Green Line (Israel)

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Israel's 1949 Green Line (dark green) and demilitarized zones (light green)

Green Line refers to the demarcation lines set out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and its neighbors (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The Green Line is also used to mark the line between Israel and the territories captured in the Six-Day War, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula (the last has since been returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 peace treaty). The name derives from the green ink used to draw the line on the map while the talks were going on.[1]

The Green Line is often referred to as the "pre-1967 borders", the "1967 borders" by the United States president Barack Obama,[2] Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas,[3] and by the United Nations in informal texts[4] and in the text of UN GA Resolutions.[5]

Technically, however, the Green Line is not a border. The original armistice agreements were clear (at Arab insistence) that they were not creating permanent borders. The Egyptian-Israeli agreement stated "The Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary, and is delineated without prejudice to rights, claims and positions of either Party to the Armistice as regards ultimate settlement of the Palestine question."[6]


The Green Line is considered a demarcation line rather than a permanent border: Stephen M. Schwebel,[7] at the time a deputy legal advisor to the U.S. Department of State, Legal Adviser Office (1961–1981), wrote in the American Journal of International Law (1970) that "...modifications of the 1949 armistice lines among those States within former Palestinian territory are lawful (if not necessarily desirable), whether those modifications are...'insubstantial alterations required for mutual security' or more substantial alterations—such as recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem." In a footnote, he wrote: "It should be added that the armistice agreements of 1949 expressly preserved the territorial claims of all parties and did not purport to establish definitive boundaries between them."[8]

While the line is only an armistice demarcation line,[9] in practice it is used to differentiate between those areas which are administered as part of Israel, and the areas outside it, which are administered by the Israeli military or the Palestinian Authority.[10][11] The extended municipality of Jerusalem constitutes one exception to this: although the parts occupied by Jordan until 1967 fall outside the Green Line, Israel declared Jerusalem "complete and united" as the capital of Israel according to the 1980 Basic Jerusalem Law.[12][13] No other country in the world has recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital (see positions on Jerusalem) and the UN Security Council confirmed that Israel's measures at changing the status of Jerusalem were invalid.[12][13]

The Golan Heights are another exception, having been informally incorporated with the 1981 Golan Heights Law, which the UN Security Council announced as null and without any international legal effect[14] Israeli settlements are also essentially subject to the laws of Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority's laws.


A border sign in Jerusalem, 1951; in the background: Tower of David

The sections of the Line that delineate the boundaries between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza run through heavily populated regions. The line corresponds to the military front of the 1948 War, and while the considerations dictating its placement were primarily military, it soon became clear that in many places it divided towns and villages, and separated farmers from their fields. Consequently, the Green Line underwent various slight adjustments, and special arrangements were made for limited movement in certain areas.[15]

Jerusalem was divided in half, into East and West Jerusalem. The village of Barta'a, partially due to errors on the map, was left with one third of its area on the Israeli side and two thirds outside of it. Kibbutz Ramat Rachel was left almost entirely outside the Israeli side of the Green Line.[15]

According to Avi Shlaim, in March 1949 as the Iraqi forces withdrew and handed over their positions to the Jordanian legion, Israel carried out Operation Shin-Tav-Shin which allowed Israel to renegotiate the cease fire line in the Wadi Ara area of the northern West Bank in a secret agreement that was incorporated into the General Armistice Agreement. The green line was redrawn in blue ink on the southern map to give the impression that a movement into green line had been made.[16]

Jewish population[edit]

Barbed wire separating East and West Jerusalem at Mandelbaum Gate.

During the war, Jews residing east of the Line, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, were taken prisoner by the Jordanians. All but a few of the Gush Etzion defenders were massacred. The prisoners were returned to Israel after the war.[10] On July 8, 1948, the Jewish inhabitants of Kfar Darom and Naharayim were evacuated by Israel due to military pressure by Egypt and Jordan. Israel also withdrew from villages in the Lebanese Upper Galilee, whereas Syria withdrew from Mishmar HaYarden.

Since Israel's victory in the Six-Day War, Israeli settlements have been established south and east of the Line. From August to September 2005, Israel implemented a unilateral disengagement plan in which the entire Jewish population of the Gaza Strip was evacuated. In 2006, Ehud Olmert proposed a convergence plan that called for Israel to disengage, unilaterally, if necessary, from much of the West Bank (east of the line).

Arab population[edit]

The majority of Palestinian Arabs on the Israeli side of the Line fled or were expelled during the war (around 720,000). Those who remained became Israeli citizens and now comprise approximately 20% of Israel's total citizenry. The Umm al-Fahm-Baqa al-Gharbiyye-Tira area, known as the "Triangle", was originally designated to fall under Jordanian jurisdiction, but Israel demanded its inclusion on the Israeli side due to military and strategic considerations. To achieve this, a territorial swap was negotiated with Transjordan, giving the latter Israeli territory in the southern hills of Hebron in exchange for the Triangle villages in Wadi Ara.[10] In the Six-Day War, Israel occupied territories beyond the Green Line inhabited by over a million Palestinian Arabs, including refugees from the 1947–1949 war.[17] The Green Line remained the administrative border between these territories (with the exception of Jerusalem) and the areas inside the Israeli side of the Green Line.

In 1967, East Jerusalem was annexed into Israel, with its Arab inhabitants given permanent residency status. They were also entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship. Domestically, the status of East Jerusalem as part of Israel was further entrenched with the 1980 Jerusalem Law. United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, determined the law null and void. In 1981, the rule of law of Israel was extended to the Golan Heights with the Golan Heights Law in what can be seen as an informal annexation.

