December 06, 2009

Owner Occupation

We issue building permits as owners ... not occupiers.

These days it seems that a Jew can buy property and build a home anywhere in the world … except in his own homeland. And Netanyahu’s announcement of a 10-month settlement freeze in the ‘West Bank’ would appear to confer Israeli government legitimacy to a clear breach of the human rights of Jewish people.

By its proper name, Judea and Samaria has been Jewish territory for thousands of years. Our biblical title to it is undeniable. Under international law too, our rights are no less legitimate. It was designated as the Jewish homeland by the League of Nations in 1922. After being invaded by the Arabs in 1948 it was recaptured from its Jordanian occupiers in Israel’s defensive war of 1967. It is currently home to over 200,000 Jewish returnees. And, for all the fuss created by our detractors, those Jewish homes actually occupy less than 2 percent of the whole ‘West Bank’ territory.

Few pundits ever mention that both banks of the Jordan were originally allotted to the Jewish homeland. At the last moment, Britain inserted the infamous ‘Clause 25’ by which they gifted our East Bank to the Hashemites who turned it into the modern-day Kingdom of Jordan. So, having been robbed of half the territory, we are now told we cannot live in the half we were left with. Not even in a measly 2 percent of it.

So why, of all ruling parties, should it be the Likud that appears to abuse the rights of Jews in their own land? And why would such ministerial hawks like Moshe Yaalon and Bennie Begin appear to be standing behind Netanyahu’s announcement?

The answer has nothing to do with the peace process. Nor has it to do with the belief that any concessions, in terms of land or refugees, will ever yield Arab recognition of a Jewish State in this region. Instead it is simply a matter of national security which the Prime Minister has rightly put above party politics and other considerations.

Iran’s mullahs are about to go nuclear on the watch of the weakest and most vacillating president ever to have occupied the White House. There is also the matter of 50,000 Hezbollah rockets pointed at Tel Aviv and incessant weapons smuggling into Gaza. Obama turned his back on the Iranian reformers, unilaterally abandoned the missile defence of Baltic democracies, and has spent 3 months second-guessing his own handpicked general’s call for reinforcements in Afghanistan. Such a US President cannot be trusted as a guarantor to coax Israel into even riskier territorial concessions.

Until Obama transforms himself or is replaced after a single term, Netanyahu is forced to play along with this charade. The fiction that Mahmoud Abbas is a credible peace partner. The illusion that Syria can ever be trusted with repossession of the Golan Heights. And the fantasy that the Muslim Brotherhood will ever accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, even if confined to the city limits of Tel Aviv.

Happily, Israel has more dependable friends in the US: its Congress and the military. Thirty years ago Menachem Begin recognised the value of appealing to Congress over Jimmy Carter’s head. In current times Israel enjoys a high level of co-operation with the US military, culminating in the completion of their joint missile defence exercise last month.

Is that relationship worth a 10-month settlement freeze?
Netanyahu clearly thinks it is. And his courage in resolutely excluding Jerusalem from the offer shows that he is no pushover for Obama.


[This was first published in the London Jewish News]

The illustration is a detail from a French map dated 1791

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