Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Political Independence and Territorial Integrity For All
Maxwell Rotbart
World Geography
Time Frame:
This activity requires at least three full 45-minute class periods (including one night of homework) to be performed well.
Middle East

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

This classroom activity has the purpose of explaining to students the geographic difficulty of finding a two-state solution in the Middle East that would have the support of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.


This classroom activity is aimed for students to complete individually, using selected primary sources (speeches, a UN Resolution) and secondary sources. The students will also have access to a series of modern and historic maps of the region.


In Israel – a country the size of New Jersey – geography is not just a subject for social studies class. Indeed, the very security of the nation depends on its boundaries. Each of Israel’s border changes greatly affected its security.


In July 1949, Israel’s borders were first mapped as part of a cease-fire agreement. During this time, Israel was 8.5 miles wide at its narrowest point and did not have full control of Jerusalem, its capital city. In addition, many of Israel’s holy sites were under Jordanian control.


In June 1967, Israel obtained control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula following the Six-Day War. This expanded Israel’s boundaries significantly. The Sinai Peninsula alone tripled Israel’s land size, and provided a significant buffer with Egypt, which then was Israel’s greatest military foe. Control of the Golan Heights provided Israel with security at its northern border, and ended sniper attacks from Syria on Israeli villages in the valleys below. Control of the West Bank reunited Jerusalem and widened Israel’s borders.


In 1978, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, in exchange for a peace agreement. In 2005, Israel granted autonomy to the Gaza Strip. Since then, the Gaza Strip has been used as a base by terrorists to launch rockets into undisputed Israeli territory.


Throughout this complex history, whether the United Nations or United States has been calling on Israel to return land it gained in the Six-Day War to the Arabs, everyone agrees that Israel has a right to eventually obtain borders that will not threaten its territorial integrity.


Most notably, in 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama declared, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”


Under the backdrop of current U.S. policy, this lesson will trace the 1967 lines back to their origins and will examine how U.S. policy towards the borders were formed under the Johnson Administration and will allow students to design their own borders based upon a desire to maintain – as President Johnson famously asserted on June 19, 1967 – “political independence and territorial integrity for all.”

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
  • Gather data, make inferences and draw conclusions from maps and other visual representations (DOK 1-3)
  • Apply geography skills to help investigate issues and justify possible resolutions involving people, places, and environments. Topics to include but not limited to how people prepare for and respond to natural hazards (DOK 1-3)
  • Explain how the uneven distribution of resources in the world can lead to conflict, competition, or cooperation among nations, regions, and cultural groups (DOK 1-2)

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Israel’s Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace – April 2, 2012 (http://jcpa.org/video/israels-critical-security-needs-for-a-viable-peace-abridged-2/)

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • United Nations Resolution 242 – November 22, 1967 (http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/7D35E1F729DF491C85256EE700686136)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson’s Address at the State Department's Foreign Policy Conference for Educators – June 19, 1967 (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28308)
  • Remarks by President Barack Obama on the Middle East and North Africa – May 19 2011 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/19/remarks-president-middle-east-and-north-africa)

Full description of activity or assignment.

Day 1


Present your students with the following scenario:


They have been appointed “Special Envoy to the Middle East” by the President of the United States. Their mission is to follow past US and UN policy in devising a two-state solution that guarantees Israel “secure and defensible” borders.


The students will, in groups, study previous proposals, as well as current maps of the region, which include waterways, topography, transportation systems, and weapons capabilities.


Day 2


Based upon their understanding of US policy and their study of the maps and the issues at hand, the students will – individually – draw their proposal for a two-state solution, including a separate map of Jerusalem.  For homework, the students will write an essay explaining the reasoning behind their map.


Day 3


The students will be asked to write a paragraph analyzing their map from a Palestinian Authority perspective, and the question, “Would the Palestinian people agree to such geographic conditions?”


The answer, undoubtedly, will be “no.” The students will quickly find that while it is possible to create a two-state solution that Israel would be happy with, and while it is possible to create a two-state solution that the Palestinians are happy with, the geography of the region is such that a two-state solution with two happy parties is nearly impossible.


This will lead to a class discussion about how geography fits within political conflicts, and what makes conflicts so difficult to resolve.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

The Israeli Prime Minister and President of the Palestinian Authority have agreed to sit down and negotiate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Knowing you to be a master historian and expert on geography, the President of the United States has asked you to investigate previously proposed peace deals and study current maps of the region.


The one issue that Israel insists on in any two-state solution is that its redrawn borders be secure and defensible. This is no problem, as U.S. policy dating back to the Johnson Administration maintains that Israel’s borders be defensible (in case of an Arab attack/invasion).


Create a map of a two-state solution that would guarantee Israel secure and defensible borders. When you are finished, write a two-page (double-space typed) essay justifying your proposal.


