40 years after the short but bloody war lasting just 6 days, Israel prepares to celebrate. One man has created a spoiler. He is in his mid seventies and a renowned international lawyer who is himself Jewish and survivor of the Nazi holocaust. He has now reminded the Israeli government and the rest of the world that he warned at the time that settlement on Palestinian land by Jewish settlers would be illegal. This remains his view.
“The declaration by Theodor Meron, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser at the time and today one of the world’s leading international jurists, is a serious blow to Israel’s persistent argument that the settlements do not violate international law, particularly as Israel prepares to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the war in June 1967.” (Source The Independent 26/5/2007.)
The Independent outlines the background to 1967: “The war cost the lives of more than 16,000 Arab men, the large majority Egyptian, and 800 Israeli soldiers. It left Israel in control of a million Arabs and large new swathes of territory, including the West Bank and Gaza, seized from Jordan and Egypt respectively, and the Golan Heights, overrun and captured from Syria. The political debate in Israel over what to do about the new conquests was almost immediate. The Labour politician and former general Yigal Allon, for example, produced a plan which provided for annexation of – and creation of civilian settlements along – the border with Jordan. Moshe Dayan, the triumphant Defence Minister, announced that he wanted an ‘invisible occupation’, adding: ‘I want a policy whereby an Arab can be born, live and die in the West Bank without ever seeing an Israeli official.’ “ (Source The Independent 26/5/2007.)
Dayan’s wishes for the Arab population are far from today’s reality with frequent incursions into centres of Palestinian day-to-day activity and the ever present intimidating presence of road blocks which appear like mushrooms across the landscape. The view that Israel should return to the 1967 boundaries is a view held by many Israelis, including Dayan’s daughter, Yael.
Certainly the “Road Map” for peace in the territory demands an end to settlement, pushed forward notably by Ariel Sharon, but just who is championing this on the international scene. Neither side in the elections race dare utter a sound, even if they call for a withdrawal from Iraq.