Government of Israel first took no steps to suppress this movement, regarding it as a temporary phase. It also put into operation an official scheme of its own for the reunion of Arab families separated by the war, and as a result several thousand Arabs have rejoined their kinsfolk in Israel. Contrary to expectations, however, the movement showed no sign of abating. Thefts, robbery, hold-ups and eventually murder and sabotage became of frequent occurrence. As the border region became more tense with constant violence, the Israeli villagers in the area were authorised to organise their own defence against invaders.

It was asserted that this infiltration was conducted primarily by refugees. The nightly incursions into Israel territory, which in most cases showed careful planning, were not the work of destitute refugees but of highly trained gunmen acting on paramilitary lines. They openly sold their booty in the markets of the Arab border towns, not infrequently sharing their gains with the appointed organs of security. In a number of cases, where the Israel authorities supplied to the Arab Governments data on the identity and the crimes of the infiltrators, these were not brought to trial, and only rarely have the stolen goods been returned.

There can be little doubt that much of this guerrilla war is of a military character. The targets chosen, the form of attack, the types of arms used and the methods employed indicate that many of these raids are planned on military lines. The setting of mines, the ambushing of watchmen and firing at guards are clearly not the work of hapless refugees. In more than one case the raids were well synchronised and carefully planned military operations executed with a high degree of precision. This campaign affords first class opportunities for instructing men in guerrilla tactics, gathering military information and making the raiders familiar with the territory in which the "second round" may one day be fought.

The dimensions which the guerrilla war against Israel hads assumed may be gathered from the following data. From 1949 to the middle of 1954 there have been an average of 1,000 cases of infiltration per month along the several frontiers, the majority of them on the Israel-Jordan border.

In 1967 the Six-Day War furnished Israel with the territory and permanence necessary for achieving peace with Egypt and Jordan. In six days, Israel repelled these incursions and established secure boundaries. It drove the Egyptians from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrians, who had also opened fire, from the Golan Heights. Most significantly, Israel replaced the indefensible armistice lines by reuniting Jerusalem and capturing the West Bank from Jordan. It transformed Jerusalem from a divided backwater into a thriving capital, free for the first time to adherents of all faiths.

Resolution 242 is a resolution based on a British-American initiative following the Six Day War. Its clauses called, among other things, for “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied” during the Six Day War. The resolution specifies withdrawal from territories without defining border lines on June 4, 1967. The UN Security Council decided that since there was no reference in the resolution itself to a full withdrawal, any future peace agreement would require that Israel withdraw from “territories” and not “all the territories” conquered during the war. Therefore, the State of Israel deemed it quite proper to conduct negotiations that suit a new reality of safe, recognized borders that are not where they used to be.

As early as the summer of 1967, Israel proposed autonomy for the Palestinians in the West Bank and later, in 2000 and 2008, full statehood. Unfortunately, Palestinian leaders rejected these offers. In 2005, Israel uprooted all 8,000 of its citizens living in Gaza, giving the Palestinians the opportunity for self-determination. Israel wants defensible borders to ensure that Israel will never again pose an attractive target for attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said on 22 march 2010 that "... our main security problem with Lebanon is... not Israel’s border with Lebanon – it’s Lebanon’s forced border with Syria through which Iran and Syria smuggle thousands and thousands of rockets and missiles to Hezbollah. And our main security problem with Gaza is not Israel’s border with Gaza – it’s Gaza’s border with Egypt under which there’s about a thousand tunnels dug through which Hamas smuggles weapons to fire at us. My friends, experience has shown that only an Israeli presence on the ground can prevent or limit weapons smuggling. And this is why a peace agreement with the Palestinians must include an Israeli presence in the eastern border of a future Palestinian state."

The West Bank fence was built in such a way that, if necessary, the relevant parts can be moved to different locations. When Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, in fulfillment of UN Security Council Resolution 425, the UN delineated the border between Israel and Lebanon. Israel moved its anti-terrorist fence, sometimes only a meter or less, to comply with the new border. Similarly, Israel's experience with Egypt and Jordan has shown that fences have never blocked political agreements and peace treaties; where necessary, the fences were moved.

Now Israel faces a new type of border infiltrator. When there are serious crises in a particular country, inhabitants of that country who flee and are afraid to return may apply for protection in other countries, in the spirit of the UN Refugee Convention. The UN High Commission for Refugees in Geneva periodically appeals to the signatory countries to give protection to such refugees. Many countries respond to the request by providing temporary protection to such refugees for humanitarian reasons. The Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) reported in December 2011 there were a grand total of 51,125 “infiltrators” in Israel as of November 25, 2011. Of these, 28,205 are from Eritrea, 13,066 from Sudan and 9,855 from elsewhere in Africa. According to PIBA, 2,931 migrants illegally entered Israel in the final month of 2011, part of a total of 16,816 who entered Israel over the course of the year.

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Page last modified: 27-03-2015 19:56:59 ZULU