The last few weeks have seen a European-led political and economic assault on the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria (commonly referred to as “West Bank settlements”). The British government has advised her citizens not to do business in the ancient historical Jewish homeland, including parts of Jerusalem. Some European supermarkets have even begun labeling our produce to encourage boycotts. This well-orchestrated effort to demonize and delegitimize our communities is bearing its poisonous fruits. However, it will not bring peace any closer nor will it serve the cause of justice or advance the values in which Europe holds dear, as in reality, the “settlements” are legal, legitimate and necessary for peace.
Israel’s claim over Judea and Samaria is legally stronger than any other claim. It stems from the never-revoked 1922 League of Nations resolution, which allocated the entire area for the “establishment of a Jewish national home” and even encouraged “close settlement by Jews on the land.” Although, UN Resolution 181 called for the establishment of two separate states, one Jewish and one Arab, it was rejected by the Arabs, making it null and void.
The Kingdom of Jordan, which conquered the area in 1948 during the armed Arab attempt to prevent the creation of the State of Israel, illegally annexed it. The 1949 Armistice Demarcation Lines, popularly known as the “Green Line”, therefore have no legal or diplomatic significance. The Armistice Agreement explicitly states that the lines are purely military in nature and devoid of any political significance. Forty-six years ago, Israel did not capture Judea and Samaria from a Palestinian State that never existed, but rather from Jordan, which has since relinquished all its claims to the area.
Therefore, the claim that anything west of the 1949 armistice line is Israel and anything to the east is “Palestinian Occupied Territory” in which Israelis may not reside is baseless from a legal perspective.
The Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria are not only legal but are impeccably legitimate. Shiloh in Samaria and Hebron in Judea are the cradles of Jewish civilization, and as such the centers of the Jewish sovereignty, preceding even Jerusalem. These are the sites in which the ancient Jewish Tabernacle stood and where the founding fathers and mothers of the Jewish people were buried, where King David set up his first capital and where Jews have lived from time immemorial.
Nevertheless, Israel has agreed time and again – for the sake of peace– to relinquish these areas. When the UN decided in 1947 to partition the Land of Israel, establishing a diminutive Jewish state with implausible boundaries – that even excluded Jerusalem. The Jews went out to the squares of Tel Aviv to dance the hora in celebration. The Arabs attacked that very same night, attempting to take it all by force.
Between, the wars of 1948 and 1967, the Jordanian occupiers of Judea and Samaria, didn’t establish a Palestinian state or make peace with Israel – they founded the Palestine Liberation Organization, dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Then came the Arab aggression against Israel in 1967, defined by the leader of the PLO Ahmed Shukeiri as an attempt “to throw the Jews into the sea.” Israel prevailed.
After surviving two attempts of extermination, it would be immoral for Israel to wind back the clocks and go back to square one. It would mean giving the aggressor immunity, and a retroactive security net that assures him no harm if he does not succeed with his heinous goal of wiping Israel off the map.
Israel did not capture Judea and Samaria as part of a grand expansionist design, but rather in a defensive war for survival. We returned to the heart of our ancestral homeland despite our readiness to give it up for the sake of peace and coexistence. Nothing could be more legitimate than to renew Jewish presence there.
Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is also necessary for true peace. Twenty percent of Israel’s citizens are currently Palestinians. While this poses numerous challenges to Israeli society, it also enriches it. Jewish cities and villages in Judea and Samaria, alongside the Palestinian ones, are no different. Peace is not achieved through ethnic separation. Reconciliation is not achieved by the disappearance of your adversary but by your learning to coexist with him. The Palestinian President’s demands to establish a Jew-free Palestinian State are the true obstacle to peace. Peace is not achieved through ethnic separation. Reconciliation is not achieved by the disappearance of your adversary but by your learning to coexist with him. That could well be Nelson Mandela’s most important teaching.
The possible paths toward a political resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are diverse. But none should include the exclusion of the right of Jews to reside, build and thrive in their ancestral homeland. Only when Jews and Arabs, Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side, will there be a true chance for peace.