Tuesday afternoon we started to hear that the police and IDF were preparing to remove the 40 families that live in the community of Amona, in the Binyamin region of Judea. Just now, a few moments ago, I heard on the radio that the evacuation (some prefer “expulsion”) is beginning. It doesn’t look like it will go smoothly.
To explain the situation in the fewest possible words, the community was built 20 years ago. A portion of it, about one half acre out of a total of 125 acres, is owned by Palestinian Arabs who were given title to the land by the King of Jordan, during the 19-year Jordanian occupation. About 15 more acres are registered in the names of Arabs who apparently do not exist.
The Supreme Court of Israel decided that the only acceptable remedy was to bulldoze the entire community. The Court did not accept the suggestion that the Arab “owners,” who had never utilized the land, could be paid compensation for it. The government developed a compromise that would have provided an alternative location nearby for some of the families, which the community agreed to. But this was stymied when additional Palestinians petitioned the court claiming to own that land. The residents were only told that the deal was off a few days ago.
The Palestinians have been assisted in their legal proceedings by the Israeli organization “Yesh Din.” Yesh Din received more than $4.6 million from foreign government bodies between 2012 and 2016. Foreign sources accounted for 93.5% of their total donations. Yesh Din specializes in “lawfare” against Israel and the IDF.
This raises, yet again, a very fundamental question for the State of Israel. In a sentence, what are we?
Are we the nation-state of the Jewish people in its historical homeland, which derives its right to the land from both the biblical promise made to us by Hashem and the modern promise made by the international community in the Palestine Mandate, a right that we defended more than once by force of arms? Are we a Zionist state, in other words?
Or are we something else – a multinational state which exists at the pleasure of today’s post-nationalist, anti-Jewish international establishment?
It would seem that the answer should be obvious, and it is to the great majority of Israeli Jews. But the state has not acted as though it believes in its own Zionist principles.
When the Jordanian occupation and its illegal annexation of land set aside for the Jewish people was ended in 1967, Israel did not annex Judea and Samaria, because its leadership was forced by its “friends” in Europe and the US to accept the idea of “land for peace.” Israel would give Judea and Samaria “back” to Jordan, for example, and Jordan would give us a peace treaty.
The injustice inherent in this is obvious. Who gave Jordan the right to take that land in violation of international law and to ethnically cleanse it of Jews? How can we be asked to give something “back” that was ours in the first place? But this was our policy until King Hussein decided in 1988 that he didn’t want the hassle of trying to control the PLO, and transferred his “ownership” of the land to the PLO. And shortly thereafter, the Israeli government tried to continue the “land for peace” process with the PLO via the Oslo accords.
Israel never annexed the land it regained in 1967 (except for Jerusalem) and it even retained Jordanian law in Judea and Samaria. Because Israeli governments believed that some or all of the territory would ultimately be returned to Arab control, it treated it as occupied territory, despite the fact that, by the most reasonable interpretation of international law, for the first time since 1948 it was not under occupation.
24 years later and several wars and intifadas later, Israelis have finally come to realize that an exchange of land for peace won’t bring peace. Anyone with half a brain who looks at recent history (especially the results of the withdrawal from Gaza) and listens to what the Palestinians themselves say and do, understands that.
It’s often said that “surveys show that a majority of Israelis favor a 2-state solution.” That is correct, if the survey question is something like “Do you favor giving up the territories in return for peace and security?” The unfairness of this question is manifest if we rewrite it as follows: “If giving up the territories would bring peace and security, would you favor it?”
Since giving up the territories would put a terrorist entity next door to Tel Aviv, and since the Arabs won’t even pretend to agree that they would give up their claims on Israel in return for the territories, and since the PLO is unstable and easily overthrown, the “if” clause of the conditional statement is certainly false. And virtually every Israeli knows this.
A religious Zionist also understands the importance to his or her spiritual life of the places mentioned in the tanach, like Hevron and many others. But even a secular Zionist appreciates the first words of the Declaration of Independence:
ERETZ-ISRAEL was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Virtually every Israeli knows this as well – except possibly much of our leadership and our legal establishment.
If the lessons of history, international law, and Zionist ideology (both religious and secular) were translated into action, the courts would find a way to legalize Amona and other communities that would also be fair to the Arabs. Ultimately, we would annex all of Eretz Israel.
Unfortunately, the government has yet to get clear of the “land for peace” mentality; and the legal establishment seems dedicated to beating us into the mold of the multinational, secular democratic state that former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak so much admired.
This needs to change. Fear of the international community is not a reason to deny our own birthright. Politicized institutions like the UN and the International Criminal Court have no moral authority, and no practical way to punish Israel. And there is absolutely no reason we must allow foreign agents like Yesh Din to continue to subvert our country.
In fact, now, while there is an American government that for the first time may itself be able to shake off the ideas of land for peace and the 2-state solution, is the perfect time for Israel to finally become the truly Zionist state that Jabotinsky, Begin and Ben-Gurion dreamed of.