The Territories After the Six-Day War

An overview of Israel's relationship to the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.

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Likud policy regarding other territories was more in line with the party's traditional position.

On December 12, 1981, the Golan Heights Law extended Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration to the Golan Heights, effectively annexing the territory to Israel. Outright annexation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank/Judea‑Samaria was seen as inadvisable as it would likely alienate both Egypt and the United States. Instead, the Likud proposed autonomy for the inhabitants of these areas. According to the plan presented by Begin in Knesset on December 28, 1977, these Palestinians would have control of their own education, religious affairs, finances, transportation, construction, housing, energy, industry, trade and tourism, health, labor and welfare, and refugee rehabilitation.

Their power, however, was to be over services and departments--not over territory. Sovereign rule would remain in the hands of Israel, which was to control security, public order, and foreign affairs. Local residents could decide to keep their foreign citizenship or they could opt to become Israeli citizens. Israelis would be free to settle in the territories and Arabs from the territories who chose to become Israelis would be free to settle in Israel.

As it can be assumed that few Arabs in the territories would elect to become Israeli citizens, the Begin proposal was essentially a way to hold on to the territories while withholding political rights from the Arab residents. The Likud version of autonomy was essentially different than the Egyptian, American, or even Labor Party understanding of autonomy.

Sadat envisaged a transitional stage of self‑rule leading to a final stage of Israeli withdrawal and Palestinian independence. While America frowned at the idea of a Palestinian state, it did see autonomy as leading to some form of self-rule independent of Israeli control. Labor suggested that this self-government be formed as part of a Jordanian-Palestinian entity.

The autonomy defined in the Camp David Accords of 1978 was very open: The residents of the territories were to elect a self‑governing authority that was to get autonomy after a five‑year period. However, the negotiations among the various parties never really got off the ground: Jordan didn't join, the Palestine Liberation Organization opposed the idea of autonomy, Israel dragged its feet, Sadat was assassinated in October 1981, and the Israeli war in Lebanon from 1982 to 1985 focused attention and diplomatic effort elsewhere.

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Jonathan Kaplan is administrative director at the Rothberg International School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.