Israeli–Palestinian conflict[edit]

The question of whether, or to what extent, Israel should withdraw its population and forces to its side of the Green Line remains a crucial issue in some discussions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The near-unanimous international consensus has been displayed in the yearly UN General Assembly vote on the Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine.[18] Although disputed by Israel, UN resolution 242[19] has made clear the interpretation of international law regarding Palestinian Territory. The Palestinians were not party to the drawing of the Green Line and rejected UN resolution 242 on the basis that it did not specifically call for an independent Palestinian state, but rather spoke of them as refugees. Since 1976, most elements in the PLO have accepted the pre-June 1967 line as a basis for the establishment of a Palestinian state.[20]

According to Noam Chomsky, claims that the Palestinian leadership reject the international consensus calling for a Palestinian state with borders along the Green Line are not consistent with the documented record.[21] Smaller elements in the Palestinian leadership, even inside Hamas, have called for a two state settlement based on the pre-June 1967 borders (the Green Line).[22][23] Although Hamas's official policy is committed to Israel's destruction, Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of the unity government until June 2007, has spoken of a long-term truce with Israel if Israel withdraws from territory occupied in 1967.[24][clarification needed]

Such a 'solution' should take into account that the Israeli West Bank barrier is, in parts, kilometres away from the Green Line, with most of it lying within Palestinian territory.[25]

Social perceptions of the Green Line[edit]

According to Hebrew University Geographer Ilan Salomon, the Green Line can be discerned via satellite, marked by the Jewish National Fund pine forests planted to demarcate Israeli space. Salomon and Larissa Fleishman conducted a study regarding Israeli students' knowledge of the location of the Green Line and found that not much more than 1/3 could identify its placement; they furthermore found that "students who identify with left-leaning parties are more familiar with the location of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, can sketch them more accurately and are also more aware of the nature of borders."[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Green Line: the name given to the 1949 Armistice lines that constituted the de facto borders of pre-1967 Israel — "Glossary: Israel", Library of Congress Country Studies
  2. ^ "Obama calls for Israel's return to pre-1967 borders" By Tom Cohen, CNN, May 19, 2011 [1]
  3. ^ "Palestinian leader Abbas affirms hope for state in pre-1967 lines" BBC News, 2 November 2012, [2]
  4. ^ "The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) is mandated by the UN General Assembly to (...) support the peace process for the achievement of the two-State solution on the basis of pre-1967 borders..." [3]
  5. ^ for example, "A/RES/67/120 Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan" Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 2012 [4]
  6. ^ Egypt Israel Armistice Agreement UN Doc S/1264/Corr.1 23 February 1949
  7. ^ Mr. HERZOG (Israel) speaking at the UNGA 47th PLENARY MEETING Wednesday, 26 October 1977. "98. Professor Schwebel"[5]
  8. ^ Stephen Myron Schwebel (1994). Justice in international law: selected writings of Stephen M. Schwebel. Cambridge University Press. p. 524. ISBN 978-0-521-46284-6. 
  9. ^ Bernard Lewis (1993). Islam in history: ideas, people, and events in the Middle East. Open Court Publishing. p. 164. ISBN 0-8126-9518-6. 
  10. ^ a b c Yisrael Ya'akov Yuval, "Where is the Green Line", Two Thousand, Vol. 29, no. 971, 2005 (Hebrew)
  11. ^ Akiva Eldar, "What is the Green Line", Haaretz, July 21, 2006 (Hebrew)
  12. ^ a b Anthony Aust (2010). Handbook of International Law By Anthony Aust. Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-521-13349-4. 
  13. ^ a b Ian Lustick (January 1997). "Has Israel Annexed East Jerusalem?". Middle East Policy V (1). Archived from the original on 2007-06-10. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  14. ^ Mohammad Taghi Karoubi (2004). Just or unjust war?. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7546-2375-5. 
  15. ^ a b Yossi Alpher, et al., "The green line", Palestinian-Israeli crossfire, Edition 8, February 24, 2003
  16. ^ The Politics of Partition; King Abdullah, The Zionists, and Palestine 1921–1951 Avi Shlaim Oxford University Press Revised Edition 2004 ISBN 0-19-829459-X pp. 299, 312
  17. ^ The new territories more than doubled the size of pre1967 Israel, placing under Israel's control more than 1 million Palestinian Arabs ... In November 1967 ... UN Security Council Resolution 242, called for "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" in exchange for Arab acceptance of Israel — "Israel: 1967 and Afterward", Library of Congress Country Studies
  18. ^ Fouad Moughrabi. "The International Consensus on the Palestine Question", Journal of Palestine Studies, 1987
  19. ^ Eric Black. "Resolution 242 and the Aftermath of 1967" PBS/Star Tribune, 1992
  20. ^ "Draft Resolution 'The Middle East problem', Security Council document S/11940, 23 January 1976" Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Retrieved 22 September 2010
  21. ^ Noam Chomsky, "The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians", South End Press 1983/1999 pp. 95-173. ISBN 0-89608-601-1
  22. ^ Amira Hass. "Haniyeh: Hamas willing to accept Palestinian state with 1967 borders", Haaretz, 9 November 2008
  23. ^ "Hamas ready to accept 1967 borders", Al Jazeera, 22 April 2008
  24. ^ retrieved on 28/07/2011
  25. ^ Barahona, Ana (2013). Bearing Witness - Eight weeks in Palestine. London: Metete. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-908099-02-0. "The Green Line"
  26. ^ Akiva Eldar. "Putting back the Green Line - once we find it" Haaretz, December 8, 2006

Further reading[edit]

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