So much, so much to deal with!
Prime Minister Netanyahu had indicated on July 1 – the first date on which he would have been able to bring decisions about application of sovereignty in Judaea & Samaria to the Cabinet – that there would likely be news next week.
But here we are, a full week later, and no news is yet forthcoming.
Over the years, our prime minister has demonstrated a very solid ability to multitask. Sometimes I am astounded at how many balls he manages to keep in the air. But there is a crisis in the country right now that is undoubtedly drawing on his attention and sapping his energy: Coronavirus has returned with a vengeance.
Decisions are being made about how to flatten the curve without crushing the economy. These decisions, advanced in consultation with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz, and others, cannot wait. As I write, the situation is serious – as is the situation in the US.
Nor is the Coronavirus crisis the only issue on the agenda: Iran looms large and I hope to deal with this in a coming posting.
Perhaps there will be an announcement about sovereignty before this week is out. But there is reason to doubt it.
I am not even certain that the Trump administration, which is still in meetings regarding sovereignty, has given the nod that Netanyahu seeks. One US official, unnamed, indicated that it was still possible in July.
And so, what I want to do here is touch upon a number of issues pertaining to sovereignty.
Several times I have addressed the misuse of the word “annexation,” which is sometimes utilized when “application of sovereignty” is the appropriate term. Unfortunately, maddeningly, writers and speakers often use the two terms, which mean different things, interchangeably. When a nation’s laws are applied to a region that is already part of that nation according to international law, then it can be said that sovereignty has been applied. When a nation annexes territory, it means that it is incorporating a region that had not previously been legally part of the nation.
Danny Danon, who is just completing a five year stint as Israeli ambassador to the UN (and will be replaced shortly by Gilad Erdan), has made a significant point with regard to the importance of using the appropriate word. In a JPost op-ed, he wrote:
Those who refer to the process of applying Israeli law to parts of Judaea & Samaria as “annexation” are often the same ones who “decry it as an egregious violation of international law.” Yet, “a simple reading of history reveals that it is the continued use of the word ‘annexation’…that is egregious…” (Emphasis added)
Explains Danon: “Palestinian Authority leadership refuses to acknowledge the Jewish people’s…claim to the Land of Israel…
“Those who use the term ‘annexation’ subscribe, in whole or part, to this Palestinian narrative.”
His point is well taken, but let me qualify it a bit: in some cases, those who use the term “annexation” may be unknowingly supporting the Palestinian narrative. But use of that word does reinforce the narrative.
Please use the term “application of sovereignty,” and call the attention of others to proper usage.
There is power in words. This is something the Palestinian Arabs know all too well, as they call Israel an “occupier” and an “apartheid” state.
I have previously shared a number of different takes on the wisdom of applying sovereignty now. Here I offer a different sort of analytical perspective regarding the importance of doing so.
We have been saying Judea & Samaria are ours, observe some commentators, but it’s time to move beyond declarations to facts on the ground. As Haviv Rettig Gur put it, it’s a matter of being ready to “’put the car on the road’ – move from theory to practice on a question of existential significance for our future.”
Rettig Gur made this statement in the course of a more extensive analysis regarding concerns about imminent withdrawal of American hegemony in the Middle East – a potential policy change that did not originate with the Trump administration but well before. At least in part, it’s a question of a shift of focus to the Pacific and the strategic significance of China. There is “a growing unwillingness to engage and police” in the Mediterranean region, and it is “a willful strategic choice.”
He quotes Dr. Eran Lerman (pictured), vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, who says “American hegemony is crumbling before our eyes.”
Under these circumstances, it becomes critical for Israel to solidify her presence and her power in the region.
(Writes Maj. Gen. (res) Hacohen on this issue: For the first time, a US administration has recognized how essential the Jordan Valley is to Israel’s security.)
Lerman is convinced that this is what is driving Netanyahu to push on with sovereignty. This is a far different, and weightier, interpretation than the one advanced by those who believe Netanyahu is concerned primarily with his legacy.
At the end of my last posting, I cited law professor Eugene Kontorovich, with regard to Israel’s rights, international law, the meaning of “occupation,” and more. I want to provide the link to his talk again for those of you who may have missed it the last time around. His take on the situation is invaluable.
