chapter  1
13 Pages

The borders between Israel and Syria: one international border, multiple lines

In March 2000 US President Bill Clinton met with the President of Syria, Hafez al-Assad, in Geneva. The Syrian president had arrived at the meeting accompanied by a large Syrian delegation, knowing in advance that the American President would inform him that his demands regarding the borderline between Syria and Israel had been accepted by Israel. In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Barak was awaiting the results of the meeting and the call to join the two presidents for a tripartite meeting during which the long political negotiations between the two countries would culminate in a peace treaty. In Geneva, Clinton presented Assad with a border drafted by Barak which was based on the retreat of the waterline of Lake Kinneret and which had been drawn about 500 meters east of its coastline. In terms of the Syrian presence in the area on the eve of the Six Day War, the line included territory which had not been under Syrian control in 1967. However, in one small area, the border passed 50 meters east of the pre-1967 Syrian line. Assad refused to accept this proposal and thus ended a political process of more than eight years of negotiations without a peace treaty. In the political discussions between Syria and Israel from 1991 to 2000, the determination of the permanent border had been in dispute, but the disagreement had been reduced to a matter of minor adjustments to the international border. Syria demanded that the permanent border be based on the line which had existed on the eve of the Israeli capture of the Golan, termed the “fourth of June line.” In contrast to the international border, this line was not agreed upon nor was it marked, and thus, its determination would have involved prior agreement about the principles on which it had been based. As opposed to what is generally thought, in the strip of land which was the focus of disagreement between the two countries – northeast of Lake Kinneret and the Jordan highlands – the fourth of June line is not located west of the international border. The drop in the level of the lake by a few meters had meant that the Syrian line on the eve of the Six Day War in the northeast of the lake was, in 2000, located a few hundred meters

east of the coast as it had existed. As a result, agreeing to the Syrian demand to receive the entire area it had held on 4 June 1967 would have distanced it from the lake waterline. Before discussion of the Golan Heights, or consideration of the border relations between Syria and Israel and the political negotiations which they have conducted, it is important to become acquainted with the terms “the international border of 1923” and the “armistice line of 1949,” in addition to the “fourth of June line,” and to understand how they were designed.