Sherman’s principles

With all the talk about whether or not the US is continuing to insist on a “2-state solution” there are still two basic principles that have to be taken into account when considering changes in the status of Judea and Samaria:

  1. Israel must retain security control of the high ground on both sides of the central hilly region and the passes through it. Otherwise the country can’t be defended against terrorism from the territories or attack from the east. No guarantees from the US, UN or the Arab nations can change this.
  2. Israel can’t absorb any more Arabs. Although there would continue to be a Jewish majority even if all of Judea and Samaria were annexed, the large Arab population would be destabilizing, from political, security and economic standpoints.

In the cauldron of violence and instability that is the Middle East, Israel cannot allow herself to be weakened, either territorially or demographically. But it is also true that the present situation, while not “unsustainable” as is often said, is definitely sub-optimal. The heavily populated Arab areas constitute a reservoir of hostility which expresses itself in frequent deadly terrorist attacks against the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, as well as somewhat less frequent – but still deadly – ones west of the Green Line.

American and European “peace processing” has generally centered on denying principle 1) above, proposing security guarantees involving establishing a friendly Palestinian or Palestinian/Jordanian regime or putting foreign troops in the territories. Nobody in their right mind believes that any of these ideas is worth two minutes of discussion. Only Israel can defend herself, and she can only do so with adequate strategic depth and consideration of topographic reality. A sovereign Palestinian state in the territories would mean the end of the Jewish state.

But annexation of all  of Judea and Samaria, along with the 1.7 million hostile Arabs it contains (this number is in dispute, but the dispute is irrelevant to this discussion), would make Israel into an ungovernable, violent third-world society.

The Israeli Left plays down the threat implicit in denying 1), and insists that it’s necessary to give up territory to save us from the consequences of 2). The right wing, on the other hand, prefers to emphasize the military threat and deemphasize the demographic one.

For some time, Dr. Martin Sherman of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies has been arguing (see more from him here) that both principles are true, and violation of either will bring disaster. Further, he believes that proposals for annexing only parts of the land (the parts with few Arabs) like those of Naftali Bennett (video) and Mordechai Kedar are unworkable, because “partial annexation and limited autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs, concentrated in disconnected mini-enclaves will result in wildly torturous [sic] and contorted borders, virtually impossible to demarcate  and secure, thus emptying  ‘sovereignty’ in the annexed areas of any meaningful content.”

Sherman believes that any successful outcome would require full annexation of the territories, along with emigration of much of the Arab population. He envisions a “humanitarian approach,” which would involve “generous funding for the relocation and rehabilitation of the Palestinian Arabs resident in Judea/Samaria (and eventually Gaza) in third-party countries of their choice.” His arguments that such a program of relocation grants to individual families would be less expensive than the establishment of a Palestinian State or the continuance of UNRWA and the PA, and much better for the families are very persuasive.

Sherman provides answers to the questions that naturally come up. How much would it cost, who would pay, what would happen to UNRWA, where would Palestinians go, how would we prevent extremists from murdering anyone that chose to accept a grant, and more. But no matter how good his plan may be, it’s impossible to imagine that it would be implemented.

The problem is that almost the entire world is committed to Palestinian sovereignty in the territories (at least), whether or not that is good for individual Palestinians or consistent with the continued existence of a Jewish state. While Sherman’s plan actually is a solution which could theoretically end the misery of the Palestinians (including the refugees in various countries), it is close to politically impossible. His ideas are almost universally rejected, or rather, ignored. He is a Cassandra that almost nobody listens to and few even bother to argue with.

No Palestinian leader, whose bread and butter is the alienation of the “Palestinian people” from their “homeland,” could possibly support an idea which would put them out of a job. No academic in love with the post-colonial paradigm could accept anything other than full self-determination for this “oppressed people.” No Arab, European, or American State Department employee whose heart’s desire is to see Israel reduced to an indefensible fragment which will soon disappear entirely, could agree with Sherman. And those who have no trouble calling for the mass expulsion of Jews from their homes against their will as a legitimate act in the name of “peace,” recoil in horror from the idea of paying Arabs to relocate, calling it “ethnic cleansing.”

Nevertheless, Sherman’s logic is unassailable and his conclusion unavoidable, even if his solution is not taken seriously.

Israel’s enemies like to say that the Zionists want the land but not the people. They are right, too. Israel’s security can’t be guaranteed without control of the land, and there is no possibility of absorbing the people.

