This piece is published in FRONT PAGE magazine.
The Jewish people’s considerable rights to the land of Israel are founded upon several bases:
Jews have been on the land for close to 4,000 years, most notably within eastern Jerusalem (where the Old City and the Temple Mount are located), and Judea and Samaria – all places where ancient Israelite heritage is marked. Jews, in fact, are the indigenous people of Israel, present not only historically, but with continuity over the centuries.
In modern times there are legal precedents for establishing the Jewish claim to Israel: This is with reference to the San Remo Conference, the Mandate for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine, confirmed in international law, and more.
These Jewish rights have certainly not diminished over the years. Yet there is a prevailing perception that this is the case – that there has been a rethinking of what properly accrues to the Jewish State of Israel. A revisionist perception, we might say.
This perception has been fueled by Palestinian Arab leader Mahmoud Abbas and his cohorts, who – in insisting ad nauseum that Israel’s proper place is behind the “1967 border” – reveal themselves to be major advocates of the dictum that,
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Of course this business of a “1967 border” is a lie: there was no border established to Israel’s east after the War of Independence ended in 1949, only a temporary armistice line. The armistice agreement was not even with a “Palestinian people,” but with Jordan. Nor did Security Council Resolution 242 require Israel to pull back fully from Judea and Samaria, which was secured defensively during the Six-Day War in 1967.
But why bother with facts when a myth more favorable to the political interests of the Palestinian Arabs can be successfully generated? Today, a good part of the world believes that Judea and Samaria consist of “Palestinian land,” which Israel must “return.” The President of the United States speaks in such terms. Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, called “settlements” (pejoratively), are referred to either as “illegitimate” or “illegal,” and the stumbling block to peace. Eastern Jerusalem, today part of the united capital of Jerusalem under full Israeli sovereignty, is called “Arab Jerusalem.”
It must be noted, however, that this Palestinian Arab myth could not have been successfully generated had successive Israeli governments self-confidently and persistently presented truths to counter the lies. Regrettably, since Oslo, this has not consistently been the case.
While no Israeli government has ever declared Judea, Samaria and the eastern part of Jerusalem to be “Palestinian land,” some have skirted close to embracing this position by behaving “as if.” (A subject that perhaps merits a whole other article.) Some Israeli leaders to the left have swallowed the notion in its essence, speaking in terms of what the Israelis owe the “Palestinians.” Some others are ideologically opposed to any such concept but timid about bucking a position that is politically correct internationally. This requires a determined strength, as significant parts of the international community, e.g., Europe, are predisposed to a pro-Palestinian Arab, anti-Israel position.
The good news here is that we may be about to witness a shift in the situation.
The current Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is not ideologically committed to a notion of eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as “Palestinian land.” He is neither Ehud Olmert nor Ehud Barak.
Rather – with the single notable exception of the Iranian nuclear issue – Netanyahu is a man whose style is marked by a tendency to play along, rather than making waves. There is substantial reason to believe he has done this, again and again, in the mistaken belief that this will lessen the pressure on Israel and accrue favor within the international community. In point of fact, this is counterproductive.
In January, 2012, Netanyahu appointed a committee – popularly referred to as the Levy Committee – to examine the status of Israeli building in Judea and Samaria. Edmund Levy, former Justice of the High Court, headed the committee; its other members were Alan Baker, international lawyer and former adviser for the Foreign Ministry, and Tehiya Shapira, retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge.
The Committee’s Report, which was released on July 8, 2012, is 90 pages long in the original Hebrew. (Only summaries exist in English.) It consists of both conclusions and recommendations and provides legal arguments and research.
The accusations currently being leveled by the international community against Israel as a violator of “international law” because of building in Judea and Samaria are countered by the Levy Report conclusions. That is, because of both historical and legal factors, the decades-long presence of Israel in Judea and Samaria is not “belligerent occupation.” Israel’s situation is unique (sui generis) and Israel has the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria.
The Report then offers a number of important recommendations, consistent with the conclusions, regarding adjustments in Israeli policies and practices in Judea and Samaria. These recommendations would clarify the rights of Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria, who currently find themselves at a serious disadvantage: The Israeli legal system default there favors Arabs.
