Life is not simple for Israel, and we delude ourselves when we imagine it is. Always there is the unexpected, the undertow, the splash in the face.
Particularly is this the case with political issues. Today I want to look at Israeli sovereignty, a very political issue.
All of the Land from the River to the Sea (as the Palestinian Arabs like to say) belongs to Israel (this part, of course, they don’t say). I’ve made the case a dozen times and will surely do so again. It’s a case that can be made with regard to international law, history and national heritage, and indigenous rights.
Yet getting to the place of Israeli sovereignty over all of the Land continues to be a struggle.
What is comforting is the way in which Israeli control over the Land has expanded over the last 72 years. It helps us to know that, little by little, we are getting where we need to go. Even with regrettable setbacks that Jews themselves are sometimes responsible for.
When David Ben Gurion declared Israeli Independence on May 14, 1948, he didn’t relinquish the right to any part of the Land.
But in pragmatic terms, Israeli forces were able to control only a small portion of the whole, a portion that corresponded with UN GA Resolution 181, and which didn’t even include Jerusalem (which was supposed to be administered by the UN).
What Ben Gurion did was seize the day and take what he could get.
At the very moment of Independence, Arab forces, set on destroying Israel, attacked. By the time armistice agreements were signed the following year, the area of Israel had expanded and included western Jerusalem (with Jordan controlling eastern Jerusalem and Judaea & Samaria, Egypt holding Gaza, and Syria, the Golan Heights).
With the astounding victory of the Six Day War in June 1967, Israel secured control of all of Jerusalem, Judaea & Samaria, Gaza, and the Golan.
We were in possession of all of it, from the River to the Sea.
The huge mistake that was made then, in my opinion, was the failure to apply sovereignty to Judea & Samaria immediately. The area was under the control of Israel, but Israeli law was not applied. There were reasons given for that decision – some notion of land for peace, concern about world opinion, etc. It is my understanding that Arab residents of Judaea & Samaria had their bags packed and were ready to leave: they had lost the war. Israeli authorities told them to stay.
In 1980, Basic Law: Jerusalem was enacted declaring that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”
In 1981, Israeli law was applied to the Golan, which is essentially the same as application of sovereignty.
That same year, the Civil Administration, operating under the umbrella of the IDF, was established to administer civil matters in Judaea & Samaria.
In the years following this, two disastrous actions were taken.
- In 1993, and 1995, two agreements – the Oslo Accords – were signed between Israel and the PLO, headed by the incorrigible terrorist Yasser Arafat.
WHAT were the Israelis who promoted this smoking – that they envisioned Arafat moderating and making a genuine peace???
There are a number of lessons to be learned here with regard to the need for clear-eyed and pragmatic assessments of Israel’s security and rights. Or, put differently: the need to protect Israel and not sacrifice her rights and security on the altar of some idealized and unrealistic notion of peace. Israel went through a period of time when the focus was so much on that idealized notion that much was neglected. There were calls, for example, for “goodwill gestures” to the PA that put Israeli citizens at risk (as when checkpoints were removed).
The Accords had a major impact in two areas:
In broad terms there was an acknowledgement of some Palestinian Arab claim to at least part of Judaea & Samaria. It must be emphasized that nowhere in the Accords was a Palestinian state spoken of. Rather, via negotiations a “permanent status” for the Palestinian Arabs was to be determined; Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin envisioned an autonomy that was less than a state. But it was a very short jump from this to the notion that a state was the necessary outcome.
The Palestinian Authority was established within these Accords as an interim administrative authority. In broad terms, it was anticipated that the PA would morph into the permanent authority as determined via those negotiations. In any event, technically the PA exists only by virtue of the Accords.
Israel has been struggling with the totally unrealistic expectations of a “two-state solution” projected in the Accords ever since. Negotiations have never been held that resulted in resolution and never will be, because the PLO has no intention of recognizing a Jewish state at its side. But on the left in Israel, and throughout a good part of the world, this expectation continues to be entertained.