This was not always the case, and need not have been the case; but that is the point we have reached today, thanks to failures of leadership on both sides. Thanks, for example, to Amin al-Husseini, the father of Palestinian nationalism, Jew-hater, pogromist and Nazi. Thanks also to his disciple, Yasser Arafat and his heir Mahmoud Abbas, who created the narrative and fed (and continue to feed) the hatred. And thanks especially to Israelis like Yossi Beilin and Shimon Peres who brought the poisonous Arafat back from exile and injected his evil potion directly into our heart.

But today it’s 2017, not 1967 or 1993. We can’t undo the past.

Sherman’s plan would be an optimal solution for Israelis and Palestinians, but whether or not it can be implemented, the logic that led him to it still stands. Any outcome to the conflict that will include a Jewish state will have to take into account the two propositions at the start of this post.

The questions we need to be asking today are not how we can live alongside a sovereign Palestinian state (we can’t), nor how we can absorb the Arabs of Judea and Samaria and remain a Jewish state (we can’t), nor how we can annex the patchwork of the territories that is necessary for our survival while isolating the hostile population in enclaves (we can’t do that either).

The only question to ask today is this one: how can we reduce the Arab population between the river and the sea?

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israel and Palestinian Arabs | Leave a comment

Domestic distractions vs. serious business

Wednesday, February 15. Prime Minister Netanyahu is in Washington, and will meet President Trump later today. At the same time, the American media is hyperventilating after the forced resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, over something to do with his contacts with Russia. I say this, because right now, nothing is clear – not what Flynn actually did and not why Trump fired him. All options, from Flynn truly conspiring with the Kremlin, to this being the beginning of a putsch against Trump orchestrated by the CIA and/or former Obama Administration officials, are open.

Poor Bibi, who would really like to talk about Iran, Syria and the Palestinians! Trump’s mind will not be on the Middle East if he thinks that his presidency is in danger (which in my opinion it is).

Bibi should understand Trump’s position quite well, since he himself is the object of a prolonged and vicious media and legal witch hunt, which I discussed in this column last week. This is apparently the fashion in modern “democratic” politics today: when you have a leader that powerful elites dislike but who is also so popular with the average voter that he can’t be defeated at the polls, then tie him up with a firehose-stream of accusations and scandals. If you can get him entangled in sticky legal spider-webs, so much the better (this is harder to do in the US, where an American president has much more power than an Israeli Prime Minister).

Personally, I believe Bibi when he says, “they won’t find anything because there is nothing.” But I also believe that he could be indicted for “nothing.” At least he is safe in the US for a few days, even if Trump gives him an expensive cigar or two.

The parallels between the precarious situations of Trump and Netanyahu are interesting, even though they are personally so different – and although Trump has been in office for less than a month, compared to Netanyahu’s multiple terms as Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister.

Both were elected in fair elections in which they defeated lackluster opponents. Nevertheless, both enjoy strong support from their bases and appealed enough to independent voters to win. Both are strongly, even viciously, opposed by a majority of media outlets and personalities, and by academic and artistic elites in their home countries; and both are considered enemies by the international Left. The previous American administration even tried to intervene in Israel’s recent elections against Netanyahu, and some of the same people may be involved in the effort to damage Trump.

Trump’s and Bibi’s opposition became used to wielding power, and did not give up the taste for it (although they have certainly had enough time to do so in Israel), and will use any means they can get away with to get it back from the leader that they view as an illegitimate usurper.

But now is a particularly inconvenient time for these two nations to be tied up by internal strife. It’s a cliché, but it’s true that the world is at a historical inflection point. America is the only power strong enough to stand up to the forces of darkness that are threatening to overtake Western civilization; and Israel is on the front line of this struggle.

Iran/Hezbollah, North Korea, Da’esh, the Muslim Brotherhood – these are the real threats. Putin might be one too. It is vitally important that the leaders of our nations focus on them, rather than on domestic insurrections by spoiled elites.

Could you give them a chance to do so, please? I promise that you can have another go in the next election.

Posted in American politics, Israeli Politics | Leave a comment

Donald al-Trump

Trump’s recent interview with Israel Hayom has got a lot of people upset. Waffling on moving the embassy? Settlements are “not a good thing for peace?” A deal with the Palestinians “can be made and should be made?” Where is the Trump that promised to move the embassy on his first day in office? Where is the one who said that settlements are not an obstacle to peace?

Calm down.

What Americans don’t understand, and what I am surprised that many Israelis have been slow to realize, is one simple fact about Trump: he is a Middle Eastern leader.

