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Israel Should Not Abandon Sovereignty Plans for UAE Peace

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Opinion

Students gather in front of the UAE Embassy to protest the normalization of relations with Israel, in Tehran, Iran August 15, 2020. Photo: Majid Asgarpour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS.

The peace deal signed between Israel and the UAE was a historic milestone toward Middle East peace. President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed all deserve credit for what is an extremely positive step for the region. Jared Kushner, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Avi Berkowitz, and Trump’s former special envoy Jason Greenblatt also deserve special recognition for their efforts to normalize ties between Israel and the Arab world.

There’s a long way to go in healing the region, but one more knot has been undone in the stubborn tangle of grudges that have defined the region for far too long.

Still, this peace deal came with the caveat that Israel abandon the planned application of Israeli sovereignty to the ancient Jewish Biblical lands of Judea and Samaria. I commend the UAE for their historic courage. But Israel need not pay for peace with concessions on issues of security and sovereignty. Other countries exist without having their policies dictated to them. Israel should not be any different.

Prime Minister Netanyahu rightly said that this peace deal is radically different from the Camp David accords because Israel did not trade any land for peace. This deal with the UAE is “peace for peace.” “Land for peace” was always a flawed theory that is unfair to Israel and yields either dubious results or disaster. This is why I hope that Israel will not cease efforts to apply sovereignty to the lands west of the Jordan river where 80% of Biblical events take place.

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Control of the Jordan Valley is essential to Israeli security, and therefore Israel’s eastern border must finally be etched in stone through the application of Israeli sovereignty.

To be sure, Israel has, in the past, made many concessions for peace. But those concessions — like the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza — led to war rather than peace.

A de facto state of peace and growing cooperation with the Gulf States already exists, one that stems organically from the alignment of their interests in countering Iranian expansion and aggression.

Anyone who knows the leaders of Saudi Arabia or the UAE understands that Iran is item number one on their agendas. Israel and the Gulf States complement each other in their ability to respond to this threat. Each has particular skills, strengths, and resources. Their cooperation has been something of an open secret for years. Besides defense, Israel and the UAE have a lot to gain from cooperation in economics, high-tech, and tourism.

Peace, in a very real sense, already exists. Still, it’s wonderful that it’s being solidified in an open treaty that will allow for the opening of embassies and tourism. And I understand that for now the UAE requires Israel to drop its bid for sovereignty in Judea and Samaria so it can show it gained a major concession from Israel in exchange for peace.

But once that peace is firmly established, and once the UAE sees that peace with Israel accrues to its unmitigated advantage, I hope that annexation of these ancient lands is placed back on the table.

Those who still cling to the outdated formula of “land for peace” cling to Israel’s concession of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt to prove that giving away land brings peace. But that doesn’t guarantee peace. If the Muslim Brotherhood had retained power in Egypt, some question whether peace would have remained.

It is troubling that these concessions were made for peace with an unstable regime. So unpopular was Sadat’s “peace” among Egyptians that he was assassinated because of it. More pressingly, Sinai is now a hellhole of terrorist activity that Egypt barely controls. Unlike the state of Egypt, whose conventional army does not pose a threat to Israel, ISIS militants actually might. ISIS militants recently launched a staggering offensive in northern Sinai, killing 40 Egyptian soldiers, and taking control of four towns.

Every other time Israel traded land for peace, the results were outright calamitous. In the mid-’90s, as a part of the infamous Oslo Accords, Israel gave a sworn Fatah terrorist control over lands containing 94% of the Palestinian population. What followed was a string of suicide bombings by Palestinian terrorists that left more Israeli civilians dead in the five years following Oslo than in the 15 years preceding it.

Israel signed even more land over in 1998, in the Wye River Accords. Within years of that agreement, the Second Intifada tore through Israel, this time led by the Fatah party that Israel empowered, leaving more than 1,000 Israeli civilians dead in its wake.

And still, Israel gave away even more land in the hope of inching toward peace. In 2005, Ariel Sharon unilaterally relinquished control of the Gaza Strip, which was quickly seized by the genocidal terrorist group Hamas. What followed was tens of thousands of projectiles and rockets, and bomb shelters becoming as standard in Israeli homes as a kitchen sink. Fields across Israel were burning just last week because Gazan terrorists have been launching cross-border IEDs attached to birthday balloons — and that’s considered quiet for the Israel-Gaza border.

By far the most disastrous concession was the retreat from Southern Lebanon in 2000. Within six years, the area had so much Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure that Israel lost 121 soldiers and 44 civilians just wading into territory they used to control outright. Today, Hezbollah has grown even stronger, with hundreds of thousands of rockets, precision guidance equipment, and networks of sophisticated tunnels meant to enable an invasion of Israel.

Now, Israel is being asked to relinquish its right to apply sovereignty to the oldest Jewish lands on earth. By waiving Jewish rights to these lands, it reinforces the counter-factual idea that we are “occupiers” of a land to which our claims are imperfect.

The land of Israel is our God-given homeland wherein our prophets, our kings, and ancestors lived and prospered. That’s a fact that everyone will eventually have to make peace with.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” has just penned his Holocaust memoir Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell, which is in the process of being published. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.

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