Judaea & Samaria was divided into Area C, over which Israel has civil and security control (and where all Jewish communities are located); Area B, over which the PA has civil control and Israel security control; and Area A, over which the PA has full control (although Israeli security forces can enter if necessary).
The Palestinian Authority has breached the terms of the Accords innumerable times, notably with failure to cease incitement against Israel and failure to terminate support for terrorism. Neither side, however, has officially renounced the Accords. I would venture to say that Israel would prefer not to do so because technically this would be the end of the PA, and full responsibility for all Arabs in Judaea and Samaria would fall to Israel.
It was called the Disengagement. But it has more accurately been referred to as the Expulsion, and it was unconscionable.
In 2005, then prime minister Ariel Sharon pushed through a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, with the dismantlement of the 21 Jewish communities of Gush Katif. Jews forcibly removing Jews from their homes while the world watched.
Gaza was left to the administration of the PA. But two years later, in a violent take-over, Hamas gained control. And this is what we are left with today: rockets and incendiary balloons, and threats.
This expulsion left a wound on the Israeli psyche and certainly diminished trust in the government. The clear lesson is that there must be no more Jewish withdrawals from the Land.
All of this very significant background sets the tone for where we are now.
It is important for Israelis, as well as Jews everywhere, to understand our history and our rights. Many do not. And so on-going education is critical.
But also of huge importance is a government that believes in our rights and is prepared to stand up for them, not caving to some distorted notion of what we owe the Palestinian Arabs (whose government wishes us only to be destroyed) or to what the world thinks we should do. This requires strength: I do not suggest it is easy – only that it is necessary.
If a decision is made to offer concessions – and such a decision might legitimately be made, it must come from that position of strength.
Binyamin Netanyahu – Israel’s longest serving prime minister – has been in office for consecutive terms since 2009. He has done a good deal that is important for the nation.
The image he has burnished has been as a right wing leader concerned with Israel’s security. With regard to Iran, this is certainly true. But in other regards, his performance has been sketchy and does not always match his words. What is more, his positions have shifted over time, with shifts in the political situation abroad. He is not known for standing strong against the expectations of American presidents.
In 2009, feeling pressure from a hostile Obama, he delivered his Bar Ilan speech, in which he described his “vision of peace…two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect.” Did he believe a word? He spoke about the need for a Palestinian state to be demilitarized – something next to impossible to enforce.
Since that time he has not reiterated this position and certainly speaks about Jewish rights in the Land. In fact, he has come out against the uprooting of any Jews from Judaea & Samaria. In recent years, he has spoken about applying sovereignty to at least parts of the area – to Gush Etzion, for example, which has a long history of Jewish settlement, or Ma’aleh Adumim and surrounding area.
But talk has never led to action, not even in the early years of a friendly Trump administration. And it is sometimes difficult to know how much of that talk is intended only for right wing ears during an election season.
This brings us to January 2020. When President Trump unveiled his “Peace to Prosperity,” Netanyahu was ecstatic.
In accepting the Trump proposal he knew he would no longer be standing on his own when applying sovereignty, but, rather, would be doing it with the sanction and support of the US.
All well and good, but at a certain point there is the risk that Israel might be deprived of independence of action. It should never be forgotten that, no matter how forthcoming Trump has been to Israel, he is president of the US, and his first responsibility is to American interests, not the well-being of Israel.
Netanyahu immediately said he would apply sovereignty only according to what the plan called for. The plan was revolutionary, as it represented the first time a US government recognized Israeli rights to any of Judaea & Samaria – an area the PA claims in its entirety. This was a sea-change from the positions of all previous US administrations.
In other ways, however, it was problematic: Sovereignty was to be applied to 30% of Judaea and Samaria, constituting only about 50% of Area C. The remaining 70% was to be held for a Palestinian state, should the Palestinian Arabs meet certain bottom-line commitments – such as establishing a demilitarized Gaza under PA control – and come to the table to negotiate in good faith.
