Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Forty Years of Occupation by Israel
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Journalist, former NHK commentator

June 14, 2007
During the third Middle East war, known as "the Six-day War," which occurred in June 5, 1967, just 40 years ago, Israel expanded its territories by four times at a single blow, occupying the West Bank including the old city of Jerusalem from the kingdom of Jordan, taking Gaza and the Sinai peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, respectively. Among the occupied territories, the Sinai was returned to Egypt by a peace treaty with it, while Israel continues to stay in Jerusalem, West Bank and Golan Heights, although Israel unilaterally pulled its settlements and troops out of Gaza.

The cause of the war was the false information intentionally leaked by the Soviet Union that the danger of an Israeli attack on the Arabs was imminent. The Soviets wanted to further reinforce its influence on the Arabs that had already been there by supplying them with arms and weapons. The Arabs misjudged the situation and their overreaction led to a preemptive strike on the part of the Israelis---this has been the generally accepted theory of this war. However, a book of a different version has been published in Israel in May that the Soviet Union, in an attempt to interfere with Israel going nuclear, made such a provocation at the risk of its own military intervention.

While Israel has always been at war with neighboring Arab countries and armed elements ever since its foundation, the reason why the third Middle East war is considered specially important is that, as a result of this war, the whole region of Palestine which was under British mandatory rule before the birth of Israel came under Israeli occupation. Secondly, in the autumn of the same year, the United Nations Security Council adopted the well-known Resolution 242 as the recipe for peace, which is still viewed as the guideline for peace today. To put it more simply, the resolution aims at a peaceful coexistence between Israel and the Arabs, on condition that the former withdraws from occupied territories. In other words, the resolution is favorable to Israel in that it delineates the extent of "occupied territories," against the conventional Arab claim that the whole land of Israel itself is the "occupied territories." The resolution was formulated by Great Britain, taking into account the Israeli and American arguments,

As far as Egypt and Jordan are concerned, the boundaries with Israel have been settled by peace treaties with Israel according to this resolution. Also, chances are comparatively high to determine the boundaries between Israel and Syria, if only there is such will on both sides. The problem is: the boundaries with Palestine. In addition to the historical posing for effect that the area was the main domain of ancient kingdom of Israel, the Ancient Jew, there was in fact no such country before the war as Palestine. For Israel, therefore, the boundaries before the third Middle East War was not the international border but merely tentative truce lines in the war for independence of Israel. The West Bank of the Jordan River over and beyond the line, Israel still insists, is thus not an occupied area but only a debatable land whose appropriation is at issue.

As Resolution 242 defines the extent of retreat by Israel as "the mutually acceptable boundaries," entrusting it to negotiations between the parties concerned, it should also be quite favorable to the Israeli side, which is actually controlling the lands in question. The resolution was brought forward by the U.K., and reflected American and Israeli intentions. Israel for the past 40 years has created a fait accompli by constructing settlements for half a million people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making it technically difficult to return the lands.

Forty years is a long time. It is the same length of time since the Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 to Japan's defeat in the Second World War. The thing is the change of feeling and thought on the part of the occupiers. When I was a schoolboy. I was taught that both Korea and Taiwan were Japanese territories and I had no doubt about it. In Israel, the same phenomenon is seen among the young people. For example, during the latter half of the occupation period, namely since around the end of the 1980s, one million Jewish people, nearly a half of the two million Jewish inhabitants in the former Soviet Union, have immigrated to Israel and formed the strong basis of the right wing parties resisting compromise with Palestinians when it comes to territorial questions. I had an opportunity to talk to one of such Israeli parliamentarians. He said: "The basis of peace lies in the mutual recognition of the new national border drawn as the result of war." Then, he cited the example of the Polish-German border and spoke with finality that Japan should use its assistance to the Palestinians as a lever to preach to them about the "common sense" of the border. I thought at the time that it was ironic for him to talk like a Soviet bureaucrat in the past, though he must have left Russia, giving up the life there as hopeless and immigrated to Israel.

It is no doubt the United States that can play the key role in overcoming the stalemate in the territorial issue. For the U.S., however, any issue that concerns Israel is certain to become directly related to the American elections. Now that the military intervention in the war in Iraq has become quite unpopular in America, one repeatedly watches President George Bush reiterated in a speech he made in commemoration of the first anniversary of opening the hostilities: "America has become a safer place with the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime. Our allies are safer. Israel is safer now." President Bush would be remembered as the first American president who put forth in an unequivocal way an idea of "the creation of an independent state of Palestine willing to coexist with Israel" as a possible solution of the Palestinian issue. But its concrete guideline known as the "road map" does not show even an outline of the state of Palestine as to how wide its territories should be. The "road map" is actually anything but a concrete map.

President Clinton, his predecessor, did not use the word "an independent state of Palestine," but he clearly showed in the form of a document a fairly original American plan about the extent of territories Israel should return to Palestine like the whole of Gaza Strip, 97 percent of the West Bank of the Jordan River, the Arab sector of East Jerusalem, and a redivision of the old city complicated with holy places of both sides.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia proposed in 2002 that in return for the whole West Bank occupied area, all the Arab countries would normalize relations with Israel. How Israel and perhaps the post-Bush America would deal with the situation--- is the big question we should all follow with keen interests.

The Writer is a former NHK commentator.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山健太郎 / 元NHK解説委員

2007年 6月 14日



この決議に従い、エジプトとヨルダンに関しては、イスラエルとの境界線が確定して平和条約が既に結ばれている。シリアとの境界線確定も、双方にその意志さえあれば、比較的単純に解決できる可能性が高い。問題は、パレスチナとの境界だ。古代のユダヤ イスラエル王国の主要な版図であったという歴史的な思い入れに加え、戦前にパレスチナなる国は存在していなかった。第三次中東戦争以前の境界線は、だから国境ではなく、イスラエル建国戦争の単なる休戦ラインに過ぎず、この線を越えたヨルダン川西岸地域は、占領地でなはなく、帰属をめぐる係争地域に過ぎないという見方に固執している。





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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Forty Years of Occupation by Israel