University of Cambridge > > Department of Geography - main Departmental seminar series > Demarcating Boundaries. Geopolitical, Legal and Ethical Considerations in the Construction of an Israeli-Palestinian Border

Demarcating Boundaries. Geopolitical, Legal and Ethical Considerations in the Construction of an Israeli-Palestinian Border

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Most of the world’s territorial boundaries have long been determined as the delimitors of State sovereignty. Few ethno-territorial conflicts of the contemporary era are focused around positional and legal disputes over the location of land borders. While the “borderless world” thesis is not relevant to large parts of the world, one cannot escape the fact that borders have become (at least until the events of 9/11) easier to cross and, in some cases (such as in Western Europe) have opened up altogether.

Only two of Israel’s land borders, with Egypt and Jordan, are recognised as constituting internationally recognized boundaries. The borders with Syria, Lebanon and a future Palestinian State have yet to be determined through future bilateral agreements which will be acceptable to both sides and will be sanctioned by the international community. The ultimate demarcation and delimitation of these borders will have major implications, not only for the physical security and sovereignty of the respective countries, but also for the verify nature of the State and the way in which its national ethos and identity is determined.

This is particularly the case regarding the Israel – Palestine border. The Green Line, separating Israel from the West Bank since 1948, has only ever had the status of an armistice line, although some commentators would argue that the de facto recognition of this line by the international community, affords it with legally binding status. An alternative line, the course of the Separation Barrier which has been constructed by successive Israeli governments during the past four years, is problematic from a legal and ethical standpoint. In the first instance it has been unilaterally superimposed upon the landscape by the Israeli government, with no consultation with the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, it has resulted in the de facto annexation of West Bank land to the Israeli side of the boundary, including areas which contain Israeli settlements. Ultimate demarcation of an Israeli-Palestinian boundary must be undertaken on a bilateral basis resulting in an agreement between the two sides, and must take into account a myriad of security, demographic, economic and landuse factors, including the possible exchange of land between the two sides, if the final border is to deviate from the course of the Green Line.

This talk is part of the Department of Geography - main Departmental seminar series series.

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