The Beginnings of the Territorial Conflict

An overview of Israel's relationship to the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights, 1948-67.

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No specific offers were made regarding the West Bank/Judea‑Samaria or the Gaza Strip, but Israeli leaders did state publicly that new frontiers would be the product of direct negotiations with the Arab countries concerned.

The Response

The Arab response was formulated at the Arab League summit held in Khartoum, Sudan on September 1, 1967: "...the Arab Heads of State agreed on unifying their efforts in Joint political and diplomatic action at the international level to ensure the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied Arab territory. This is within the framework of the basic Arab commitment, which entails no recognition of Israel, no conciliation or negotiation with her, and the upholding of the rights of the Palestinian people to their land."

On November 22, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 242 as a compromise between American‑backed Israeli demands for mutual recognition and direct negotiations leading to border agreements, and the Soviet‑Arab insistence on unconditional Israeli withdrawal as a precondition for any negotiations. The resolution called for "withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" and "acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries." [In the resolution, omission of the definite article "the" before "territories" is understood to mean that in the final settlement Israel will not be expected to withdraw totally to the 1967 border, but that border adjustments will be negotiated.]

A Special Representative was to proceed to the Middle East "to establish and maintain contacts with the states concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement." The Arab refusal to negotiate with Israel directly, and Israel's unwillingness to give up its major bargaining card before coming to peace agreements with the Arabs, led to an impasse, and to continued Israeli control of the territories.

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Jonathan Kaplan is administrative director at the Rothberg International School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.