What if American Jews read on the front pages of The New York Times and the Washington Post that Israeli Jews would estrange themselves from American Jews, if the latter chose to vote for a president who was lukewarm on Israel, instead of one who was very pro-Israel? Americans would be piqued that Israelis expected them to vote as if Israel were at the top of their priority list!
Well, the converse happened recently when 140 American Jewish so-called leaders wrote an open letter to Israeli political leaders, stating that annexing Jewish communities beyond the Green Line, in the heartland of the Jewish people where 10% of Israeli Jews live, will cause alienation between American and Israeli Jews. Let me explain the background and context of Israel’s rights throughout the Land of Israel, which includes what the media call the West Bank, a term invented by the Jordanians in 1950 to erase the Jewish history of the region, known historically and up to the 20th century as Judea and Samaria.
Between 600-700,000 Israeli Jews live beyond the 1949 Armistice lines (aka the Green Line), which were temporary ceasefire lines drawn in green marker on a map at the end of the Arab war to destroy Israel. These lines were intended to be temporary ceasefire lines between Israeli and Arab forces and were emphatically defined as NOT BORDERS.
In reality, the Green Line was erased 18 years later, when Israel defeated three invading Arab armies and routed Jordanian troops from all of Israel west of the Jordan River, Syrian troops from the Golan Heights and Egyptians from the Gaza Strip. This was a war of aggressors, the Arabs, against the indigenous peoples, the Jews, including many who had survived WWII. The Israelis won the defensive war that threatened their annihilation.
All of these areas were inhabited by Jews continually (albeit waxing and waning) since antiquity. During WWI, European countries, chiefly Britain and France, divided most of the Middle East to benefit themselves. Britain then prohibited Jews from settling in the Jewish heartland, restricting them to isolated areas around Jerusalem and on the coastal plan. France included the Golan Heights in a new Syrian entity, precluding Jews from settling there. Both countries received mandates from the League of Nations for governing their respective areas following the war.
After the Six Day War victory in 1967, the Labour Party, the left wing ruling party in Israel since its independence in 1948, began authorizing communities throughout the reclaimed areas of the Land of Israel: Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip. When the rightist Likud Party gained ascendance in 1977, it continued expanding the Jewish population in those areas.
In 2020, nearly 25% of the residents beyond the Green Line are Jewish (2.8 million total Arabs and Jews). For comparison, the percentage of Muslims living within the Green Line is about 20% (9 million Jews, Muslims, and others).
Besides separate Jewish and Arab communities in Israel, there are large mixed populations in Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Nazareth, Lod, Ramla, Haifa, Akko and elsewhere, all governed by Israeli law. Extending Israeli law to Jews living beyond the Green Line is analogous to the current situation in Israel.
Let me address the unfortunate term, “annexation.” What Israelis (the plurality if not the majority) want is to simply extend Israeli civil law to the nearly 450,000 Jews beyond the Green Line, who have lived under Israeli military law since 1967. This policy already is in place in Jerusalem. The issue is not about annexation, a loaded term, but changing the legal authority for the Israeli citizens to the same civil law as applies in Tel Aviv, et al. Nothing would change for the Palestinian Arabs, except the possibility of developing additional infrastructure for Jews and Arabs.
Since liberating all of Israel in 1967, the government has not taken any action to delineate and identify the border between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis. There are exceptions: the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. The Palestinian Arabs have autonomy in all of their major cities, running their civil governments, schools, hospitals, health care, etc.
Read below how Israeli-American pundit Carolyn Glick addresses the problem of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria:
“The more certainty Israel signals about its long-term intentions in relation to its security control over the areas and its attachment to its communities in Judea and Samaria, the more willing the Palestinians will be to live and let live. The peaks in Palestinian violence and rejection of Israel and its permanent presence and control over Judea and Samaria have come when Israel has expressed the greatest confusion about its intentions and plans in relation to these areas. A clear Israeli position on Judea and Samaria will work like its clear borders with Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to engender stability. Everyone knows Israel’s red lines and understands the price of crossing them.”
The 140 American Jewish letter writers mentioned above don’t live in Israel (some may own property here), don’t send their sons and daughters to the IDF to defend Israel, and don’t have a personal stake in Israel’s future. They comfortably prognosticate from their homes in America, assuming that because of their prominence and/or wealth, that they know better than Israelis what is best for us living in Israel. Chutzpah!
Liberal American Jews have good intentions, for the most part. But who are they to tell Israelis where we can live in our homeland? Do they realize that Israel’s intention is only to extend Israeli civil law to Israeli citizens, not Palestinian Arabs? Do they expect Israel to allow its enemies to have a veto over Jewish sovereignty in our ancestral land?
The Americans caution us to have patience and negotiate our borders at a better time. Would there be a Jewish State if we had exercised patience in 1948? The Arabs have never agreed to the establishment of a Jewish State on “Muslim land.”
Speaking for myself, I thank those American leaders who love and appreciate Israel, but counsel that they look at things through our eyes, not theirs. I disdain those among the supporters of this plea who are false Zionists promoting either a truncated Israel with indefensible “1948 borders,” or a unified state of Israelis and Palestinian Arabs that would erase the Jewish State.
Israel exists because we have seized the opportunities open to us and acted on them. Such a time is now upon us. It would be helpful for “Jewish leaders” in America to support the leadership chosen by Israelis, not to foist upon us their ideas. That liberality may be appropriate in a country bordered by Canada and Mexico, but it certainly isn’t appropriate here, with Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt bordering our small state.
The American Jewish leaders who signed the open letter should know that the Trump peace plan doesn’t call for blanket annexation of all of the Land of Israel. It specifies Israeli sovereignty in the Jewish population centers beyond the Green Line. This will be accomplished by substituting Israeli civil law for military law in those areas, thereby establishing a real border between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs.
Nearly 140 US Jewish leaders unveiled an open letter Monday [4/6/20] to Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz and his deputy, MK Gabi Ashkenazi, urging them to “remain steadfast” in their opposition to West Bank annexation under a unity government. The letter was orchestrated by the Israel Policy Forum, a New York-based nonprofit that advocates for a two-state solution.
“Should annexation be advanced, the majority of American Jews who oppose such a policy will feel more alienated from Israel as a result.”
“It will be viewed as political opportunism by proponents of annexation during the worst possible moment and will make it more challenging for American Jewish leaders as they seek to maintain strong support for Israel and pro-Israel policies at this time.”