50 Years Later, the Six-Day War Continues Between Israel and Arab States

Fifty years ago this week, Israel fended off attacks by its Arab neighbors in the lightning quick Six-Day War and captured territory beyond its original borders — some still occupied by the military today.

The land in dispute is mainly comprised of the West Bank, which Palestinians want for a future independent state. It extends west of the “Green Line,” the 1948 demarcation between Israel and the Arab states it fought for independence, and named for the color of ink used to outline the Jewish state’s borders on a flimsy paper map.

The Green Line was supposed to be temporary, with final borders to be worked out in the future. Instead, in the half-century since the line was breached by the June 5-10, 1967, conflict, the Green Line represents a major divide over the terms of a lasting Mideast peace.

For Palestinians and some Israelis, the only viable solution to the conflict with Israel is to use the Green Line as the outline of a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

But Israel’s government, which insists that a united Jerusalem remain its capital, is unwilling to dismantle all the settlements where 500,000 Israeli Jews now live west of the Green Line on lands that were ruled by Jordan and populated by Palestinians between 1948 and 1967. It wants to negotiate new borders, which Palestinians might accept if the plan includes land swaps.

A visit to three sites along the Green Line reveals how blurred the Green Line has become 50 years after the war:

Barta’a
When the Green Line was drawn, tiny Barta’a, a Galilean town of about 8,300 Arabs 70 miles north of Jerusalem, was cut in two. In the center of the village, a low spot between two hills, an inscription on a large stone explains: “On the 3rd of April 1949, Jordan and Israel signed the Rhodes Aomistia Agreement, in which Barta’a was partitioned into the eastern part that belongs to Jordan and the western part that belongs to Israel. The valley was adopted as the Green Line.”

Between 1949 and 1967, its perplexed citizens did their best to maintain family ties and even, every once in a while, smuggled beneath a barbed wire fence a loaf of bread that was craved by someone on the other side.

Today, Barta’a represents both Israeli’s recognition of the Green Line as a legal international border and the paradoxical fact that the border has no real meaning.

There isn’t a physical barrier but the dividing line is clear: The Israeli side is bustling and prosperous, with new construction and bright signs in Arabic and Hebrew; the Palestinian side is dusty and neglected, with poorly paved streets, crumbling facades and peeling signs in Arabic.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Noga Tarnopolsky