Legitimacy of Israel’s claim on land won in defensive wars

Thomas L. Friedman, a reporter for the New York Times, said in a recent article entitled, Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes that, “Israelis have responded to the collapse of Arab iron fists around them — including the rise of militias with missiles in Lebanon and Gaza — with a third model. It is the wall Israel built around itself to seal off the West Bank coupled with its Iron Dome antimissile system.”

The problem that Friedman notes here is that as a result of foreign control, Arabs were forced to make “Iron Fists”, a rebellion to retake power. The problem with this idea is that Israel is a legitimate power in the land that it currently controls. The reason for this is simple: Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in entirely defensive wars, and thus should be considered a legitimate form of what is being called now occupation. Countries have captured and annexed territories in purely offensive wars and have kept the territory at no cost to the “occupying country.”

Now let us look at the history of modern day Israel and see how a country, which preaches and wants peace, is continually denied peace. First the date November 29th, 1947 is important. This is the day when the United Nations, in its infancy, came up with the original offer of partitioning what was then the Palestine Mandate into two separate countries, one Jewish and one Arab. At this time, the Jews accepted the offer while the Arabs of the Palestine Mandate and the Arab countries of the world refused to even acknowledge the offer as valid, viewing even the creation of one small Jewish State as being an evil idea.

Then, in 1948, five Arab countries attacked the new state of Israel, which only wanted to live in peace with their Arab neighbors. Part of the Arab countries’ strategy was to tell many Palestinian Arabs to move out of their homes and join the war effort. Many Palestinian Arabs did join the Arab armies, however they could not return to their homes, seeing as the Arab armies lost this war. This is the true source of the Palestinian “refugee” problem. The Arab countries of old have basically created a modern day political pawn that they have been trying to use to cause Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth.

The next Israeli war we should note is the 1967 war known as the Six Day War. This war was started preemptively by Israel in order to ward off an Egyptian invasion. When Israel attacked Egypt, Syria responded and attacked Israel. It is of course important to note that at this point Jordan was controlling the old city in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Egypt controlled Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, and Syria controlled the Golan Heights. Jordan was originally reluctant to attack Israel, and Israel had promised that it would not try to capture any of Jordan’s holdings if Jordan did not enter the war. However, Jordan ended up joining the assault.

Israel won this defense-motivated war, in the end capturing the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. Then, something that had never occurred in the history of the victorious powers in a war: Israel, being the victor in the Six Day War, had to sue for peace with Egypt, who had been the major aggressor in this war. This is when the U.N. created Resolution 242, in which Israel would pull out of a captured territory and return it to the country of it’s origin if the country of origin cease acts of aggression and recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Then, in 2005, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. This decision caused many Israelis then living in the Gaza Strip to lose their homes, businesses, and most of their money, and many of them have yet to recover fully. Did the withdrawal cause a cease of violence originating from Gaza? No, we have actually seen an increase of violence since the withdrawal. Hamas has essentially taken almost complete control of Gaza and they have made it abundantly clear that they will not compromise with Israel.

Another irony here is that on November 29th, 1947 the UN offered the original partition plan that the Israelis had accepted but the Palestinians had rejected. Now lets fast forward 65 years. On November 29th, 2012 we see that the UN General assembly votes with a majority to grant the Palestinians non-member status. Why do the Palestinians get to change their mind and finally go the extra mile for independence 65 years later? Why didn’t they just accept the partition plan in 1947 that could of saved thousands of lives? It is my opinion that the only way we will be able to even try to accomplish peace is if the Palestinians admit that because of the conflict they started, innocent lives were lost.


About the Author
Justin Goldstein is currently a second year MSW student at Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work.