He is not a Dwight Eisenhower or a Harry Truman or even a Barack Obama. Although born in New York, he operates like a son of Cairo or Baghdad. This can be a bad thing or a good thing, depending on who you are and what you want from the American president.

Americans are upset that Trump has a tendency to stretch or even totally invert the truth. “He’s a liar, they shout.” Nonsense. He simply has a Middle Eastern theory of truth. There is no standard of objective reality in the Middle East; truth is what comports with the narrative. So Mahmoud Abbas and friends say and believe that there was no Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and that the “Palestinian people” are descended from the ancient Canaanites, and Jesus was a “Palestinian.” Things like historicity are Western ideas that don’t fly in the Middle East. Many Americans strongly support the Palestinian cause despite this. So why do they have so much trouble with Trump?

Trump’s declarations of his intentions often become, to use a Nixonian phrase, “inoperative.” Yes, he promised to do xyz but instead he does abc. And then he says “that’s what I said I was going to do all along.” Americans sputter and fume, but that is because they don’t understand that in the Middle East, a statement of intention is made only for its immediate effect. A promise is more an expression of the leader’s mood, feelings and desires, and an attempt to influence his listeners (although Middle Easterners understand this and are only slightly affected) than what a Westerner calls a “promise.” No obligation is incurred, and everyone knows it.

Trump’s remarks about Israel are aimed at various targets — in the US, in Israel and in the Arab world. Words in the Middle East are not primarily descriptions of facts or intentions. Words are tools or even weapons. There is a simple rule for understanding Middle Easterners: don’t look at what they say, look at what they do.

Benjamin Netanyahu has met with many Middle Eastern leaders and understands this. I expect that his meeting with Trump this week will be fruitful. Netanyahu will try to get a sense of what Trump actually wants and how he will act, and he will convey Israel’s priorities (Iran, Iran and Iran) to him.

Now I want to turn to America.

Americans should keep some things in mind. First, what I said above about interpreting Trump’s statements. Try to discern the narrative. How does he see himself and how does he see the US and its place in the world? The narrative will provide clues as to what he intends to do. And pay closer attention to his actions than to his words. What orders does he issue? Whom does he appoint?

Middle Eastern leaders tend to disrespect democracy, and fairness is not their highest value. What can I tell you? This will be hard for Americans, who see themselves and their nation as striving to be democratic and fair. But America hasn’t been these things for some time. Some of the appeal of Trump may be that he recognizes this and doesn’t pretend to be something that he’s not. In my opinion, American society and politics are in a bad place, and more politically correct pretense, such as was provided by Obama, will not help pull it out. Maybe Trump will provide the necessary shock therapy (or maybe not – maybe it’s too late, or maybe he will employ the wrong medicine). The jury is still out.

Trump will try to release the constraints on the presidency as much as possible in order to be able to push his agenda. Obama did likewise – for example, the Iran deal – but different people complained. This is a trend, and Trump didn’t start it.

There are great external threats facing the country, from the Islamic world – both Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood – not to mention the resurgence of Russian expansionism. Foreign policy is often the weak spot of American presidents, and Trump is no less ignorant than most. I hope he will be advised by those who do understand the dangers.

Americans will also have to understand that Middle Eastern leaders expect to enrich themselves by their positions. The Clintons and Obamas have done quite well and Trump won’t play second fiddle. He may be a little more obvious about it (although it will take a lot to out-obvious the Clintons), but as long as he does not establish a kleptocracy – unfortunately all too common in the Middle East – America can afford it.

Middle Eastern leaders know who their enemies are and how to deal with them (Obama was quite Middle Eastern in this regard – “we’re gonna punish our enemies” he once said, referring to political opponents). I think we can expect the same or more from Trump.

So, here are a few words for Trump’s enemies (oops, “opponents”): it looks to me as though you are trying to confront him directly, from the ideological position of the progressive Left. If you do this, he will crush you. Great segments of America don’t care for progressive leftist ideology. They don’t believe that Muslims in America are discriminated against, and if they are, they deserve it. They don’t think America needs more people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Sudan or Yemen (if you ask, they would probably want to add countries to the list). They don’t think the worst thing about 9/11 is that it encouraged “Islamophobia.” They don’t think trans people deserve any special accommodations. They think gays should shut up about their issues. In confrontations between police and minorities they instinctively support the police.