The maps you are tasked with analyzing are:




  1. UN Proposal – 1947 (http://www.ijs.org.au/UN-Partition-Resolution/default.aspx)
  2. Ceasefire Lines – 1949 (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/aboutisrael/maps/pages/1949-1967%20armistice%20lines.aspx)
  3. Territorial Gains – 1967 (http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/Maps/Pages/June%2010-%201967-%20Israel%20After%20the%20Six%20Day%20War.aspx)
  4. Oslo II Accords – 1995 (http://www.passia.org/palestine_facts/MAPS/Oslo-2.html)
  5. Camp David Proposal – 2000 (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/rossmap2.html)
  6. Olmert Proposal – 2008 (http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/images/iht_daily/D171209/olmertmap.pdf)


  1. Topography of Central Israel (http://www.science.co.il/Israel-Topography.php)
  2. Israel’s Transportation Systems (http://www.ezilon.com/maps/asia/israel-road-maps.html)
  3. Israel’s Water Systems (http://www.theglobaleducationproject.org/mideast/info/maps/israel-water-systems-map.html)
  4. Jerusalem Neighborhoods (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/meijer.html)
  5. Map of Jerusalem’s Old City Holy Sites (http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/Maps/Pages/Old%20City%20of%20Jerusalem.aspx)
  6. Palestinian Rocket Ranges (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/qassammap.html)


UN Resolution 242


The Security Council,


Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East,


Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,


Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,


1. Affirms that the fulfillment [sic] of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:


(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;


(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;


2. Affirms further the necessity


(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;


(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;


(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;


3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;


4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.


Adopted unanimously at the 1382nd meeting.


President Johnson’s Remarks (Abridged)


Secretary Rusk, ladies and gentlemen:


I welcome the chance to share with you this morning a few reflections on American foreign policy, as I have shared my thoughts in recent weeks with representatives of labor and business, and with other leaders of our society.


During the past weekend at Camp David--where I met and talked with America's good friend, Prime Minister Harold Holt of Australia--I thought of the General Assembly debate of the Middle East that opens today in New York.


But I thought also of the events of the past year in other continents in the world. I thought of the future--both in the Middle East, and in other areas of American interest in the world and in places that concern all of us.


So this morning I want to give you my estimate of the prospects for peace, and the hopes for progress, in these various regions of the world.


I shall speak first of our own hemisphere, then of Europe, the Soviet Union, Africa and Asia, and lastly of the two areas that concern us most at this hour--Vietnam and the Middle East…


…Now, finally, let me turn to the Middle East--and to the tumultuous events of the past months.


Those events have proved the wisdom of five great principles of peace in the region.


The first and the greatest principle is that every nation in the area has a fundamental right to live, and to have this right respected by its neighbors.


For the people of the Middle East, the path to hope does not lie in threats to end the life of any nation. Such threats have become a burden to the peace, not only of that region but a burden to the peace of the entire world.


In the same way, no nation would be true to the United Nations Charter, or to its own true interests, if it should permit military success to blind it to the fact that its neighbors have rights and its neighbors have interests of their own. Each nation, therefore, must accept the right of others to live.


Second, this last month, I think, shows us another basic requirement for settlement. It is a human requirement: justice for the refugees.


A new conflict has brought new homelessness. The nations of the Middle East must at last address themselves to the plight of those who have been displaced by wars. In the past, both sides have resisted the best efforts of outside mediators to restore the victims of conflict to their homes, or to find them other proper places to live and work. There will be no peace for any party in the Middle East unless this problem is attacked with new energy by all, and certainly, primarily by those who are immediately concerned.


A third lesson from this last month is that maritime rights must be respected. Our Nation has long been committed to free maritime passage through international waterways, and we, along with other nations, were taking the necessary steps to implement this principle when hostilities exploded. If a single act of folly was more responsible for this explosion than any other, I think it was the arbitrary and dangerous announced decision that the Straits of Titan would be closed. The right of innocent maritime passage must be preserved for all nations.


Fourth, this last conflict has demonstrated the danger of the Middle Eastern arms race of the last 12 years. Here the responsibility must rest not only on those in the area--but upon the larger states outside the area. We believe that scarce resources could be used much better for technical and economic development. We have always opposed this arms race, and our own military shipments to the area have consequently been severely limited.


Now the waste and futility of the arms race must be apparent to all the peoples of the world. And now there is another moment of choice. The United States of America, for its part, will use every resource of diplomacy, and every counsel of reason and prudence, to try to find a better course.


As a beginning, I should like to propose that the United Nations immediately call upon all of its members to report all shipments of all military arms into this area, and to keep those shipments on file for all the peoples of the world to observe.


Fifth, the crisis underlines the importance of respect for political independence and territorial integrity of all the states of the area. We reaffirmed that principle at the height of this crisis. We reaffirm it again today on behalf of all.


This principle can be effective in the Middle East only on the basis of peace between the parties. The nations of the region have had only fragile and violated truce lines for 20 years. What they now need are recognized boundaries and other arrangements that will give them security against terror, destruction, and war. Further, there just must be adequate recognition of the special interest of three great religions in the holy places of Jerusalem.


