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The Editor
The Guardian
February 22nd 2002

Dear Sir,

    Your recent exchange of letters about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict miss the wood for the trees. We can go back further in time. We can speculate on what would have happened if Balfour had NOT made his declaration in 1917; if the first British governor of the mandated territory of Palestine, Lord Samuels, had not been Jewish; if Hitler had not risen to power and intensified the yearning for a Jewish state; if Great Britain had not thrown the problem back to the UN when the 25 year mandate expired and so on. These things happened and sensible people accept them. After the fighting in 1948, the UN general assembly agreed to a state of Israel on 78% of the territory bounded by a green line which was (compared with some lines being discussed in Israel now) moderately short and defensible. The UN has not agreed on ANY change, and legally, although not apparently in practice, the US agrees that these are the borders.

    In 1967, when Israel took over control of the west bank and Gaza, the UN reiterated the role of the green line with minor adjustments, presumably to be discussed between the two states when they can negotiate on an equal footing. It took a long time, but at the start of the Oslo process, the Palestinian authority accepted this. Many Israelis are now also recommending a return to the green line and many hundreds have said they would no longer serve in an Israeli army operating in the 22%. In recent days Saudi Arabia has stated their acceptance with the possibility of small exchanges of territory if agreed by both parties.

    Is it not time for the rest of the world to ask the Israeli government, and each and every Cabinet Minister thereof, to state clearly and unequivocally why they do not accept 78% of the land with 50% of the population, and immediately withdraw all military personnel behind the green line and start the negotiations the world wants?

Yours sincerely




Richard Wilson
Mallinckrodt Research Professor of Physics

Harvard University