In short, they are entirely on the opposite side from you about the issues that excite campus demonstrations – and Trump is their guy. He will have the support of the masses and you won’t. He is not going to give you any breaks. It isn’t al-Sisi vs. the Muslim Brotherhood (yet), but don’t push him. If you want to defeat him, you have to come up with a better narrative. You don’t have one, at least not yet.

America was a democratic republic; it had a government that (sometimes) held the country together and sometimes didn’t. It faced serious challenges and overcame them, or at least survived them. America is still there, in one piece, after the Civil War. That’s astonishing. It defeated Japan and helped defeat Germany in WWII. It underwent a remarkable flowering of the middle classes in the 1950s through the 60s, and major improvements in its treatment of its black minority in the 60s. Many people believed that social, economic and technological progress would only continue. Clearly that was only true for technology.

Now I think things are moving into a new phase, and America’s Middle Eastern president, Donald Trump, is more a symptom than a cause. It’s a new millennium, both literally and figuratively. I can’t predict whether it will be better or worse, but it will definitely be different.

Posted in American politics | 1 Comment

Meditations on today’s news

I opened my newspaper this morning (Wednesday) and was greeted with the headline: the White House has no comment on the regularization law that was passed yesterday, and will talk about it when PM Netanyahu visits Washington to meet with President Trump next week.

Imagine my relief. I mean, why should the White House have an opinion about something which is really an internal Israeli affair? I am amused – well, pretty irritated, actually – by the way Ha’aretz and my social media friends have decided to call it the “land grab law,” when it actually goes farther to compensate owners of land than customary common law would. As Eugene Kontorovich explains,

Israel’s proposed “Regulations Bill” has attracted broad international criticism, including from the U.S. State Department and the European Union, as well as from opposition Israeli politicians and some government lawyers. The bill seeks to solve a situation in which, over several decades, over one thousand Israeli homes in West Bank settlements have been built in open areas to which Palestinians subsequently asserted property claims, typically based on broad give-aways of state land by the King of Jordan during the Hashemite occupation (1949-67). The homes are in communities built with some level of government involvement. Thus the bill provides the government would compensate the landowners 125% of the value of the land, in order to allow the communities that have been built there to remain.

The plots are generally open, uncultivated fields. The frequently used characterization of “private Palestinian lands” is misleading. In the overwhelming majority of cases, no individual Palestinians have come forward to claim the lands. Indeed, in most cases, no property claimants asserted their interests for decades after houses were built, a situation that in common law would certainly warrant the application of adverse possession doctrines, under which long-term possession of property unprotested by owners can change legal title, exactly to prevent these kinds of conflict between long-term users and owners who slept on their rights . Under Jordanian law, rules of prescription, which would turn the land over to its existing inhabitants, would apply. In cases like the community of Amona, which inspired but are not covered by the law, the Court made its determination without any fact-finding, and the lands claimed by the Palestinian petitioners only slightly overlap with those on which the Israeli homes stand.

It’s not really a big deal, is it? No Palestinians are being exploited, and the residents of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are just getting the same kind of protection for their investment as people in the rest of Israel, the US and many other developed countries have. Better, since the state is willing to pick up the tab for compensation.

Of course the world leaders in virtue and morality, the EU and the governments of Germany and France, are dead set against the law. The folks whose wisdom brought us two world wars and a Holocaust have “lost confidence” that we are serious about the “two-state solution” that they hope will slice our country into indefensibility.

Later today I listened on the radio to the reactions of the European representatives in Israel. You would think that the Knesset had passed a law demanding that the Palestinians must throw all their male children into the sea, and not one that simply makes it possible to compensate people in return for taking property that they may not even have clear title to, and haven’t used for years, if ever. I am becoming more and more convinced that after Iran, Europe is our greatest enemy, and the Palestinians their weapon.

Well, Amona is rubble, its residents are homeless, and the cabal made up of the Civil Administration (the military entity that rules Area C, where almost all Jewish settlements are and few Arabs live), the left-leaning legal establishment, and the subversive European-paid NGOs are smacking their lips over how they will do the same to numerous other Jewish communities, just as soon as the Supreme Court voids the new law.

Because, after all, who cares what the democratically elected Knesset and government decide? Don’t we understand who really runs the country and knows what’s good for us? Those religious settler fanatics are an obstacle to peace! Just ask the talking heads on Israeli radio and TV.

