If you haven’t seen this 6-minute video starring Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, it’s worth watching.
He touches on some important points, which I’ll expand into a short history lesson:
There never was an Arab state of ‘Palestine’. After WWI, the victorious Allies carved up the territory that had been in the possession of the Ottoman empire for about 400 years. ‘Palestine’ was actually composed of several former Ottoman provinces, and 74% of it was east of the Jordan River.
All of this land was earmarked for Jewish settlement by the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which was adopted by the victorious Allies at the San Remo conference in 1920, and made part of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine in 1922. In the Mandate, Britain was charged with facilitating the development of a Jewish national home (that didn’t work out too well).
Several Arab countries were created at about the same time, including ‘Transjordan’ — the part of Palestine east of the Jordan, which was given by the British in 1921 to Abdullah, the great-great-grandfather of the present Jordanian king, as a present for his (minimal) support during the war. This was really the first ‘partition’ of Palestine.
In 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution calling for the area from the Jordan to the Mediterranean to be divided into a Jewish and Arab state. Every Arab state and the representatives of the Palestinian Arabs rejected it.
In 1948, when the British Mandate ended, Israel declared a state in ‘Palestine’, and five Arab nations joined with the Palestinian Arabs to try to nip it in the bud. When they failed, armistice talks in 1949 demarcated a line of disengagement — which the Arabs specifically demanded must have no political significance. This line is what everyone calls the “pre-1967 borders.” They are not and never were borders!
After the war, Jordan ‘annexed’ the territories. They called this area the “West Bank.” Before then, it had always been “Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.” But only the UK and Pakistan recognized the annexation.
In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan launched another war to destroy the Jewish state — yes, they ‘launched’ it. Although Israel fired the first shot, even the UN agreed that Israel was not guilty of aggression but fought a defensive war. As everyone knows, Israel conquered Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem in that conflict.
After the war, the Arabs refused (Khartoum, Sept. 1, 1967) to negotiate with Israel, recognize her or allow her to live in peace. And UN Security Council resolution 242 was passed, stating that all nations in the area, including Israel, had a right to “secure and recognized boundaries,” boundaries that were to be negotiated between the parties and not intended to be identical to the 1949 lines (which were neither secure nor recognized).
So now Judea, Samaria and Eastern Jerusalem are called ‘occupied territories’, as if it were like the US occupation of Japan after WWII. But what country was occupied? Not ‘Palestine’, which was not and never had been a country. And not Jordan, which had no legitimate right to be there in the first place.
Danny Ayalon calls them ‘disputed territories’, after the model of so many other places in the world that are claimed by more than one nation. But I wouldn’t go even that far. First, there is no legitimate Palestinian nation to claim them — and even if there were, Israel, the state of the Jewish people, has a prima facie claim on the area from the Mandate.
Note also that settlements are said to be illegal in occupied territory “by the Geneva Convention.” Even if the fourth Geneva Convention (art. 49) — which was intended to prohibit actions like Germany’s forced population transfers during WWII — can be construed to apply to voluntary settlement which does not displace anyone, it certainly cannot apply to territory that is not ‘occupied’ or another country.
Now look at President Obama’s ‘peace’ plan in the light of the above:
He calls for an end to Jewish settlements — in other words, he demands the forcible transfer of a population of as many as 500,000 people against their will from a place where they are legally resident. If this isn’t a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, I don’t know what is! And to add icing to the cake, a religious criterion is applied to decide who will be deported!
He insists that Israel must withdraw from all of the “West Bank” — with the exception of “mutually agreed swaps.” This implies at best that the 1949 armistice lines determine the absolute size of the state of Israel, since any expansion requires equal compensation. But at worst, if the Arabs refuse to agree to swaps, then the 1949 lines become the borders!
If Obama isn’t aware of history, neither are the Palestinians. Negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Ayalon’s video “expresses open hostility to the Palestinian people.” It’s impossible to understand this in a meaningful historical sense, so I presume it’s based on the “Palestinian narrative” in which their (invented) ancient civilization was dispossessed by European Jews, and that is what is meant by ‘occupation’.
Now that the Palestinian Authority has made it clear that it does not and will not accept the existence of a Jewish state, it’s time for new ideas. Caroline Glick recently suggested that Israel should unilaterally annex all of Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem, including its Arab residents. This idea doesn’t appeal to me (the part about the Arab residents).
But I do think that Israel legitimately can and should annex parts of the territories, in particular those with large Jewish populations, those containing holy places — because otherwise no Jew will set foot in them again — and those necessary for strategic reasons, to create the secure boundaries that the Arabs and Obama wish to deny Israel.