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Debate: Return of Israel to pre-1967 borders

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Should Israel return to its pre-1967 border?

Background and context

In 1967, Israel and multiple Middle Eastern states were engaged in a bloody war. Israel effectively won the conflict, claiming multiple swath of territory including
the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank. Now, the Palestinians and other surrounding Arab states are calling for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders as part of a larger peace settlement. Is this justified? Would Israel be wise to accept? The issue has become increasingly significant in recent years because a number of countries around the world have unilaterally recognized a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders. Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Ecuador are among them, and other countries around the world are expected to follow, helping press the issue and the debate forward. The United States has consistently condemned such diplomatic recognition, and has remained hostile or cool to the idea of returning to the 1967 borders.
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Law: Does Israel have rights to current territory?

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Pro

  • Pre-1967 territory is "occupied", must be returned. Because Israel won the land during war, it is considered occupied territory under international law, and it is illegal for Israel to annex it.
  • Territory taken during 1967 war was taken from palestinians. If Israel was to return to its pre-1967 borders, it would have to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, both territories that it took it from the Palestinians, whom were not fighting the Israelis in the war. All territory won during wartime (and stolen from defenseless civilians) is illegitimate annexation, illegal under international law. The UN "moaned" because the Israelis were killing innocent civilians and acting as though International law/the Geneva Conventions were beneath them.
  • 1967 Arab aggression doesn't justify Israeli annexation. The fact that Arab states initiated the 1967 war does not justify Israel responding by annexing Palestinian territory. A just settlement would have been a return to the previous borders in exchange for security guarantees, etc. Instead, Israel unjustly used the opportunity to take land from an innocent people. And yet supporters of the status quo seem to think that one bad act justifies another bad act in return.
  • Pre-1967 borders uphold legitimate Palestinian aspirations. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in 2006 that the pre-1967 borders uphold the "legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people for a secure, united, democratic and economically viable state coexisting peacefully with Israel."[1]


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Con

  • Israel won 1967 war; has right to territory gained. Israel won the 1967 war, even thought this tiny nation was up against numerous Arab nations that aggressively initiated the conflict. It had and has a right, therefore, to govern territory it rightfully fought and died for.
  • Arab wars of aggression invalidate pre-1967 claims. Israel has been the victim of multiple major illegal wars of aggression on the part of the Arab world, most notably in 1948 and 1967. These wars invalidate any special claim made by Arabs and Palestinians to pre-1967 territory. If you illegally launch wars against an innocent state, there will be consequences. The loss of territory is one of such consequences, and it is permanent.
  • Israel had right to claim minimal territory to ensure security. As is explained in the below section, the minimal slivers of territory that Israel claimed and that it seeks to maintain through a peace settlement [ie, after returning 90% of the pre-1967 territory], is very important to its national security as it offers a buffer against future Arab wars of aggression. For this critical purpose of national survival, the annexed land serves a legally legitimate purpose, especially considering that the Arab wars of aggression were what caused the annexation of the land in the first place. In such circumstances, a nation that won a defensive war has a right to set terms to ensure against future wars of aggression.
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Security: Are pre-1967 borders best way to security?

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Pro

  • Coordinated Arab attack unlikely; pre-1967 borders fine. The Middle East, and the world more generally, is a far different place than it was in 1967. There is a significantly smaller risk that Arab states will gang up in a conventional war against Israel. This owes significantly to the fact that Israel is much more powerful militarily, Arab states are less powerful relatively, and the military alliances and dynamics in the region tend to favor Israel more. All of this means that maintaining a buffer in Israel, with the post-1967 borders, for the sake of defending against a collective Arab assault is highly unreasonable. Israel does not need this buffer. It can return to its pre-1967 borders.
  • Success in 1967 war shows defensibility of pre-1967 borders. Israel won the 1967 war, demonstrating that despite a major coordinated Arab attack on Israel, it could defend its pre-1967 borders adequately. This puts the lie to the central argument that the pre-1967 borders are indefensible. They defended them before under extremely hostile conditions; they can defend them again now under less conventionally threatening conditions, with a greater conventional military capacity to wage a defense, and with the unwavering support of the United States.


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Con

  • Pre-1967 borders would be too insecure and dangerous Ehud Olmert: "We can never totally return to the indefensible pre-1967 borders, ... We simply cannot afford to make Israel [9 miles] wide again at its center. We can't allow the Palestinians to be a couple [miles] from [Tel Aviv's] Ben Gurion Airport in the age of shoulder-fire missiles with the capacity to shoot down jumbo jets. But that doesn't mean we must remain in every corner of the West Bank or in Gaza, where fewer than 10,000 Jews, living next to 1.3 million Palestinians, have been protected by twice as many soldiers."[2]
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Peace: Is it the best way to achieve peace?

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Pro

  • With pre-1967 borders, PLO would recognize Israel, end conflict "PLO chief: We will recognize Israel in return for 1967 borders." Haaretz. October 13th, 2010: "Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Yasser Abed Rabbo said on Wednesday that the Palestinians will be willing to recognize the State of Israel in any way that it desires, if the Americans would only present a map of the future Palestinian state that includes all of the territories captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem. In response to U.S. State Department Spokesman Phillip Crowley's statement on Tuesday night that the Palestinians should respond to the Israeli demand, Abed Rabbo told Haaretz, "We want to receive a map of the State of Israel which Israel wants us to accept." 'If the map will be based on the 1967 borders and will not include our land, our houses and East Jerusalem, we will be willing to recognize Israel according to the formulation of the government within the hour,' added Rabbo."
  • Israel hasn't recog Pal so can't expect recog of Israel. Israel has not recognized a Palestinian state, or even committed to the creation of one, so can't expect Palestinians to recognize Israel. Or, at least, it can't complain too much. The two must meet in the middle. The pre-1967 borders enable this.


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Con

  • Pre-1967 borders would just bring conflict into Israel The Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, said in 2009: "A return to the pre-1967 lines, with a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, would bring the conflict into Israel's borders. Establishing a Palestinian state will not bring an end to the conflict."[3]
  • Pre-1967 borders not a recipe for peace but more hostilities. Kenneth Levin. "Peace Now: A 30-Year Fraud." FrontPageMagazine.com. September 5th, 2008: "The American ambassador to the UN at the time concurred, pointing out that 'Israel's prior frontiers had proved to be notably insecure.' And President Lyndon Johnson, shortly after the war, declared that Israel's return to its former lines would be 'not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities.' Johnson advocated new 'recognized boundaries' that would provide "security against terror, destruction, and war.'"
  • Arabs seek pre-1967 borders to weaken and dissolve Israel. A prominent Israeli politician said, according to Ruthfully Yours: "so long as Israel is not pushed back to her 1967 borders there is no way to get rid of Israel. This explains the vehemence with which the Syrians and others want Israel to return to the 1967 lines. They want this not to live in peace with Israel but to recreate the situation that existed before 1967 and reverse the course of history. The weakness that Israel would project to the Arab world would be such that … instability would be invited... We must be able to defend ourselves and the ability to guarantee our defense has much to do with not returning to the 1967 lines. The Arabs realize this. It is essential that we find a solution that does not lead us to these old lines.'"[4]
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