Which brings me to the next headline: Channel 2 reports that Netanyahu told the police that have been investigating him nonstop for who knows how long, that he didn’t know about bottles of champagne and other gifts received by his wife from a businessman friend, and he didn’t check the value of cigars that he himself was given. He just smoked them! Not only that, but he told the police that he bought plenty of cigars with his own money.

So, just some random thoughts on this “scandal:” Channel 2 has been selectively dribbling out information about Netanyahu’s supposedly confidential police investigations for months. Where do they get it, and why is it OK for them to release out-of-context snippets of interrogations in a country where the names and faces of people accused of crimes are routinely redacted from news reports?

The investigation itself is on the same level as one of the previous ones, in which Mrs. Netanyahu was accused of returning deposit bottles that had been used at official functions, and keeping the money. Yes, she did it; yes, the small amount of money was returned; and yes, the silliness of creating a scandal about deposit bottles was duly noted.

The fact is that the same media people that deliberately mischaracterize the regularization law and also gleefully bash Netanyahu on every occasion, are running a long-term project to make him look like a crook. How much of the evening news is devoted to his non-scandals, almost every day? How many hours has he wasted, answering police questions and trying to deal with the fallout from these frivolous investigations? He’s the Prime Minister of the strongest country in the region, economically and militarily, the one and only Jewish state – which half the world hates and wants to destroy – and you are busting his balls about some cigars?

This isn’t really funny. Netanyahu has said that he believes there is a media campaign to force the Attorney General to indict him. And if he is indicted, he could be forced to resign.

The story on page 11 of the newspaper reminds me that not everything is frivolous or political. It is about Trump and Iran trading barbs over the Iranian missile development program. Now that Obama is gone, it may be possible for the US and Israel to develop an effective policy to prevent their common enemy, Iran, from producing and deploying nuclear weapons.

I devoutly hope that this will be the main subject for discussion between Netanyahu and Trump, rather than Judean real estate law. Or cigars.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Media, Middle East politics | 4 Comments

How to really end the occupation

Perhaps thanks to the shock of the expulsion of the Jewish residents of Amona and the razing of their community, the Knesset passed a “settlement regulation bill” (חוק ההסדרה), which is intended to make it possible to legalize a settlement that is discovered to lie partly or wholly on Arab-owned land by generously compensating the owners.

I am not going into detail on how the law will work, because it is certain to be voided by the Supreme Court. One might ask why pass such a law in the first place, and I will answer that question later.

But in order to understand the whole conundrum, let’s look at the Amona case in detail. I’m indebted to several articles by Moshe Dann (here, here and here) and Eugene Kontorovich (here) for much of this material.

Amona was built in 1995 with government assistance. It is in dispute whether any of the land on which it was built had ever been cultivated by Arabs and if so, whether the original founders of the community were aware of this. But recently, Arabs, assisted by European-funded NGOs Peace Now and Yesh Din, claimed ownership on the basis of grants made by King Hussein during the 1948-67 period.

Israel is ruled by its democratically elected Knesset, and those parts of Judea and Samaria where perhaps 95% of their Arab residents live, are controlled by the Palestinian Authority. But Area C – the part containing few Arabs and nearly all Jewish settlements – is under military rule, governed by a body strangely called the “Civil Authority” (CA), part of COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, which is commanded by an IDF Major General, Yoav Mordechai.

The Jordanian King had liberally distributed land to local clans during his (illegal) tenure, and changed the original Ottoman law so that distributed land could be kept forever and inherited without being occupied or worked, and without paying taxes. This enables state land to become private, but not have a particular owner, something impossible in Israeli, Ottoman, British or for that matter, American law. This turned out to be one of Amona’s Kafkaesque problems.

When Israel took control, the CA made an administrative decision to adopt Jordanian land law. It also issued an order that the land registry records can only be accessed by those (Arabs) included in documents from the Jordanian era! In addition, the Palestinian Authority has a law that calls for long prison terms for anyone who sells land to Jews (it used to be a death penalty offense. Now the death penalty is often still imposed, but unofficially by terrorist militias). All this makes it very difficult for Jews to obtain land in Judea/Samaria and to be sure someone will not turn up who claims to own it.

The CA accepted the claims of the Arabs against Amona’s land with little or no investigation, and turned them over to the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court only rules on matters of law and does not investigate the facts of a case; and on the basis of the CA’s representations, the Court ruled that Amona was built on “private Palestinian land” and must be demolished.

However, a suit in a lower court, which did investigate, determined that only about one-half acre out of all of the claims against the 125 acres of the community was actually legitimately owned by a real Palestinian Arab! Other claims were either false or — in the case of 15 acres — the original “owner” could not be found in the 1967 Jordanian census.

