Monday, April 30, 2018

Feith Keeping the Faith

Neither in Arab nor Jewish minds did Israel's pre-1967 boundaries ever represent a border between land to which the Jewish people have legitimate claims and land to which they have no such claims. No one intended those lines to divide a zone in which Jewish settlement was legal from one in which it is illegal. In fact, the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Transjordan (now Jordan) states that the boundary lines "are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto." (At the Arab parties' insistence, each of the other three 1949 Armistice agreements contained a similar provision.)

This is why Arab-led efforts in the United Nations and elsewhere to characterize the settlements as illegal encroachments on Arab land have implications that reach far beyond the settlements as such.

Arab officials and scholars who argue that the West Bank and Gaza are "Arab territories" never do so by arguing that pre-1967 Israel is legitimately Jewish territory. To make that argument, they would have to hang more moral and legal significance on the 1949 Armistice Lines than could possibly be supported. The argument made to delegitimate Jewish settlements - that the territories are "Arab land" - is not made to distinguish land that is "Arab" from land that is "Jewish." On the contrary, it is designed to prove that Jews have no right to settle "Arab territory" that came under Israeli control in 1967 just as Jews had no right to settle "Arab territory" that came under Israeli control in 1948-49, at the Jewish state's inception.

Those who think the key to peace lies in Israel's delivering more land and power to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority oppose settlements. Others, however, think a sovereign PLO-led ministate on the West Bank and Gaza Strip is likelier to produce violence and war than peace and security. This latter view aligns with the official analysis that for decades prevailed in the governments of the United States (both Republican and Democrat) and Israel (both Labor and Likud). Those who, despite the Oslo Accords, retain this view - and are concerned that such a ministate would threaten Israel and Jordan, serve as a base for terrorism and generally destabilize the region - see high value in the settlements. 

And this:

THERE is yet another important issue in the negotiations: national rights. In debates over national-security policy, it is always useful to remind oneself of what one is aiming to secure. For a country like the United States or Israel, national security is far more than simply the physical survival of the citizenry. America is more than a land and a people: it is a society based on a constitution; it is an idea. Israel too is an idea. It is the fulfillment of the Zionist dream, the embodiment of the internationally recognized national rights of the Jewish people. When contemplating a proposed concession by Israel, it is not enough to ask whether that concession would endanger the state's physical security. It is altogether proper for Israelis to ask themselves also whether the concession involves an undue relinquishment of national rights. 

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