Let us begin today by looking briefly at the historical situation that immediately followed Israel’s Declaration of Independence and the subsequent War of Independence. At the end of the war, in 1949, armistice lines (ceasefire lines) were established. They were similar to, but not exactly the same, as the lines within which the Jews had declared a state in 1948: Israel had gained a bit of territory. Most significantly, Israel had secured the western part of Jerusalem. (In the original UN proposal, Jerusalem was to be internationalized.)
These armistice lines – referred to as the Green Line – were the lines within which Israel remained until 1967. Egypt had taken Gaza, and Jordan had taken the remainder of Mandate Palestine – Judea and Samaria, dubbed “the West Bank” by Jordan. Jordan, I will note, occupied this land illegally, for it was acquired in a war of aggression.
This Green Line, my friends, is the so-called border behind which Mahmoud Abbas of the PA is always insisting Israel must retreat. He speaks of it as if it had been Israel’s official “border,” and much of the world has adopted this skewed perspective. But it was NOT a border, it was a temporary armistice line. Israel had an armistice agreement with Jordan; it specified that the armistice line was temporary and that a final border would be negotiated (something that never happened).
And note this well: not only was that line not Israel’s border, it was Jordan that Israel was going to negotiate with regarding a final border. There was no mention of Palestinian Arabs; there was no suggestion that a Palestinian state would be on the other side of the border.
The situation changed in 1967 during the Six Day War, which Israel fought defensively, in the process acquiring Judea and Samaria. What Israel acquired then was Mandate land. Unclaimed Mandate land, to be sure, but according to international law still Mandate land.
There are claims – oi, are there claims! – that Israel is an “occupier” in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank), that Israel is there illegally, that Israel has no right to build there.
But how can Israel be an “occupier”? This is land that the Mandate – which has never been superseded – had determined was a Homeland for the Jews. A people cannot be an “occupier” in its own land. How can it be “illegal” for Israel to build in this land, when the Mandate called for “close settlement” by the Jews?
I would add here that the fact that the land was acquired in a defensive war gives an added layer of legitimacy to Israel’s acquisition of it.
And there is one other point of enormous significance here: Judea and Samaria – the western part of Mandate Palestine promised to the Jews – was stateless when Israel acquired it. No legal sovereignty had been applied to it. That is, Jordan’s presence in the land was illegal. Israel did not usurp the land from another state that had it legally.
According to international law, “occupation” can only take place when one state has taken control of land over which another state already had sovereignty. And remember what I wrote yesterday: There has NEVER been a sovereign Arab state (never mind a “Palestinian Arab” state) in Palestine.
Israel did not “take” the land from any state and thus cannot be an “occupier,” no matter what claims are made to the contrary. Of course, the myth that is promulgated is that Israel “took” the land away from the Palestinian Arabs.
Following the Six Day War, Israel did not annex Judea and Samaria – something that many, myself included, deeply regret. It would have precluded a host of problems, had Israel claimed her full rights to the land once she had control of it. The thinking at that time was that there might be a trade of that land, or some part of it, for peace – a prospect that turned out to be greatly unrealistic.
And so Judea and Samaria remained unclaimed Mandate land, to which Israel had inarguably, the very best claim. Certainly the fact that Israel did not annex the land did not deny her the right to build there.
I will mention here only very briefly the Oslo Accords – which many, again including myself – have viewed as a huge mistake. Today the Accords float somewhere in legal limbo, not having been formally renounced by Israel, but – breached repeatedly by the PA – not viable by any meaningful standard.
Two points should be made here with regard to Oslo.
1) The first is that the land of Judea and Samaria was divided by the Accord into three sections. Section C is land over which Israel has both civil and military control. And in this Area, the Accords do not restrict Israel’s right to build. (Israel voluntarily restricted her own right to build in Areas A and B, and this would change were Oslo renounced.) ALL Jewish communities (aka “settlements”) in Judea and Samaria are in Area C.
