Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, 8/4/99
In his prescient book, Balkan Ghosts, Robert Kaplan noted that when Balkan groups asserted that they were only interested in "their rightful territory," they meant the territory they controlled at the height of their reach. This, of course, is a prescription for endless war because the largest Serbia that ever existed overlaps the largest Croatia that ever existed, which overlaps the largest Slovenia, Albania, Montenegro, and so on. While this insight should inform the American government as it tries to redraw the map of the Balkans – an exercise that will ultimately satisfy no one – it is also usefully applied to other parts of the world.
The Middle East, for example. The Palestinian Authority has begun to discuss the parameters of its territory in terms of UN Resolution 181 – the 1947 Partition Agreement that created Palestinian-Arab and Palestinian-Jewish states in the 28 percent of Palestine remaining after Jordan was severed from the British mandate. The Arabs, en bloc, not only denounced Res. 181, but also went to war against the nascent state of Israel to ensure that the boundaries drawn by the UN would not survive. In fact, those boundaries did not survive. Israel's War of Independence resulted in armistice lines that include territory not intended by Res. 181. It also left much of the intended Palestinian-Arab State under the illegal control of Jordan until 1967. Res. 181 was mooted by events.
All the Arab world until 1977, most of it until 1991, and much of it today have waged continuous political and military war against the intention of Res. 181 to establish a Jewish state in the Middle East. War, terrorism, boycotts and blackmail have characterized Arab behavior toward Israel and its supporters for a half-century. For the Palestinians to now insist that Res. 181 is an appropriate basis for Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, wrote one wag, would be akin to Germany in 1945 announcing, "Never mind, we accept the terms of Munich!"
Ironically, since the Palestinians previously said the clock had to be turned back to 1888, and only Jews in Palestine at that time (and perhaps their descendants) could remain, one might consider resetting the clock to 1947 to be a positive step. But clocks only run in one direction.
And since any attempt to unravel time and boundaries is doomed to failure, the Palestinians must be told clearly and firmly that their best hope for control of their civil lives lies in negotiation with Israel on the basis of current realities and future hopes.
See Also The First Breach of the UN Charter