What Kontorovich does, time after time, is demonstrate how the world treats Israel differently from the way it treats other nations with similar or parallel situations. It is an eye-opener that makes a very strong case for Israel:
Our projected plans to apply sovereignty to parts of Judaea & Samaria have received a negative response in almost all quarters. Not unexpectedly, the EU is opposed, as is the UN. Neither the EU nor the UN, which are both consistently tilted towards the PLO, has a shred of credibility on this.
Threats of increased violence – and a possible third intifada – emanate from Palestinian Arab leadership. But, as I’ve already written, the Palestinian Arab populace is not responding vigorously to calls for “demonstrations.” The IDF must remain on a high level of alert with regard to this threat, but I think it is one that will not materialize to any significant degree.
In addition to the threats of violence, the PA leadership is playing its routine games: At the end of June, they announced a readiness to resume negotiations – based on the “1967 borders” – under the auspices of the Quartet (the EU, the UN, Russia and the US).
Far more significantly, on July 2, at in event in Ramallah, Fatah and Hamas announced “unity” in order to wage a campaign against Israeli sovereignty in Judaea & Samaria. “Today we want to speak in a single voice,” declared senior Fatah member Jibril Rajoub.
Calling Hamas a “complete partner,” Rajoub said, “We have no enemy except for Israel…We are now talking about a joint struggle, a campaign on the ground.”
I would take this with a grain of salt, and declare that this “unity” had no better chance of succeeding than did the many previous attempts at unity, all of which failed miserably, except for one very disturbing fact:
Rabjoub announced that Fatah would be changing its policy and allowing Hamas “free rein” in all areas under PA control.
We are totally aware that we are playing with fire, and that security forces will have to work much harder to maintain order, but this battle has united us.” (Emphasis added)
This is bad news. Hamas is by far the stronger of the two factions. For years, the PA (which was taken over by Hamas in Gaza in 2007) has worked to avoid a similar Hamas take-over in Judaea & Samaria, and has been able to achieve this only because of the assistance of the IDF.
IF Rajoub’s announcement is genuine, it suggests that the PA, which has grown weaker and weaker, cannot manage on its own any longer and concedes the possibility of Hamas dominance for the sake of taking a stand against Israel. This has to be watched closely.
It must be noted that head of the Arab Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, attended the press conference.
“I attended the conference in Ramallah,” he later said, “in order to support steps toward reconciliation between Palestinian parties.
“This reconciliation is essential in our battle against annexation and for an end to the occupation and the attainment of a just peace.”
Egypt has been fairly quiet with regard to issues of application of sovereignty in Judaea & Samaria, although some objections have been raised. (See more below.)
Jordan, however, is eternally obstructionist. I find King Abdullah to be particularly irksome. Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel and receives considerable benefits from Israel – including protection from radicals who would remove him from his throne, and a good deal of water. Yet he misses no opportunity to complain about Israel and attempt to throw his weight—which is considerably less than he imagines it to be—around.
While Abdullah is playing to the radicals in his country, the reality is that he does not want a Palestinian State at his border.
Just yesterday, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry registered an official demand that Israel stop all renovation and maintenance work at the Kotel (Western Wall). This is, said the demand, because the Jordanian Wakf “has exclusive authority over the Western Wall under international law.”
For the record: the Kotel, in Jerusalem, is a part of sovereign Israel. When the peace treaty with Jordan was signed in 1993, Israel accorded Jordan a “special role” in the administration of Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount. (As I understand it, that “role” was never defined, but the phrase was intended to give precedence to Jordan over the PA in Muslim matters on the Mount.) Last I checked, the Kotel was not a Muslim holy site.
All this said and done, the good news is this (and I think it is big):
“Most of the leaders of Arab countries have recently sent messages to Israel saying that they are indifferent to the sovereignty process, according to Israel Hayom.
“According to reports, in internal talks by Arab leaders it was said that they must be aware of the reactions on the streets in their countries towards the Israeli move, if and when it is implemented. However, they themselves are indifferent to the move, and will make do with symbolic condemnation. According to those leaders, only if violence breaks out in the field and affects the stability of their own governments will they have to act against it. It was also reported that messages in this spirit came from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf rulers.” (Emphasis added)
This is progress.