The Once and Future Sovereign of Judea and Samaria

In a world where words have no meaning, on December 28, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the United States’ abstention on the previous week’s United Nations Security Council resolution which called Jewish neighborhoods in Judea and Samaria (including eastern Jerusalem), known to the international community as settlements in the West Bank, as having “no legal validity” under international law. The United States woefully enabled this nonsense by abstaining from voting on the resolution, thus denying Israel a much needed veto and allowing the vote to pass. John Kerry’s defense ironically fell on Hanukah, a holiday which celebrates Jewish emancipation of Judea and Samaria from the clutches of Greek oppression, ushering in yet another era (164 BCE to 63 BCE) where Jews achieved sovereignty in their ancestral homeland. Over 2,000 years later, the world has confidently decreed that it is illegal for Jews to live there. To quote the Grateful Dead, “what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

The history of Jewish Sovereignty In Judea and Samaria

Far before the United Nations was created, and fungible, fair-weathered concepts of “international law” ever existed, Jews were the indigenous people of Judea and Samaria. They had sovereignty or pseudo-sovereignty of that land during:

  • The Kingdom of Israel (1020 to 930 BCE);
  • The northern Kingdom of Israel (930 BCE to 720 BCE);
  • The southern Kingdom of Judah (930 BCE to 586 BCE);
  • The Yehud under the Neo-Babylonian/Chaldean Empire (586 BCE-539 BCE);
  • The Yehud Medinata under the Persian Achaemenid Empire (539 BCE to 332 BCE);
  • The Hasmonean Dynasty under the Greek Seleucid Empire (164 BCE to 63 BCE)
  • The Hasmonean Dynasty under the Roman Empire (63 BCE to 40 BCE);
  • The Herodian Dynasty under the Roman Empire (37 BCE to 6 BCE);
  • The First Jewish-Roman War (66 CE to 73 CE);
  • The Palestinian Patriarchate under the Roman Empire (80 CE to 425 CE)
  • Full independence from the Roman Empire as a result of the Bar Kokhba Rebellion (132 CE to 135 CE); and
  • Jewish autonomy in Jerusalem under the Persian Sasanian Empire (614-617 CE).

The history of Palestinian Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria

In contrast, the Arabs were not indigenous to Judea and Samaria. They came from Arabia to rule over the land through the Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 637 CE. Muslim occupation of Judea and Samaria following 637 CE was conducted from foreign capitals, often by non-Arab (e.g. Sejuk, Ayyubid, Mamluk, Ottoman) dynasties.

There was certainly no Arab Palestinian sovereignty in Judea and Samaria up until the modern period. (The Palestinian Patriarchate mentioned above, like the Palestinian Talmud and more recent Palestine Post and Palestine Orchestra refer to Jewish, not Arab, entities). The Arabs rejected proposals to gain sovereignty of Judea and Samaria in 1937, 1947, 1967-1968, 2000, 2001, and 2008. Interestingly, both the 1937 and 1947 offers to the Arabs refer to that land not as “the West Bank” but as “Samaria and Judaea” and “the hill country of Samaria and Judea,” respectively—language that the Jews, whom these offers would attempt to disenfranchise, would clearly understand. The first and only Arab acceptance of Arab sovereignty in Judea and Samaria occurred in the Oslo II Accord (1995), where Israel recognized Arab military and civilian control of Area A.

The Settlements are not Illegal

While giving the Arabs sovereignty of parts of Judea and Samaria, the Oslo II Accord also gave Israel sovereignty in other parts of that same territory. Signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Oslo II granted Israel full military and civilian control in Area C, which is where the Israeli settlements are located. Previous to that or since, there has been no Israeli “occupation.” This is detailed in length here, but in short, there was no state, Palestinian or otherwise, from which Israel could occupy Judea and Samaria. Now-defunct, non-Arab, foreign empires (and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem) controlled Judea and Samaria from 1070 to 1948 (apart from a brief Egyptian occupation during 1832-1840). After Israel declared independence in 1948, Jordan invaded Judea and Samaria (1948), annexed it (1950), lost it to Israel in a war that Jordan started (1967), and finally relinquished all claims to it (1988).

U.N. Resolution is a Violation of the Oslo Accords

Most importantly, December’s Security Council resolution constitutes yet another violation of the Oslo Accords to the detriment of Israel. Oslo II stated that Israel and the Palestinian Authority would engage in permanent status negotiations to resolve issues including borders and settlements. The Security Council resolution, which is not a negotiation between the parties but a fiat against Israel imposed from without, violates Oslo. The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office compiled a list in 1996 of Palestinian violations of the Oslo Agreement, many of which (e.g. failure to disband militias, incitement to violence) still occur today. Instead of reigning in terrorist groups, the Palestinian Authority allowed Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to continue to exist and operate, with Hamas instigating three wars against Israel (2008-2009, 2012, and 2014). Recently, the Palestinian Authority has failed to prevent al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Iran-backed Harakat al-Sabireen from gaining footholds in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinian Authority continues to incite against Israel, Israelis, and the Jewish people, rivaling Hamas in its propaganda.


Samantha Power, in her speech to the United Nations Security Council, stated that Israel’s continued construction in Judea and Samaria “harms the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome.” Ironically, this security resolution gives Israel the opportunity to move away from abiding by the Oslo Accords and towards unilateral moves that better serve its interests. During the Oslo “Peace Process,” the Palestinians have given Israel at least four wars and countless broken promises.

While the Security Council resolution was on its face bad for Israel, Israel can leverage it constructively. Because the international community took unilateral steps towards a final status agreement, Israel should respond in kind. Israel should annex Area C, or parts of Area C like Ma’ale Adumim and other large Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, and apply Israeli law to these areas. Because the world has arbitrarily withdrawn its recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Area C, Israel is justified in withdrawing financial support to the United Nations, which it has done, and re-evaluating the presence of U.N. workers in its country, which it is now contemplating. The recent Security Council vote, while panned as a betrayal of Israel, may indeed allow the Jews to once again exert sovereignty over the heartland of their ancestral homeland.

About the Author
Steve works in the Washington, DC area.
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