At present, law-abiding, tax-paying Jewish Israeli citizens who bought their homes in Judea or Samaria in good faith and with the assistance of multiple government agencies can be forced to abandon those homes, if ownership of the land on which their homes are located is challenged by local Arabs, before the issue of who actually owns the land has been properly adjudicated.
These and a host of similar situations are violations of basic rights for Jews that should not be permitted to continue. Levy Report recommendations speak to these concerns.
I have it from an impeccable source that when Prime Minister Netanyahu first saw the Report, he declared, “Ah, this is just what we need.”
But information about the report was leaked, and Netanyahu, confronting the international furor that would result from its official adoption, did an about-face. He referred the Report to the Ministerial Committee on Settlements, where it was tabled without discussion. To this day, it sits in a drawer somewhere, effectively never having seen the light of day.
And so, the Levy Report disappeared from the radar screen of public awareness. But it was not forgotten by Israeli activists and politicians with a nationalist orientation, who understood its enormous importance.
In the fall of 2012, a small group of seasoned activists formed an ad hoc committee to pursue plans for securing the adoption of the Report by the government. International lawyers and politicians were consulted, the political climate was assessed and assessed again; and plans for a campaign evolved through several permutations. Persons and organizations of prominence who would lend their names to the campaign were sought (FP editor Jamie Glazov and FP parent organization, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, are both listed). Additionally, and necessarily, backers to provide funds were secured.
As the plans for the campaign have coalesced over the last few months, the Campaign Committee has become convinced that the timing is right.
This is, first, because of the farcical “negotiations” with the Palestinian Authority. If there are going to be such negotiations (certainly not advocated by the Campaign Committee) it is important that Israel negotiate from strength, and this means stating Israeli rights without equivocation. There is scant time to delay on this. It’s one thing to concede that Israel “must” withdraw from at least part of Judea and Samaria, because this is “owed” to the Palestinian Arabs, and quite another to say that it is Israeli land by right and any concessions to the Palestinian Arabs would be a matter of choice and discretion.
Then there has been an encouraging shift within the government, with a greater number of ministers and deputies who are nationalist or who tend to be opposed to the notion of a Palestinian state, such as: Moshe Ya’alon; Naftali Bennett; Danny Danon; Yisrael Katz; Tzipi Hotovely; Ze’ev Elkin; Uzi Landau; Yair Shamir; and Uri Ariel. Add to this list Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset.
Lastly, there is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s second Bar Ilan speech of October 6.
(An English translation can be found here.)
Instead of speaking of a “two state solution,” as he had previously, he emphasized Jewish rights in the land. A change of tone that many consider significant.
And now, at long last, the Levy Report Campaign is kicking off.
The Campaign Committee is operating with the assistance of Regavim, a fine Israeli organization that works “to ensure responsible, legal & accountable use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all…aspects of the land.” (See http://regavim.org.il/en)
The campaign is envisioned in two stages – first within the Knesset and then more broadly within the public domain.
It is so new that neither a name nor a logo are yet in place. But the services of the educator who will work with the members of the Knesset have been secured. There will be major social media aspects to this effort, as well as organizational work done within the Knesset – in large part by Knesset members themselves – to generate significant and sustained support for the Report. Already, members of the Knesset approached informally have expressed considerable enthusiasm.
The goal of the campaign, of course, remains acceptance of the Levy Report by the government. Right now a process is being set in place that will take time to unfold, step-by-step. It would be foolish and unrealistic to anticipate immediate acceptance. First the climate must be created.
The Campaign Committee believes this effort will provide support for the prime minister, so that he is bolstered from within the nation – and thus better able to resist outside pressures. As well, the campaign should, in time, shift public perceptions regarding Israel’s rights.
If all proceeds well – something to be fervently hoped for – there will be subsequent reports following this first announcement.
Full disclosure: Arlene Kushner was a member of the ad hoc committee that initiated the campaign for the Levy Report, and remains an active member of the Campaign Committee today. She is an author, freelance journalist, and blogger, whose material can be found at www.arlenefromisrael.info
American-Israeli journalist Arlene Kushner maintains a blog in which she discusses political, diplomatic and military issues affecting Israel: She currently also serves in a consultant capacity with the Center for Near East Policy Research.