Analysis: Prospects for Middle East Peace in 2010

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas added another precondition to restarting peace talks with Israel, making prospects for reaching an agreement in 2010 as elusive as in past years.

"Once there is international recognition of the 1967 borders and settlement construction is stopped, we will go to negotiations," Abbas said.

"We want the world to recognize the 1967 borders as the point of reference for the peace negotiations," he said, adding that recognizing "east Jerusalem as territory occupied in 1967" is part and parcel of the package.

Abbas rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's 10-month construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria, intended to bring the PA back to the negotiating table, and blamed the prime minister for stalled talks.

"As far as we are concerned, this is not a settlement freeze," Abbas said. "Netanyahu is responsible for the stalemate in the peace process."

But what exactly are the pre-1967 borders Abbas is talking about?

They are the 1949 Armistice Lines - which later became known as the "Green Line." They were part of four separate cease-fire agreements between Israel and Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, which ended Israel's War of Independence.

A look back at its history sets the scene for the situation facing Israel today.

The War of Independence

On May 15, 1949, the day after the modern State of Israel came into existence, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon attacked the fledgling state. Though their armed forces far outnumbered Israel's, they failed to accomplish their goal.

Instead, Israel defeated the Arab armies, which in the end signed armistice agreements, but stood united in their refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist.

Following the cease-fire, Arab League member nations imposed economic boycotts against Israel and lobbied the international community to isolate the nascent Jewish state. 

Even today, most Arab nations do not acknowledge Israel's right to exist. Only Egypt and Jordan have established full diplomatic relations with Israel. On most issues, Egypt and Jordan stand with the rest of the Arab world.

The Six Day War

Fast forward 18 years to 1967 when Israel miraculously defeated another multi-front attack by surrounding Arab countries. The fighting, which began on June 6, was over six days later.

This time, Egypt, Jordan and Syria joined forces against Israel, with Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria providing troops and weapons.

When the war ended, Israel had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank ), east Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

With the capture of the Golan Heights on June 10, Syria's 19-year strategic position overlooking the Israeli Galilee ended. That meant they could no longer fire on Israeli farmers in the Hula Valley and children no longer had to spend their nights away from their families in bomb shelters. 

The cease-fire agreements with Lebanon and Syria didn't change the pre-war borders, aside from Israel retaining control of the Golan Heights.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces defeated Jordan, regaining sovereignty over the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, and wresting control of neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, including the Old City with the Temple Mount and Kotel (Western Wall).

For the first time in many years, Jews prayed at the Kotel - the only remaining vestige of the First and Second Jewish Temples, which had stood on the Temple Mount.

In the agreement with Egypt, Israel allowed its neighbor to the south to retain control of the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Israel kept the strategic Golan Heights, over time developing the area largely neglected by Syria from 1948 to 1967. Israel built infrastructure and schools and residents developed dairy and cattle farms, wineries, hotels and bed and breakfasts that became very popular with vacationing Israelis and tourists.

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel defeated Syrian forces that had temporarily overrun the Golan. Following the war, Syria signed a disengagement agreement for the area, and in December 1981, the Knesset voted to annex the small, but strategically important heights.

Similar development took place in Judea and Samaria, where cities like Ma'ale Adumim, Givat Ze'ev and Ariel and many smaller towns grew and prospered.

These are the some of the areas the Palestinian Authority is claiming for a future state.

It's nearly four and a half years since the Israeli government expelled some 10,000 Israelis from 21 communities in the Gush Katif settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip and four in northern Samaria. In the places where thriving Jewish towns once stood in northern Gaza, Palestinians set up terror training camps and rocket launching sites.

Many Israelis don't want anymore Jewish communities destroyed and more lives offered up on the altar of an elusive peace with the Arab world. As 2010 begins, most believe that the peace process between Israel and its Arab neighbors remains as out of reach as ever.

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Tzippe Barrow

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From her perch high atop the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, Tzippe Barrow helps provide a bird’s eye view of events unfolding in her country.

She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.