Thursday, July 12, 2012

Israel's Levy Commission - The Beginning of Reclaiming Zion

Something momentous happened in Israel this week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu had appointed a blue ribbon commission to look into the actual legal status of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria(AKA The West Bank).

Headed by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy,comprised of Levy, Tel Aviv District Court Judge (Ret.) Tehiya Shapira and Dr. Alan Baker an international law expert who was part of the team that devised the Oslo Accords, the panel submitted its report in June, but its official findings were only made public now.

The panel examined the background in international law of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria and concluded:

" That Israel does not meet the criteria of 'military occupation' as defined under international law."

That the State of Israel must devise ways to legalize contested settlements and outposts in Judea and Samaria and ease land acquisition and zoning laws and processes for Jews residing in these areas.

That Israel's Civil Administration must allow private construction within existing communities' limits. The committee criticized the "lack of clear government direction and policy" in regards to settlements in Judea and Samaria.

This was an in depth report done with reference to numerous legal precedents. As committee member Alan Baker said, "Our work was based in international, Jordanian, Israeli and even Ottoman laws and touched upon all issues relevant to land and territories."

Actually, to any unbiased party with basic knowledge of history and of international law, these facts have been evident ever since the Arabs and their appeasers started the Big Lie after 1967.

I've gone over this before, but the truth bears repeating, if nothing else but to counter the Big Lie.

The simple facts are these. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, 'occupation' is a term reserved for the seizing and holding of one nation's territory by another. Period.

The area known as Judea and Samaria, the former heartland of Israel was an Ottoman villayet (province) for almost 5 centuries until 1918. After the Ottomans picked the wrong side to fight on in WWI, their empire was dissolved, and the League of Nations, the UN of its day, granted Britain a mandate specifically to oversee the creation of a Jewish homeland, in recognition for the services of Palestine's Jews during the war and in accordance with Britain's Balfour Declaration.

In 1923, the British decided to appease Arab unrest by partitioning the mandate. Almost 80% of it, everything east of the Jordan River was given to the Arabs as their part of Palestine, under the Hashemite ruler Abdullah, one of Bedouin King Feisel's sons. That part of Palestine became Trans-Jordan, later known as the Kingdom of Jordan. everything west of the Jordan according to official British policy was reserved for Jewish settlement.

The League of Nations reaffirmed this arrangement in 1924 with the San Remo Accord. And in fact, the UN, the successor to the League reaffirmed the right of Jews to settle in Judea and Samaria in Article 30 of its charter, which has never been repealed.

Starting with the 1930's, the British began sabotaging the idea of a Jewish nation by deliberately limiting Jewish in-migration to what was left of the Palestine Mandate while allowing unlimited Arab in-migration. This culminated with the infamous White Paper in 1939, which closed the doors of Palestine to all Jewish in-migration at the very time Europe's Jews were desperately looking for a haven on the eve of the Holocaust.

While several partitions of what was left of Palestine were considered, including a UN plan after WWII, its a matter of record that the Arabs never agreed to any of them. Essentially, they were unwilling to allow the hated Jews any part of Palestine or any self-determination whatsoever.

In 1948, after Israel was declared a state by the UN, 5 Arab countries immediately attacked Israel with genocide as their announced intention. The Arabs lost the war, but Jordan's Arab Legion, armed, trained and officered by the British under the anti-semitic Colonel John Glubb managed to hang on to Judea and Samaria as well as East Jerusalem.

All of these areas were ethnically cleansed and made judenrein by the Jordanians and their British allies, and what students of history like President Obama refer to as 'the pre-67 lines' were the result. Since Jordan refused to recognize Israel and remained a state of hostility, what these amounted to were cease fire lines. The UN, while it didn't do anything else about this, never recognized the Jordanian seizure of this area. The only countries in the world that did were Pakistan and Britain.

In other words, ( and this is important) Judea and Samaria were never part of any sovereign nation under international law. They were simply seized and held by force of arms, with a significant portion of the legal inhabitants being driven out..and that seizure was actually in violation of the UN's own charter.

Fast forward 19 years. After Jordan attacked Israel in 1967, their forces were driven back across the Jordan River and Israel retained East Jerusalem as well as the rest of Judea and Samaria.

Unlike the Arabs, Israel did not engage in wide scale ethnic cleansing. They honored ( in many cases, to an excessive degree) private Arab owned land. But they did begin to build in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem. There was no 'occupation' because Judea and Samaria belonged to no country at that point. That's exactly why Yasser Arafat and his enablers in the Arab world and the west had to invent a 'country' and a 'nationality' that didn't exist previously in order to delegitimize Israel's claim to the region...and by extension, Israel itself.