2) It should also be noted that there is nothing in the Accords about a sovereign Palestinian state. This is an idea that morphed over time. Even Yitzhak Rabin, who was prime minister at the time of the Accords, made it very clear that he envisioned the “final status” (which is what the Accord refers to) as something in the nature of an autonomy that is less than a full state.
There will be many reasons to refer back to this history over the coming days and weeks. Now I’d like to take a look at some current happenings, considered in the light of this history:
Prime Minister Netanyahu is pushing hard for passage of Basic Law legislation that will declare unambiguously that Israel is a Jewish state. And the furor that is on-going with regard to this is incredible. He is accused of being “undemocratic,” which is patently nonsense.
The Elder of Ziyon blogspot has put up the full draft version of this legislation. This is the draft Netanyahu prefers, although it may change. It says that its goal is:
“Defining the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, and anchoring the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the spirit of the principles of the Declaration of Independence.”
It declares that:
“The State of Israel is democratic, based on the foundations of freedom, justice and peace in light of the visions of the prophets of Israel, and upholds the individual rights of all its citizens according to law.”
“The State will act to enable all residents of Israel, regardless of religion, race or nationality, to preserve their culture, heritage, language and identity.”
“…members of recognized faiths shall be entitled to rest on their Sabbaths and holidays.”
So what do Netanyahu’s critic’s object to? It says that Israel is the national home of the Jewish People, in which the Jewish People realizes it right to self-determination. It identifies Hatikva as the national anthem, says the flag has a Star of David on it, recognizes all Jews as having the right to immigrate.
And this, say the complainers, makes non-Jews “second class citizens.”
But wait! The Mandate described Palestine as the Homeland of the Jews, and acknowledged national rights of self-determination only for the Jewish people, with non-Jews having equal protection with regard to individual civil and religious rights only. This is not new.
And if we look at the Resolution 181 of the General Assembly that recommended a partition of Palestine: one state was to be a Jewish state. Have they not noticed this?
What’s going on now is political, an attempt by Netanyahu’s critics inside of Israel to play to the Arabs and the greater world: “See? See how liberal and fair I am! See how I protect the Arab minority in Israel. See, you can trust me to get along with you.”
Of course, there is the chorus of criticism from outside of Israel by members of the EU and others. But, while we don’t expect much from the EU, we have a right to expect better from Israeli politicians.
There are those who ponder why Netanyahu is making quite the fuss over this that he is. He is furious with both Tzipi Livni (head of Hatenua) and Yair Lapid (head of Yesh Atid), who are members of the coalition but have publicly crossed the prime minister on this issue. He says he cannot govern with members of the coalition defying coalition discipline and behaving as if they are in the opposition.
Thus there has been serious talk about his dissolving the Knesset and bringing early elections (perhaps by March). He has been courting the Ultra Orthodox parties vigorously, for he would hope to bring them into a new coalition in place of Yesh Atid and Hatenua.
Last week I would have put my money on early elections. Today I’m not so sure. Netanyahu is delaying calling for a vote on the legislation and is seeking wording that would be agreeable to all.
His reason for persisting on this? There are suggestions that what he is doing is political: That he sees the public support for his party, Likud, slipping in the polls, while Naftali Bennett’s party, Habayit Hayehudi, is garnering greater support. And that he is therefore making an all out effort to take a stand sure to be pleasing to the right wing that is favoring Bennett. What is more, goes this thinking, he is provoking a coalition crisis that will lead to new elections, because he thinks he’ll do better in elections now than he would some months from now.
I know full well that Binyamin Netanyahu is a political animal, and there may be some modest truth in what is being said. I, however, read a great deal more into this. I believe he knows what international efforts are afoot to delegitimize Israel and so believes that it is essential to codify our nature as a state unambiguously and up front.
Please, see what Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor, has to say about this situation (emphasis added):
“In the debate on the proposed ‘Jewish state law,’ much of the criticism erases the context that brought this issue to the political center at this time. Claims of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’ that have echoed through the media and in the Knesset reduce an important and complex issue to simplistic and misleading slogans…
”This initiative cannot be understood without considering the ongoing campaigns to erode and eventually erase the essential Jewish framework of Zionism. For a number of years, anti-Zionist political groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have sought to reverse the definition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and replace it by a state ‘of all of its citizens.’
