By Larry Gordon
At the One Israel Fund dinner the other night in Lower Manhattan, the main course was intelligence and clarity on the issues of the day. The organization that works to assist all communities up and down the map of Judea and Samaria brings us, in these confusing days of diplomatic doublespeak, a clear idea about what the real issues are at hand.
Aside from the erudite attorney Ben Brafman as master of ceremonies, the evening featured remarks by Alan Baker, a former Israeli ambassador to Canada. Baker is an expert on international law and one of the authors of the Levy Commission Report that several years ago produced a cogent document explaining in simple and not uncertain terms why Israel has a legal right under international law to eastern Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria.
“Israel has more of a right to those territories,” Baker said in his remarks, “than the United States has to any part of America.” He explained that the Jewish presence on the land can be conclusively traced back 4,000 years while the American presence in the U.S. can be said to date back barely 400 years.
There is, however, a systematic effort to misrepresent reality, and these lies–that’s all they can be called, he said–unfortunately have the cooperation of nearly the entire world as agents that propagate them. So what is Israel to do? All Israel can possibly resort to is presenting the undiluted and consistent truth and the reality as it is–and to do that there are few as knowledgeable on the matter as Ambassador Baker.
He related to his audience how he has represented Israel over the years in negotiating with the Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, and Lebanese. Baker said he took particular umbrage to the recent misrepresentation of reality by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has repeatedly stated that he has an impeccable record when it comes to support of Israel. Not so fast, buddy.
About Kerry’s assertion that the recent collapse of talks between Israel and Palestinians was due to Israel’s settlement expansion policies, that was just plain wrong, Baker said. He added that there is an amazing double standard being applied by the U.S. Another Kerry mistruth he mentioned is that settlements in Judea and Samaria are “illegitimate.” “If that is the case,” the ambassador said, “then I am an international criminal.”
The point of all this–and we have to thank the One Israel Fund for it–is that it was a refresher course in the sobering reality of how Israel is treated today by the international community. Then there is this matter of the nonchalant reference to these areas as being “occupied.” That we accept this notion, Baker says, is basically the jumping-off point of all of today’s problems. There is no basis in international law for interpreting the status of these lands as being occupied, he says. At most, they can be called disputed territories.
But that does not seem to faze arbiters of international relations and foreign policy like President Obama, Secretary Kerry, the European Union’s Catherine Ashton, or the UN’s Ban Ki-moon. That these lands are occupied is just not supported by facts, yet these international luminaries refuse to acknowledge that reality.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is Israel’s greatest friend but also its antagonist. It is important to note that while Jordan, for example, ruled Judea and Samaria as well as East Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, the Jordanians never annexed the territory that the UN originally awarded to Israel prior to the War of Independence. After the war in 1967, in which Israel was simultaneously attacked on three fronts–Egypt, Syria, and Jordan–Israel was victorious and regained land that was originally supposed to be awarded to it in part upon their assumption of statehood in 1948.
“Israel needs to face up to a serious reality,” Baker says. “There is a misguided but willful campaign long under way against Israel.” While in his remarks on Monday night at the Tribeca Rooftop in the city he did not specify what Israel should do to deflect this campaign, he has in the past asserted his belief that Israel should and is indeed by law entitled to claim legal sovereignty of these areas.
A move of this kind requires political courage, which unfortunately is still in short order in Israel. It is the hesitancy of Israel over all these years to annex or legally incorporate Judea and Samaria formally into the state that serves to buttress the claim that there is something illegitimate or even illegal about the Jewish claim to the land.
Somehow, somewhere, Israel did find the courage immediately following the liberation of East Jerusalem in 1967 to assert sovereignty and declare a unified Jerusalem as not just the capital city of Israel but the capital of all Jews around the world. Under Prime Minister Menachem Begin, in December 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, thereby making it legally and properly part of the state of Israel.
The news media like to frequently assert that the so-called international community–which agrees on very little other than when or how to condemn Israel–does not recognize Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan. Of course, this international community rarely gets involved in territorial disputes other than this one in Israel.
While the Levy Commission Report findings are innovative and bold, it has been two years since the findings were released; the Netanyahu government has flirted with the prospect of adopting the findings but seems to be fearful of finally taking those vital diplomatic steps.
As a result, Israel’s sovereignty over these areas, where over 600,000 Jews reside today, continues to blow in the diplomatic wind. The situation is so impossible that just a few weeks ago, during the talks overseen by Mr. Kerry with the Palestinians, the idea of evacuating as many as 100,000 Jews from their homes was up for discussion.
At some point, Israel will have to make a decision. The three options seem to be to move the people out and surrender the territory, continue to do nothing, or make the Levy Report law and legalize Judea and Samaria. It’s the latter which, while perhaps the most controversial, makes the most sense for a growing and strong state of Israel. v
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