These five principles are not new, but we do think they are fundamental. Taken together, they point the way from uncertain armistice to durable peace. We believe there must be progress toward all of them if there is to be progress toward any.


There are some who have urged, as a single, simple solution, an immediate return to the situation as it was on June 4. As our distinguished and able Ambassador, Mr. Arthur Goldberg, has already said, this is not a prescription for peace, but for renewed hostilities.


Certainly troops must be withdrawn, but there must also be recognized rights of national life, progress in solving the refugee problem, freedom of innocent maritime passage, limitation of the arms race, and respect for political independence and territorial integrity.


But who will make this peace where all others have failed for 20 years or more?


Clearly the parties to the conflict must be the parties to the peace. Sooner or later it is they who must make a settlement in the area. It is hard to see how it is possible for nations to live together in peace if they cannot learn to reason together.


But we must still ask, who can help them? Some say it should be the United Nations; some call for the use of other parties. We have been first in our support of effective peacekeeping in the United Nations, and we also recognize the great values to come from mediation.


We are ready this morning to see any method tried, and we believe that none should be excluded altogether. Perhaps all of them will be useful and all will be needed.


So, I issue an appeal to all to adopt no rigid view on these matters. I offer assurance to all that this Government of ours, the Government of the United States, will do its part for peace in every forum, at every level, at every hour.


Yet there is no escape from this fact: The main responsibility for the peace of the region depends upon its own peoples and its own leaders of that region. What will be truly decisive in the Middle East will be what is said and what is done by those who live in the Middle East.


They can seek another arms race, if they have not profited from the experience of this one, if they want to. But they will seek it at a terrible cost to their own people-and to their very long-neglected human needs. They can live on a diet of hate-though only at the cost of hatred in return. Or they can move toward peace with one another.


The world this morning is watching, watching for the peace of the world, because that is really what is at stake. It will look for patience and justice, it will look for humility and moral courage. It will look for signs of movement from prejudice and the emotional chaos of conflict to the gradual, slow shaping steps that lead to learning to live together and learning to help mold and shape peace in the area and in the world.


The Middle East is rich in history, rich in its people and its resources. It has no need to live in permanent civil war. It has the power to build its own life, as one of the prosperous regions of the world in which we live.


If the nations of the Middle East will turn toward the works of peace, they can count with confidence upon the friendship, and the help, of all the people of the United States of America.


In a climate of peace, we here will do our full share to help with a solution for the refugees. We here will do our full share in support of regional cooperation. We here will do our share, and do more, to see that the peaceful promise of nuclear energy is applied to the critical problems of desalting water and helping to make the deserts bloom.


Our country is committed--and we here reiterate that commitment today--to a peace that is based on five principles:


--first, the recognized right of national life;


--second, justice for the refugees;


--third, innocent maritime passage;


--fourth, limits on the wasteful and destructive arms race; and


--fifth, political independence and territorial integrity for all.


This is a time not for malice, but for magnanimity; not for propaganda, but for patience; not for vituperation, but for vision.


On the basis of peace, we offer our help to the people of the Middle East. That land, known to every one of us since childhood as the birthplace of great religions and learning, can flourish once again in our time. We here in the United States shall do all in our power to help make it so.


Thank you and good morning.


President Obama’s Remarks (Abridged)


Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you very much.  I want to begin by thanking Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark -- one million frequent flyer miles.  (Laughter.)  I count on Hillary every single day, and I believe that she will go down as one of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.


The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy.  For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa.  Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights.  Two leaders have stepped aside.  More may follow.  And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith…


…Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.


For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region.  For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them.  For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own.  Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost to the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security and prosperity and empowerment to ordinary people.


For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations.  Yet expectations have gone unmet.  Israeli settlement activity continues.  Palestinians have walked away from talks.  The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate.  Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.


I disagree.  At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.  That’s certainly true for the two parties involved.


For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize [sic] Israel will end in failure.  Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection.  And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.


As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.  Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.  And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.  But precisely because of our friendship, it’s important that we tell the truth:  The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.


The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River.  Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself.  A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people -– not just one or two leaders -- must believe peace is possible.  The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.


Now, ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action.  No peace can be imposed upon them -- not by the United States; not by anybody else.  But endless delay won’t make the problem go away.  What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows -- a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples:  Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.


So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear:  a viable Palestine, a secure Israel.  The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.  The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.


As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat.  Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.  The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.  And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.


These principles provide a foundation for negotiations.  Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met.  I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain:  the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees.  But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.


Now, let me say this:  Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table.  In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel:  How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?  And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.  Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.


I recognize how hard this will be.  Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past.  We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones.  That father said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.”  We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza.  “I have the right to feel angry,” he said.  “So many people were expecting me to hate.  My answer to them is I shall not hate.  Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow.”


That is the choice that must be made -– not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region -– a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.  It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife….


…It will not be easy.  There’s no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope.  But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves.  And now we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.


Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.