The only basis for compromise

The green line between what is internationally recognized as Israel and what is occupied Palestinian territory is very important vis-a-vis the success of negotiations and a peaceful end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Certain influential elements on both sides have historically tended to ignore the green line both in theory and practice. Many Israelis, including the current Israeli government, would like to move final borders as far east as they possibly can. For that reason they downplay the significance of the green line. This corresponds with the desire of many Palestinians who also ignore the green line and want to push the borders as far west as possible.

Only Palestinians and Israelis willing to stick to international legality and keen on a compromise solution rather than an absolute solution are promoting the green line. Without the green line, such people emphasize, finding a compromise will be extremely difficult, because there is no other blueprint on which to base a territorial compromise.

That’s why the fate of the two-state solution is strongly connected to the green line. Without the green line, the parties will simply fail to agree on another basis for negotiations over two states and consequently a future territorial compromise will depend solely on the balance of power, a recipe for endless conflict.

The Palestinians were encouraged by the statement of President George W. Bush at the recent press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, in which Bush referred to the green line and to the need that any changes to that line be agreed by the two sides. The problem is that Israel has, in practical terms, been erasing the green line in different ways. One is through settlement building and expansions, whereby an extension to Israel is created across the green line in Palestinian territory. Another is through the construction of the wall, which is both undermining the green line and consequently undermining the basis of the two-state solution that is a prerequisite for peace.

There is a great burden of responsibility in this regard on the shoulders of the international community. The green line is the only legal indicator of borders; two states divided by this line is the only internationally accepted vision of a solution to the conflict. The international community must act with greater weight and seriousness to specific Israeli practices that are undermining this line and are thus violations of international law.

In spite of their unquestionable rights on the western side of the green line, the majority of Palestinians are willing to accept that line as a territorial compromise. Palestinian Jerusalemites, for example, who mostly live either outside Palestine or on the eastern side of the green line, have unequivocal and inalienable rights of ownership to 70 percent of the properties in what is now known as West Jerusalem. Yet Palestinians are willing to accept the green line as a compromise solution if the other side is willing to end its control over the areas to the east of the line to allow for an independent Palestinian state.