Honoring Our Fallen by Seeking Peace

Soldiers killed in Israel's wars did not die for the expansion of Israel's borders. They were sent to battle to defend the state's continued existence within recognized and secure borders. In their death they command us to seek peace, not annexation or dispossession.

The 63rd anniversary of the state is looking like it will be the last Independence Day for an Israel without borders. In four months the UN General Assembly is expected to determine the eastern border of the State of Israel and recognize Jerusalem as its capital. No, that's not a typo. The flip side of international recognition of a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967, borders is international recognition of the 1949 cease-fire lines (the Rhodes Agreement ). Recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine means recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

If war is the continuation of politics by other means, as Carl von Clausewitz famously put it, this will be the most successful political implementation yet of the gains of the War of Independence. If the conquests of June 1967 were meant to achieve Arab recognition of the June 4 lines, and not to take over the land in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for the establishment of settlements or to "liberate" Jerusalem, then the expected vote at the United Nations in September is the ultimate political manifestation of the military victory of the Six-Day War.

Israel's Declaration of Independence, signed on May 14, 1948, states: "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land." In 2011, more than 100 countries, including all Arab states and most Muslim states, support the extended hand of the Palestinian neighbors for peace and good neighborliness on the basis of the 1967 borders, and the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference are offering normalized relations with Israel.

UN recognition for a Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967, borders will grant international legality of the first rank to the Palestine Liberation Organization's 1988 decision to do away with the demand (albeit not the dream ) of returning to Haifa, Acre and Jaffa. This time the initiative came from the Palestinian side and enjoys the enthusiastic support of Arab states. President Shimon Peres said not long ago, in a private conversation, that David Ben-Gurion would have begun singing with joy were he to hear that the United Nations was about to make the Green Line an international border and do away with the idea of an international status for Jerusalem, paving the way to the recognition of Jerusalem - the city that serves as the seat of the Knesset, the President's Residence and the Prime Minister's Office - as Israel's capital.

Unfortunately, Israel is not led by a whiz at action like Ben-Gurion, but by Benjamin Netanyahu, a whiz at talk. Instead of depicting the recognition of the Green Line as a huge step toward the completion of the Zionist vision, the prime minister insists on turning the recognition of a Palestinian state into a black day for Israel. Instead of declaring victory, he is determined to drag Israel into a loss. Luckily, the Palestinians are led by Mahmoud Abbas, an astute and courageous statesman who is holding steadfast against the religious, nationalist and irrational fanatics. Not only is he securing broad support for the great achievement of the War of Independence, he is also giving Israel the chance to benefit from significant portions of the gains of the Six-Day War.

An internal document prepared at the Muqata about the Palestinian plan to seek independence at the United Nations states that the world body's recognition of a Palestinian state and its determination of borders should not be perceived as an alternative to peace negotiations with Israel, but as an incentive for resuming talks. International recognition of a sovereign Palestine, the document says, will enable the new state to discuss all the core issues with its neighbor, as an equal. The first issue cited is exchanging territory, followed by setting policies for borders, water and security, and finally, resolving the refugee problem.

Soldiers killed in Israel's wars, whose memory we honor today, did not die for the expansion of Israel's borders. They were sent to battle to defend the state's continued existence within recognized and secure borders. In their death they command us to seek peace, not annexation or dispossession. We can only hope that by the next Independence Day we will be a state like all others - a state with borders, free from the burden of occupation and living in peace with its neighbors. To that we can add the hope that at this time next year, the Palestinian ambassador to Jerusalem will be an honored guest at the Independence Day reception at the President's Residence.