Nevertheless, the CA told the Court that even if the owner was unknown (and may never have existed), the land was still privately owned, and there was no way to distinguish the private land from the rest. On the basis of these “facts,” the Supreme Court saw no option but to order the entire community destroyed.

Despite Israel’s legitimate claim to all of Judea and Samaria under the Palestine Mandate, and despite the fact that Jordan illegally invaded, occupied and even annexed the territory it captured in 1948, Israel chose to regard her re-conquest of the territories in 1967 not as liberation of land that belonged to her, but as a belligerent occupation – in international law, a temporary arrangement in which a country controls territory belonging to another country as a result of war.

It’s hard to blame Israel at that point – she envisaged a peace agreement in which land would be traded for permanent peace treaties, and the US was pushing hard for such an arrangement. But this decision had many negative long-range implications.

There are all kinds of restrictions and obligations placed on an occupier, spelled out in the Hague and Geneva Conventions. More important, occupation implies that there is some other country which is being occupied. It can’t be Jordan, which seized the land illegally in the first place, and anyway gave up all claims on it in 1988. The international community seems to have decided that Israel is in fact occupying “Palestine,” even though there is no such country and never was.

In most countries the military is considered a right-wing force. In Israel this is not the case, where many IDF officers, in the tradition of Rabin’s Palmach, lean left. This explains the seemingly paradoxical existence of organizations like Commanders for Israel’s Security which calls for a “two-state solution” despite the fact that it would seriously impact security. There is no doubt that the CA sees settlements, especially ones with more radical, youthful members, as detrimental to prospects for peace.

It is often noted that the Supreme Court, like all of Israel’s legal establishment, has a leftist bias, and this is true. It also has taken for itself authority that is only tenuously based on Israel’s basic laws (our substitute for a constitution). It has eliminated any requirement for a petitioner to have “standing” – that is, to be able to show that he would be affected by the outcome of a case, and it believes that almost anything is a legitimate subject for the Court to rule on.

These factors have combined to create a particularly inhospitable environment for settlements, as we can see from the case of Amona, where the Supreme Court accepted petitions from anti-settlement NGOs, depended on factual findings from the anti-settlement CA, and allowed its own decisions to be colored  by an anti-settlement bias.

It is probably time for the procedures for selecting Supreme Court justices to be changed in order to make them less incestuous (the sitting justices today have veto power over new appointments to the Court), and rules for standing should be established. It is also time for a serious law restricting the ability of foreign-funded and controlled NGOs to function in Israel (these issues are related, because the threat of Supreme Court intervention worked to prevent the NGO law passed last year from having real teeth). But neither of these is the main issue.

The problem of the legality of the settlements and land ownership issues could probably be solved by extending Israeli law to Area C, as was done for the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem. But the biggest problem and the most fundamental issue, is that the government of Israel continues to tacitly accept the idea that Judea and Samaria are occupied territories – in other words, land that belongs to somebody else. As long as we do this, we will continue to see arguments that settlements are illegal according to the Geneva Convention, that we are committing war crimes against Palestinians, who are “protected persons” in international law, and that “it’s time for the occupation to end.”

It is, indeed. Israel has legitimate title in international law to Judea and Samaria, as well as being their oldest still-existing indigenous occupant, one whose historical and religious traditions tie it to the land. The Palestinian Arabs, by contrast, are the descendants of relatively recent migrants whose “peoplehood” has come about artificially as a response to Jewish sovereignty.

Although Israel’s Supreme Court has accepted the description of Israel’s control of Judea and Samaria as a belligerent occupation, it has never specifically ruled on this question, hopefully because the justices have had enough sense to understand that the decision to impose sovereignty is a political and not a legal one.

The regulation bill will serve as a litmus test for whether the present arrangement can continue. If the Supreme Court invalidates it, then many other settlements, including much larger ones than Amona will be imperiled.

And that is why I think it is important that it passed. When the Court throws it out, which it will, Israel will be faced with the need to make a very fundamental decision: do we want these territories or don’t we? If we intend to keep them – which I believe is necessary both for our security and our spiritual survival – then we should take the first step toward sovereignty: abolish COGAT and the CA and extend Israeli law to Area C.

Ultimately, we should adopt the Left’s favorite slogan: End the occupation! – and impose full sovereignty on all Judea and Samaria.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Politics | 2 Comments