End the Occupation – Now!
As a result of the 1967 Six Day War, Israel gained control of the Golan, Sinai, Judea and Samaria, and united its holy city and capital, Jerusalem. Until that war, all of those areas had been under the control of Israel’s neighbors – Syria, Jordan and Egypt. When those neighbors banded together in a scheme to eliminate the Jewish state in their midst, the attack did not play out as the Arabs had hoped. Not only did tiny Israel, in the first stages of establishing itself, survive the intended threat, but it was also able to expand its control into historically significant and strategically important land areas.
As might be expected, the young country was unprepared to establish a policy regarding the future of these areas. General Benny Peled tells in his memoirs of his disappointment when after capturing the Sinai, he learned that the political leadership had no plan drawn up for incorporating the newly acquired land. Israel under Ben Gurion and Golda Meir refused to consider handing over half of the Sinai in exchange for normalization of relations with Egypt, so Israeli cities, farms, bases and oil drills were established in Sinai during the 1970s. This policy was overturned when the Begin administration agreed to uproot all Jewish development and life from Sinai, giving the entire land over to Egypt. That arrangement, signed at Camp David, became the basis for the barrage of requests made since by Arab countries and Palestinian terror organizations demanding “land for peace.”
In 1980, after realizing the danger of having politicians negotiate away land of national and strategic importance, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem and Golan Law, which incorporated these areas into the State of Israel. At the same time, they nationalized the residents of these lands by granting them Israeli citizenship. Although this law is still contested by other countries, Israel internally regards these areas as having the same status as any other parts of the country, and Israeli law governs their residents in the same way as it does citizens elsewhere in Israel.
Israel’s lack of a consistent and comprehensive policy regarding the areas of Judea and Samaria (aka “The West Bank”), has encouraged the growth of the Palestinian movement in the direction of the PLO and its many factions, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the multiple anti-Israel propaganda operations worldwide. They all thrive on Israel’s mixed messages and displays of insecurity pertaining to the rights of the Jewish people to this land and Israel’s responsibility to govern this area as it does all other parts of the country.
The political and legal classification of Judea and Samaria as “under military rule” is bothersome and should be eliminated. Israel is one country between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and should have one law for all citizens and residents – without separation between regions.
Media and foreign organizations wrongfully portray the Israel Defense Force’s security measures as ethnic discrimination, which simply cannot be the case, seeing as Israel’s army and government include members of all the religious and ethnic groups in the country. Jews and non-Jews alike share all areas and enjoy the same infrastructure, services and all other opportunities.
Non-Jewish communities in Israel – Druze, Bedouin and Cherkezi – have proven that non-Jewish residents of Israel can be full partners in the Zionist effort without forfeiting their own cultures and religions. These examples should serve as a model for Israeli policy throughout all parts of its territory.
Arab residents of Judea and Samaria should be offered the privilege of aligning themselves with the Jewish State, its laws and national symbols. They should be able to demonstrate loyalty though volunteerism in the country’s military or national service like all other citizens, and they should then be eligible for its benefits. Naturally, fifth-column type activities could not be tolerated. People who might consider exploiting Israel’s openness and hospitality in order to undermine security and the Jewish character of the state would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. As expected for any other country, the Israeli government and legal system should implement all measures necessary to secure the nation’s stability and future.
Israeli leadership should have annexed Judea and Samaria many years ago. Now, 20 years after Oslo, when it is common knowledge that the PLO’s Palestinian Authority experiment is a failure, it is time to acknowledge that there is no alternative to incorporating all areas under Israeli control as official parts of the State of Israel.
David Ha’ivri is the director of the Shomron Liaison Office. He and his wife Mollie live in Kfar Tapuach, Shomron with their eight children. Follow him on Twitter @haivri