Arab News
July 18, 2010 - 12:00am

It might seem Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas forgot something when he recently put forth only one condition to resume direct peace talks: That Israel accept its 1967 frontier as a baseline for the borders of a Palestinian state.

Abbas did not state the usual prerequisites — the halt of Jewish settlements, that Jerusalem be the capital of the future Palestinian state, the right of return or the return of Palestinian prisoners.

However, the demarcation of pre-1967 borders would serve as the foundation upon which an entire peace agreement would be based on, and from which nearly all the other outstanding issues of the conflict can be settled. Thus, Abbas did not lose the script. His latest comments published Saturday did not in theory leave them out. He was instead zooming in on the one aspect that, if resolved, will have the proverbial domino effect.

Unfortunately, Israeli leaders have repeatedly pledged not to return to the 1967 borders. As late as last October Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would “never ever return to the 1967 borders.”

This constitutes a total negation of the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements on the basis of which Israel has been negotiating with Palestinians for years. The first article of the Oslo Accords stipulates that UN Resolutions 242 and 338 (calling on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders and to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the principle of land for peace) be the basis for the peace process.

While the Israeli government’s position and public consensus rule out returning to the 1967 lines, the international community cannot deny that Palestine’s borders are legally based on those that existed before 1948 when Israel proclaimed itself a state. Without a return to those pre-1967 borders (plus a substantial injection of goodwill from Israel in ensuring unhindered passage between Gaza and the West Bank) no possibility exists of a viable Palestinian state ever emerging. And no goodwill, of course, will be forthcoming. Every Israeli leader has refused to recognize the Palestinians, first as a people and now as a nation. No Israeli or American leader has ever suggested that Israel commit to such recognition.

That is because Israel refuses to demarcate its own future borders. So Hamas is justified in asking whether one can recognize a nation with undefined borders. In fact, Israeli governments have glorified in their refusal to extend the recognition to the Palestinians that they demand from them. What we do know is that no one in the Israeli leadership is talking about a return to Israel’s borders that existed before the 1967 War, or probably anything close to it. It is certainly possible for the Israeli people to agree to accept the 1948 borders, the 1967 borders or any other borders they wish. What is clear is that Palestine has defined borders.

Anyone who follows Palestinian affairs knows that the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders remains a project in process, a dream to be pursued. The materialization of this project, the turning of this dream into fact, is what Palestinians want most.


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