“…claims that a Jewish state is somehow racist or a theocracy ignore the fact that the 28 members of the European Union (plus Norway and Switzerland) are Christian societies, with symbols, flags, calendars, and, as in Britain, an established Church. Similarly, there are over 55 countries that define themselves as Islamic, and a number are, in fact, theocracies. Thus, the attempts to single out Israel for criticism are themselves highly discriminatory.
“For all of these reasons, the political agenda reflects the importance of reinforcing Israel’s fundamental Jewish and Zionist identity, based on the 1948 Declaration of Independence, which defines Israel clearly and repeatedly as ‘the Jewish state.’ And while different formulae exist in order to reach this objective, opponents who resort to false slogans such as ‘racism’ are contributing to the problem.”
Two days ago, in an emergency session of the Arab League in Cairo, Abbas declared:
”We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel.” He accused Israel of setting up an apartheid state.
So there you have it. It is in response to this sort of thinking that Netanyahu seems determined to take his stand.
I would like to close with good news – evidence of the democratic spirit with which Israel relates to its non-Jewish citizens:
On Thursday, MK Danny Danon (Likud) announced that he was going to attempt to secure an addendum to the “Jewish state” bill calling for affirmative action for minority communities that take active part in defending the state. That would be the Druse and Circassian communities, which take part in mandatory military service.
Now the prime minister has announced he will be submitting a plan to the government for “significant investment” in the Druse and Circassian communities – in the areas of education, employment and infrastructure.
The parents and the widow of Zidan Saif, the Druse police officer who died protecting Jews in the Har Nof massacre, visited the Har Nof synagogue and met with members of the congregation in an emotional meeting.
Credit: Dudi Vaaknin
Said Rinael Saif, Zidan’s widow, to the widows of the four rabbis who had been slain, “There is no way to make this easier, no words that can offer comfort, I feel your sorrow.” The families held a joint prayer service.
“Lost in the uproar over the proposed Israeli Nationality Bill has been the historic recognition of Arameans as a separate nationality in Israel. Israel is the first country in the world to recognize the Arameans. And this historic recognition has empowered and emboldened Arameans to seek better treatment in other countries they live in.
“On Wednesday, November 26, the World Council of Arameans (WCA) will be addressing the Seventh Session of the Forum on Minority Issues at the United Nations in Geneva. Shadi Halul, an Aramean from Gush Halav in the Galilee, will be traveling to Geneva in order to address the assembly. His two year old child was the first person to be registered under the new identity in Israel, one month ago…
“Part of his statement will read as follows: ‘We, Aramean Christian Israelis, want all the nations of the world to see the historic democratic move of Israel in recognizing the nationality of “Aramean” within the Christian citizens of the Jewish and democratic Israel…’
“’The only safe haven for our people in the entire region is Israel,’ Jahn Zaknoun, spokesperson of the Christian Aramaic Society in Israel told Tazpit News Agency. ‘It is the only place we are demographically growing in the entire region. In 1948 there were between 50,000 and 70,000 Arameans in the countryl, and today there are 130,000 Arameans.’
“”We want our people to be a useful and productive part of the country, to serve in the army, as anyone who loves this country as it is would do,’ Zaknoun added. ‘Israel is the only country in the region where everyone who comes here is integrated into society. Anyone who cherishes freedom, of life and of speech, loves Israel.’”
What a source of pride for all Israelis! Share this, share this, share this.
The Aramean Christians are one of the most ancient Christian churches, originating in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They are brutally persecuted today outside of Israel.
I end today with a video of the Circassian community in Israel, a Muslim community that is “proud to be Israeli.” This community cannot return to its native Caucasus and is grateful to the Israeli government for its assistance to Muslim leaders in the land. In Arab lands they cannot raise the Circassian flag – in Israel they can.
(Thanks to Danny Seaman.)
Share this, as well, please!
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.