Some on the right called for the prime minister to move ahead with alacrity, while the window was open. The PA would never meet the requirements laid out in the plan, and in due course (a projected four years) Israel would be able to extend sovereignty. This was a case of taking what we can get, they said, much as Ben Gurion had done in 1948.
Others objected strenuously because of the implicit recognition of a Palestinian state, and other weaknesses in the conceptual map of the US plan. There was concern that unauthorized communities (outposts), some outside the area of the map intended for Israel, would be demolished, while some 15 small communities would be so isolated that they wouldn’t be viable.
There was work that was to be done on the map, but that somehow never happened. (Corona?) Netanyahu said application of sovereignty was to begin July 1, but that never happened either. Was the US pulling back? (I suspect they were because the UAE deal was on the horizon.) Or was Netanyahu in the end simply reluctant to move forward?
And so here we are: The “Peace to Prosperity” plan is moot at the moment, and there will be no Israeli application of sovereignty in the near future. What is on the table is the accord with the UAE, which must now be negotiated.
The UAE is NOT the PLO and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, president of the UAE, (pictured) is NOT Yasser Arafat. This must be stated clearly. A solid case can be made for postponing application of sovereignty in order to achieve normalization with the UAE and subsequently other Arab states.
I would suggest, however, that there are several things Prime Minister Netanyahu must do if he is to stand strong for Israel’s rights and security, and not just fold in order to be part of this deal:
- It must be determined unequivocally that there will be a postponement of application of sovereignty, and that it is not permanently off the table. No deal with Arab states is remotely worth the surrender by Israel of her rights to her heartland.
- Israel must keep the issue of sovereignty and our rights in the Land in public consciousness – it must not be permitted to fade away.
- Area C must be protected in the interim until sovereignty can be applied. This requires strength on the part of Netanyahu of a sort that he has not demonstrated until now. I have written several times about the illegal building being done by the PA with EU funding in Area C, and of the failure of the government to put a decisive stop to it. Now is the time!
The Trump plan called for a cessation of building by both parties, but we know the PA will not comply. If not deterred they will establish a strong de facto presence on land that is ours.
The Knesset Land of Israel Caucus – co-chaired by Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) and Haim Katz (Likud) – sent a letter to Netanyahu on Wednesday addressing concerns about safeguarding the land.
“We insist that this ‘waiting period’ for application of sovereignty be a period that strengthens our hold on the Land, especially those areas of weakness exposed by the Trump plan.”
It calls for the prime minister to authorize 70 outposts, so that they would not be left behind. Many of them could be authorized as neighborhoods in existing communities; others would be established independently. The letter points out that arrangements for authorizing these outposts had lain on his desk for more than two years.
It further requests that communities that would end up as isolated enclaves be strengthened. And it proposes that land on which the Palestinian Arabs are doing illegal development be set aside for planting of new forests, grazing or agriculture.
I say Right On! to the Caucus for its pertinent proposals.
Lastly, I want to mention our sovereignty over Har Habayit, the Temple Mount, which has long been compromised. I have written about this before and will return to consider the issue again. Moshe Dayan, Minister of Defense in 1967, allocated to the Muslim Wakf day-to-day administration of the Mount, with Israel retaining sovereignty. But that sovereignty has never been realized, as the Arabs have done everything possible to usurp full control. Jews do not even have an opportunity to pray on the Mount.
Jared Kushner recently exacerbated the situation when he promoted the opportunity members of the UAE will have to visit the Mount, without acknowledging Jewish rights. Those rights must be demanded, and the status quo on the Mount must change.
See Yisrael Medad on this:
Please, take the time to see my website, which provides a wealth of information:
This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. . Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. firstname.lastname@example.org
Arlene from Israel website. https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/