One of the enduring myths about the Arab-Israeli
conflict is that the settlements in Judea/Samaria (often called
the West Bank) are the source of the conflict between the
Jews and the so-called Palestinians. If that problem were
solved in other words, if Israel would turn Judea/Samaria over
to the Palestinians peace would prevail and the century-old
conflict would be ended.
What are the facts?
Erroneous Assumptions: Various fallacies and erroneous assumptions underlie that belief, so often repeated that even those who are friendly to Israel, even many Jews in Israel and in the United States, have come to accept it. Our government, generally friendly to and supportive of Israel, has bought into the myth of the settlements; it has regularly and insistently requested that the settlements be abandoned and, one supposes, be turned over lock, stock, and barrel to those who are sworn to destroy Israel.
The very designation of the Jewish inhabitants of Judea/Samaria as settlers is inappropriate, because it connotes something foreign, intrusive and temporary, something that is purposefully and maliciously imposed. But that is nonsense of course. Why would the quarter-million Jews who live in Judea/Samaria be any more intrusive or any more illegal than the more than one million Arabs who live in peace in what is called Israel proper or west of the so-called green line? Nobody considers their presence as intrusive; nobody talks of them as an obstacle to peace.
Most of us, regrettably perhaps, are too worldly and too sophisticated to put much stock in the argument that the territories in question, Judea and Samaria, are indeed the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, that they were promised by God to Abraham and his seed in perpetuity. Jews have lived in that country without interruption since Biblical times. There is no reason why they shouldnt live there now. Why should Judea/Samaria be the only place in the world (except for such countries as Saudi Arabia) where Jews cannot live?
Legal Aspects: But how about the legal aspect of this matter? Isnt the West Bank occupied territory and therefore the Jews have no right to be there? But the historic reality is quite different. Very briefly: The Ottoman Empire was the sovereign in the entire area. In 1917, while World War I was still raging, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration. It designated Paleatine extending throughout what is now Israel (including the West Band) and what is now the Kingdom of Jordan as the homeland for the Jewish people. In 1922, the League of Nations ratified the Balfour Declaration and designated Britain as the mandatory power. Regrettably, Britain, for its own imperial reasons and purposes, separated 76 percent of the land that lying beyond the Jordan River to create the kingdom of Trans-Jordan (now Jordan) and made it inaccessible to Jews. In 1947, tired of the constant bloodletting between Arabs and Jews, the British threw in the towel and abandoned the Mandate. The UN took over. It devised a plan by which the land west of the Jordan River would be split between the Jews and the Arabs. The Jews, though with heavy heart, accepted the plan. The Arabs virulently rejected it and invaded the nascent Jewish state with the armies of five countries, so as to destroy it at its birth. Miraculously, the Jews prevailed and the State of Israel was born. When the smoke of battle cleared, Jordan was in possession of the West Bank and Egypt in possession of Gaza. They were the occupiers and they proceeded to kill many Jews and to drive out the rest. They systematically destroyed all Jewish holy places and all vestiges of Jewish presence. The area was judenrein.
In the Six-Day War of 1967, the Jews reconquered the territories.
The concept that Jewish presence in Judea/Samaria is illegal and that
the Jews are occupiers is bizarre. It just has been repeated so often
and with such vigor that many people have come to accept it.
But heres a thought: How about a deal by which the settlements were indeed abandoned and all the Jews were to move to Israel proper. At the same time, all the Arabs living in Israel would be transferred to Judea/Samaria or to wherever else they wanted to go. That would indeed make Judea/Samaria judenrein, and what are now Arab lands in Israel would be arabrein. The Arabs could then live in a fully autonomous area in eastern Israel and peace, one would hope, would descend on the holy land.
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Gerardo Joffe, President