Even UN Resolution 242, the foundation for the entire land for peace fiasco didn't mention a separate Palestinian state.

The entire 'Palestinian' claim to any part of Judea and Samaria is based on one thing and one thing only - the Oslo Accords, which the PLO never abided by and which in any case it claims it is no longer bound by. Nothing else.

What the Levy Commission has done is to look at the facts render a judgment accordingly, and it's something that should have been done decades ago.

The Levy Commission also confirms the opinions of a large list of experts who long ago came to the same conclusion the Commission did, including:

  • Stephen M. Schwebel, Professor of International Law at the School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University (Washington), former Deputy Legal Advisor of the U.S. State Department and President of the International Court of Justice from 1997 to 2000:

    “Where the prior holder of territory [Jordan] had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense [Israel] has, against that prior holder, better title.”

  • Eugene W. Rostow, Former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and Distinguished Fellow at the U.S. Institute for Peace:

    “The Jewish right of settlement in the West Bank is conferred by the same provisions of the Mandate under which Jews settled in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem before the State of Israel was created… The Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated…”

  • Julius Stone, one of the 20th century leading authorities on the Law of Nations, Doctor of Juridical Science from Harvard and Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law at universities in Australia and California:

    “The terms of Article 49(6) [of the Fourth Geneva Convention] however they are interpreted, are submitted to be totally irrelevant. To render them relevant, we would have to say that the effect of Article 49(6) is to impose an obligation on the state of Israel to ensure (by force if necessary) that these areas, despite their millennial association with Jewish life, shall be forever ‘judenrein’.”

  • David Matas, world-renowned human rights lawyer and honorary counsel to B’nai Brith Canada:

    “For there to be an occupation at international law, there has to be an occupying and occupied power both of which are members of the community of nations. The only conceivable occupied power for the West Bank is Jordan. Yet Jordan has renounced all claims over the West Bank.”

  • David M. Phillips, Professor at Northeastern University School of Law:

    Indeed, the analysis underlying the conclusion that the settlements violate international law depends entirely on an acceptance of the Palestinian narrative that the West Bank is “Arab” land. Followed to its logical conclusion – as some have done – this narrative precludes the legitimacy of Israel itself…The ultimate end of the illicit effort to use international law to delegitimize the settlements is clear – it is the same argument used by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state entirely.”

  • Jeffrey S. Helmreich, author and writer for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

    “The settlements are not located in ‘occupied territory.’ The last binding international legal instrument which divided the territory in the region of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza was the League of Nations Mandate, which explicitly recognized the right of Jewish settlement in all territory allocated to the Jewish national home in the context of the British Mandate. These rights under the British Mandate were preserved by the successor organization to the League of Nations, the United Nations, under Article 80 of the UN Charter.”

Of course, as you can imagine, the Obama Administration sees it quite differently and PM Netanyahu can expect a shrill burst of outrage when U.S. secretary of State Hillary Clinton hits the region next week. The Obama Administration is the first American administration to actually call the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria illegal, and to insist that Israel give up all claims to Judea and Samaria as well as East Jerusalem and return to th epre-'67 ceasefire lines, something Israeli diplomat Abba Eban referred to as the Auschwitz lines because of their lack of strategic depth and defensibility.

They will insist on Netanyahu shelving the commission's report.

It will be interesting to see what he does. What's most likely is that he will listen politely, be non-committal and institute certain aspects gradually.

But regardless of what happens, the commission's report and their finding is out there, and it's not going away.

Neither is the Big Lie, or Arab hostility to Israel's very existence, regardless of how big or how small it is.

As I've written for over a decade, Israel will eventually have to solve this problem in the common sense way any other nation would have a long time ago They will do it by delineating its borders and annexing and defending every part of Judea and Samaria it deems necessary to preserve and protect the Jewish communities in the area, as well as the rest of Israel.

That likely means all of area C, where most of the Jewish communities are and the strategically necessary parts of Area B, including the Jordan Valley.

It's long past time to end this farce. Israel must come to terms with itself as a nation, and nations don't sell out their heartland..not if they want to continue to exist.

If I were speaking to the Israelis, I would say, "Build the land and let a thousand bulldozers bloom. Build it, defend it and claim what's rightfully yours."

That's the real message of the Levy Commission, and it's one Israel should take to heart and act on.

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