If the Israeli building in Judea and Samaria destroys the peace process, then, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU ambassador to Israel, declared just days ago, “Naturally, the blame will be put squarely on Israel’s doorstep.”
Naturally: We wouldn’t expect anything else of the EU. The issue here is not that this is a surprise, but rather that Israel is being forewarned: The government must consider its official stance now, before that blame has been levied:
It is time for Israel to enunciate a policy that directly addresses her rights.
It is two years since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed a three-person committee, chaired by former High Court Justice Edmond Levy, to examine the situation of the settlements. The Committee’s report – “The Status of Building in Judea and Samaria” – was released on July 8, 2012.
While we have it on good authority that the prime minister was initially enthusiastic about the report, once he began to assess the opposition that was mounting against it, he decided to table it. In several quarters, this document is viewed as a radical departure from Israeli government policy – a departure that would be highly problematic in the context of the current political situation.
I will argue, however, that – rather than representing a radical departure from Israeli government policy – the report offers a reiteration of what has been normative policy. The perception that it is radical has been fostered because of the erosion of Israeli positions in the more than 20 years since the onset of Oslo.
Quite simply, the Israeli government has become reluctant to speak out in a forthright fashion in its own behalf. As a result, not infrequently, government officials have conducted themselves in a fashion that has not been congruent with official policies.
The report has the capacity to pull the government back to where it needs to be. Its conclusions constitute the heart of the matter, and for the moment I would leave all else aside. The report’s findings, based on historical and legal evidence, are that Israel’s position in Judea and Samaria is sui generis (unique), that Israel is not an occupier, and that the settlements are not illegal. It further concludes that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to Israel’s situation in Judea and Samaria.
No formal adoption of the report need be called for at this time, fraught as these days are with political pressures. Rather, the report must serve as a focal point, a tool for invigorating national dialogue on a pressing issue: the matter of Israel’s legal grounds in Judea and Samaria.
This is not a dialogue that can be delayed. That is the crucial point here. If Israel does not publicly enunciate her case before the EU draws its inevitable conclusions about Israeli culpability, her position will be far less effective. For then Israeli claims of rights to the land will appear to be simply a defensive maneuver – a reaction and not a legitimate position.
For the last several months, Israel has been engaged, at least theoretically, in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. During this time, PA officials – who never compromise on their positions – have persisted in demanding that Israel return to the “1967 border.” They maintain unendingly that Israel is an “occupier” in Judea and Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem, all referred to as “Palestinian land.”
The international community, perversely intent on appeasing the Palestinian Authority, and motived in no small part by a blatant anti-Israel bias, is more than content to accept the PA claims. The settlements are “illegal,” we’re told, or “illegitimate,” which comes to the same thing. Israeli building in Judea and Samaria prevents peace from bursting out.
Yet, rather than addressing the charges head on, the Israeli government responds by speaking about security: We cannot go back to the pre-1967 temporary armistice line (which is never even clearly identified as such), as it would not afford us with security. We must retain the Jordan Valley against the threat of jihadist forces approaching from the east. And so forth.
The Levy Report comes to tell us that this argument is sorely inadequate. It challenges Israelis to refocus their attention; in the end, it is not the document – which draws on a host of extant sources – that is important, but rather the issue of Israel’s legal grounds.
On November 29, 2012, the UN General Assembly ‒ in response to a petition by the UN representative from “Palestine”‒ passed Resolution 67/19, upgrading “Palestine” to “non-member observer status.”
Reacting to this unilateral action, which contravened Oslo agreements, the Cabinet passed Resolution 5251, prefaced by the following:
The Jewish People has a natural, historical and legal right to its homeland and to its eternal capital, JerusalemAh, then this is government policy. How unfortunate that this language is not drawn upon as a matter of course in public statements issued by the Israeli government. How sad that the world at large, not to mention much of the Israeli populace, is unaware of this Israeli policy.
The State of Israel, as the state of the Jewish People, has a right and claim to areas whose status is in dispute.
It is imperative that the Israeli government begin to speak in terms of Israel’s legal grounds. There is not a moment to spare.
Arlene Kushner, author, writer, and blogger – www.arlenefromisrael.info – is co-chairing the Campaign to Promote Israel’s Legal Grounds and the Levy Report.