There are strident requests by the Arab countries, by the Palestinians, and indeed by much of the world that Israel should once and for all abandon its dream of a "Greater Israel." Israel's alleged expansionist ambitions have long been a staple of Arab anti-Israel propaganda. But what does it really mean? Does it have any relation to reality?
What are the facts?
Stripes on the Flag. Arab propaganda has it that the two stripes on the flag of Israel, above and below the star of David, represent the Nile and the Euphrates River, respectively, and signify Israel's expansionist desire, to form an "empire" that would supposedly reach from Cairo to Baghdad, taking in everything in between. But that has no basis in fact, of course. Nowhere in Zionist literature, nowhere in any documents of the Jewish state, in any statement by even the most "radical" spokesman can any reference to, any mention of, anything like that be found.
What can be found is the desire on the part of the great majority of Israelis to live in peace in the land of Israel, and in common prosperity with their neighbors. But just what is the "Land of Israel" is subject to some argument. The historical record should be of help.
Israel's Borders. All countries in the Middle East were part of the Ottoman Empire before World War I. "Palestine" (today's Israel and Jordan also including the Golan Heights) came under British mandate after that war. Israel's current borders are the result of the 1948 War of Independence, in which six armies invaded the new-born state, but were utterly defeated, and the 1967 Six-Day War, in which those same armies once again invaded Israel. In that war, Israel conquered the Gaza Strip, the vast Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights. And Israel also repossessed the provinces of Judea/Samaria, (the "West Bank"), and the eastern part of Jerusalem, which had been occupied by the Jordanians nineteen years earlier, when they invaded the nascent Jewish state. In order to achieve peace with Egypt, Israel returned all of the Sinai to its erstwhile enemy. Israel is and has always been prepared to grant full autonomy to the Arabs living in Judea/Samaria and in Gaza. It is clear to all those knowledgeable in military matters that, for immutable strategic reason, Israel cannot for any foreseeable future abandon or yield military control of Judea/Samaria (the "West Bank") and of the Golan Heights.
The Myth of Greater Israel. Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world. Most people don't realize how small it really is. One wonders whether those who keep talking about "Greater Israel" and who wish to pressure Israel to divest itself of a big chunk of its territory are aware of it. A look at the map is revealing. Including the vaunted "West Bank," the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, the entire area of the country is barely over 10,000 square miles. France is twenty times as large as Israel, California fifteen times as large, Syria about seven times as large and "tiny" Ecuador ten times as large. Israel is so small that its area is less than half the size of San Bernardino County, California; if it were dropped into Lake Michigan it would disappear from sight without a trace. The Arab countries in contrast are huge they occupy twice the area of the United States. Greater Israel, indeed!
It is clear that the concept of "Greater Israel," created as a propaganda ploy by the Arabs and thoughtlessly (one hopes) repeated by so many in many governments and in the world press, lacks any validity and has no basis in fact. To apply such a concept to a country as small as Israel would almost seem a mockery. Obviously, Israel has no territorial ambitions. All it wants is to live in peace within secure and defensible borders, just as any other country and as required under U.N. Resolution No. 242. But it seems that the size of Israel, whether "greater" or "lesser" is not at all the concern of Israel's implacable Arab enemies. The very existence of Israel, of a Jewish state in their midst of whatever size, is unacceptable to the Arabs; it is an intolerable insult to Islam. And unless that mindset changes, not until the Arab states, or certainly those with which Israel is immediately involved, have become democracies and have come to full acceptance of Israel, are willing to make true peace with it, and are prepared to establish normal and friendly relations with Israel can any possible territorial adjustment be considered. As it looks right now, that may still take some time.
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Gerardo Joffe, President