In his response to my op-ed, Harpo Jaeger touches on the issue of Israel’s treatment of Judea and Samaria – better known today as “the disputed territories.” Jaeger alleges that “millions of Palestinians…live under occupation” and that their lives are “endangered by checkpoints, raids and searches.”
I take issue with the allegation that millions of Palestinians live under occupation. From my understanding, Jaeger’s allegations dealing with the Israeli “occupation” of Palestine – a country that, by the way, has never actually officially existed – are rooted in an interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242 and Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Resolution 242 mandates “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The term ‘occupation’ is defined as “the control of a country by military forces of a foreign power.”
Israel’s sovereignty in the West Bank does not constitute occupation. We, the Jewish people, are not “foreign” to the land of Judea and Samaria and are therefore not “occupying” any land that does not belong to us. We have legal claim, in addition to historical claim, to the entire country of Israel – Judea and Samaria included – as per the original League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (a document that was adopted by the UN and is still legally binding today) and Article 80 of the UN Charter.
In addition to the legal documents, the Jewish people have been present in the land of Israel for thousands of years. If Israel’s presence in the disputed territories does not constitute occupation, then Resolution 242 is not applicable in this instance.
Regarding the Geneva Convention: the occupation exists when one sovereign state (referred to, in the document, as a “high contracting power”) takes over land belonging to another sovereign state.
This is not the case when it comes to Israel. “Palestine” never existed and Jordan only controlled Judea and Samaria between 1948 and 1967. The territories of Judea and Samaria were never officially a part of sovereign Jordan. If the Geneva Convention is also not applicable in this instance, then I fail to see which international laws Israel has violated through its continued presence in the West Bank.
Israel’s retaining control over the disputed territories is in its citizens’ best interests. Yes, there have been isolated incidents. Israel has in no way condoned these incidents and has expressed dismay at every loss of innocent life. At the same time, Israel needs to have control over the high ground in Judea and Samaria in order to preserve its tactical advantage over countries that seek to destroy it.
As for the security fence, there is documented proof that the fence and security checkpoints have helped prevent many terrorist attacks – suicide bombings and the like – that would have had a severe impact on innocent Israeli civilians.
The situation is hardly ideal. But that does not negate the fact that Israel is responsible for its citizens’ safety and must consider that point above the comfort level of civilians whose safety does not fall under its mandate. It is unfortunate that circumstances require such measures, but the Israeli government is tasked with protecting its innocent civilians. When those civilians are put at risk, Israel must react in whatever way it deems fit. Israel is still determined to bring peace, but will not do so at the expense of the safety of its civilians and its borders and, at this point in time, the real barrier preventing peace is the Arab States’ intransigence and blanket rejection of a Jewish State on any borders.
Giving up land will not get us any closer to a peaceful Middle East. One of the beliefs of the Islamic religion involves the creation of a Dar-al-Islam, a solely Arab world, in which the values of Shariah law are kept to the highest degree. At this point, the Arab states have made it very clear that they see Israel as a threat to, what they feel should be, a purely Islamic Middle East. In their founding charters, many of the terrorist organizations that are run as proxies of various Arab states, declare their goal to “liberate Palestine [through armed struggle],” presumably in order to realize their ultimate goal of creating a Dar-al-Islam within the Middle East (this specific quotation was taken from the Palestinian Liberation Organization Charter). Are we really supposed to believe that giving them a small portion of land will appease them, if they advocate for our total destruction?
We are fighting a war with very different rules from anything that we have come across before, and many of these “rules” defy our Western logic.
Let’s relate this understanding of the Middle East to the current issue of the Iranian nuclear program. The international community is currently trying to reason with the Iranian dictatorship by imposing sanctions as a deterrent to further development of the nuclear weapons program. The world is treating this situation similarly to its treatment of the situation in the 1980s, during the Cold War. The reason that, ultimately, no nuclear weapons were detonated, during the Cold War, is that the United States and Russia, both countries in possession of nuclear power, did not want the world to meet with certain destruction.
The situation today is totally different: Iran is a Muslim country with a Shiite majority. Radicalized Shi’a Islam believes in an “End of Days” type scenario. Shiites believe that provoking an event akin to an apocalypse will bring about the coming of the twelfth Imam: the ultimate messianic goal of Shiite Islam.
Iran wants to wreak devastation on the world. Bargaining and sanctions will not do anything to stop them. Is it any wonder that current United States policy, vis à vis Iran, has been ineffective? I disagree with Jaeger’s opinion on this matter: The only chance that the world has to prevent certain disaster is to take invasive action that will put a halt to the Iranian nuclear program.
I fail to see how encouraging Israel to give up its territory, to appease one of the powers that admits its goal is to destroy the entire country, is “acting in Israel’s best interests.” By definition, acting as a friend involves caring about that “friend’s” well-being. Giving up the land of Judea and Samaria is tantamount to Israel announcing its annexation to the Dar-al-Islam that the Muslim states are so eager to create within the Middle East. So yes, I completely agree with Jaeger: should Israel decide to realize its suicidal aspirations, it will have an amazingly helpful friend in the form of U.S President Barack Obama.
AUTHOR’S CORRECTION: In the original op-ed, it said the IAEA report stated Iran has enough nuclear fuel to build four nuclear bombs; this is an error. In reality, this fact was found in a different article, which has since been taken offline by the website that published it. This recent article from the Jerusalem Post cites similar information.