Gerard Filitti
Human Rights Attorney
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It’s not ‘annexation’ – it’s reunification

Israelis living in Judea and Samaria have spent far too many years living apart from the rest of the Jewish State
A group of soldiers surrounds then-IDF chief rabbi Shlomo Goren as he blows a shofar at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 7, 1967. (Bamahane Magazine/Defense Ministry's IDF Archive)
A group of soldiers surrounds then-IDF chief rabbi Shlomo Goren as he blows a shofar at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 7, 1967. (Bamahane Magazine/Defense Ministry's IDF Archive)

As Israel prepares to extend its rightful sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), we bear a historic – and moral – responsibility to accurately call this event what it is: reunification. Israel is reuniting families, communities, and the Jewish people. It is reuniting with its history, which stretches back thousands of years. It is reunifying the traditions and culture that have survived and even thrived through adversity, animosity, and the horrors of countless wars.

Judea and Samaria have always been part of Eretz Israel. The legal reality is that the modern State of Israel has always had sovereign rights over all of Judea and Samaria, as well as Gaza and eastern Jerusalem. The Balfour Declaration (November 2, 1917) announced support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in an area then referred to as “Palestine,” which was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The San Remo Resolution (April 25, 1920) resulted from a conference after World War I to formulate a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire. Among other things, the San Remo Resolution created a Mandate for Palestine (formalized on July 24, 1922 by the League of Nations), administered by the British, with the Jewish people as beneficiaries of the sacred trust. The territory subject to the Mandate of Palestine was specifically and intentionally approved for the purpose of becoming the Jewish National Home. The Mandate, incorporated into Article 80 of the United Nations Charter (October 10, 1945), includes Judea and Samaria, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem.

On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the Establishment of Israel. In accordance with a principle of international law known as uti possidetis juris (“as you possess under the law”), the borders of the State of Israel conformed with the territorial limits of the Mandate for Palestine, as they existed at that time. As the International Court of Justice has explained, “by becoming independent, [the] new State acquires sovereignty with the territorial base and boundaries left to it by the [administrative boundaries of the] colonial power.” For the nascent State of Israel, this included Judea and Samaria, as well as Gaza.

The day after Israel declared its independence, it was attacked by five Arab countries. As a result of that war, Judea and Samaria, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem were wrested away from Israel. The territorial integrity of Israel was violated, a situation that was not corrected until the defensive war of 1967, when Israel regained the territory it had been promised under the Mandate for Palestine.  The territorial integrity of Israel was, for the most part, restored.

Political reality, however, mostly resulting from an oppressive international campaign to miscast these parts of Israel as “Occupied Territories,” led to a series of decisions that resulted in the full exercise of sovereignty being held in abeyance with regard to Judea and Samaria, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem. However, Israel has maintained complete security control of Judea and Samaria (which may soon be reunified). Israeli civil law has governed its citizens living there, who also enjoy Israeli economic, educational, and welfare benefits. The history, nature, and character of the Israelis living in Judea and Samaria have always been Israeli, but they have spent far too many years living apart from the rest of the Jewish State. They need – and deserve – to be reunified with their community.

Much as West Germany and East Germany reunified at the end of the Cold War, it is well past the time to reunify Judea and Samaria with the rest of Israel. Its residents are part of one culture and one people – one family. And, like families, they have a basic, if not fundamental, right to stay together.

If, as expected, the Israeli government exerts full sovereignty over all (or parts) of Judea and Samaria, it isn’t an act of annexation. It’s an act of reunification, bringing together individuals and families who have been artificially separated for no good reason, but always subject to Israel’s sovereignty. Annexation is a proclamation of sovereignty outside a state’s domain, which is not the case here. Reunification is the recognition that the Jewish family has been separated for far too long. Reunification is an act of love, finally bringing that family back together.

About the Author
Gerard Filitti is is a New York City-based human rights attorney. He serves as Senior Counsel at The Lawfare Project, a Jewish civil rights litigation fund and think tank. He previously worked as a litigator in private practice for over 15 years and has broad experience in commercial and complex litigation across a wide variety of practice areas, in both state and federal courts.
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