June 09, 2007

Forgotten Legal Rights

From Forgotten Legal Rights:

After most armed conflicts, the international community has sought to re-establish the status quo ante - the previous situation - as part of a political settlement. However, many aspects of the prewar status quo in 1967 were untenable, if not illegal. Jordan and Egypt previously occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of an invasion by the Arab states in 1948 that the UN Secretary-General at the time, Trygve Lie, called an act of "aggression."

In the Six-Day War nearly 20 years later, Israel entered these territories in what was plainly a war of self-defense. Before Israeli forces moved in Jerusalem, Jordanian artillery fired nearly 6,000 artillery shells on the Israeli parts of the city.

Stephen Schwebel, who later became the president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, wrote in 1970: "When the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense has, against that prior holder, better title."

UN Security Council Resolution 242, that would become the cornerstone of every Arab-Israel peace agreement for decades thereafter, did not call on Israel to withdraw from all the territories it captured in the Six-Day War. Resolution 242 called for establishing "secure" boundaries, with the understanding that the pre-war lines were not secure.

The "Saudi Peace Initiative," if implemented, would strip Israel of defensible borders, push it back to the vulnerable 1967 lines, and redivide the heart of Jerusalem.

Today, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have replaced the Arab states as claimants to the territories that Israel captured and that have been disputed since 1967. Who would suggest placing the holy sites of Jerusalem under Hamas, whose ideological cousins are attacking churches and mosques across the Middle East?

Moreover, it is transparent today that if Israel were to withdraw from its security positions along the Jordan Valley barrier, al-Qaeda affiliates that are today penetrating Lebanon, Gaza, and Jordan would seize the opportunity and unleash a wave of jihadi volunteers to escalate attacks against Israel.

The writer, the former ambassador of Israel to the United Nations, is the author of The Fight for Jerusalem (2007). He is the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.