Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Medad - Settlements – a US election issue

Yisrael Medad
Israel Hayom
19 December '11


The issue of the legality of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria has become an American presidential campaign issue of sorts. Just recently, Wolf Blitzer, former Al HaMishmar correspondent, pressed Rick Perry in a CNN interview, asking him: "Since ’67, every U.S. president, Democrat and Republican, has called Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories, in the West Bank, illegal under international law. Would you continue that activity?"

Perry responded, "No I wouldn’t. I consider the Israeli settlements to be legal, from my perspective, and I support them ... where the Israelis are clearly on Israel’s land that they have hard fought to win and to keep, absolutely." In November, Rick Santorum, another Republican contender, was asked if Israel should dismantle its settlements, and insisted the territory was "part of Israel." He compared it to the status of New Mexico and Texas as part of the U.S. and asked his questioner, "Should we give Texas back to Mexico?" The interviewer countered, "Well, I don’t think you should recognize recent annexations," to which Santorum retorted, "Oh, so it depends whether it’s recent or not? ... The bottom line is that is legitimately Israeli country. And they have a right to do within their country just like we have a right to do within our country ... all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian, this is Israeli land."

The roots to this dispute lie with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who claims that, on U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, “Prime Minister [Menachem] Begin ultimately acknowledged its applicability in all its parts,” as Carter wrote, for example, in the Washington Post on Nov. 22, 2000, where he linked this to the issue of building Jewish communities "in occupied territory."

In fact, it was the Carter administration that initiated the "illegality" terminology. He had Herbert Hansell, the State Department legal adviser, declare that the communities "violated international law," marking a reversal of the approach taken by all previous administrations. Following Carter, however, President Ronald Reagan reinstated the traditional approach, declaring on Feb. 2, 1981, that the communities were "not illegal." He did criticize them on policy grounds as being "ill-advised." Even Carter's Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, stated on July 29, 1977, that "it is an open question as to who has legal right to the West Bank."

Carter, of course, will not forgive Begin's resistance to bow to him on this matter. As scholar and author William B. Quandt notes quite plainly on page 246 of his book, “Camp David: Peacemaking and Politics," Begin rejected Carter's interpretation of Resolution 242 and its relevance to portions of the Jewish people’s historic homeland in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Just after the Camp David Accords' signing, on Sept. 20, 1978, Begin declared that 242's preamble of “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" was unacceptable. He viewed the 1967 Six-Day War as one "of legitimate self-defense, of saving a nation surrounded and attacked and threatened with annihilation." He added, "We refused. On behalf of the people of Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people, in the name of simple of human justice and dignity, above all, on behalf of truth, we refused to give this signature for those words."

The resolution needed to make clear that Judea and Samaria, as well as Gaza, were part of the territory to which Jews had the right of "close settlement," as the League of Nations decided by international law. The British Mandate gave recognition "to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine." That history, including recent history, cannot be separated from Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It was only in 1929 that a campaign of violent ethnic cleansing by Arabs forced Jews out of their homes in Hebron, Nablus and Gaza, to be followed, similarly, in the 1948 expulsions of Jews from Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, Kibbutz Beit Haarava, Neve Yaakov and Atatrot.

Despite not being a member of the League of Nations, the U.S. accepted the mandate's terms and its territorial applicability in a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress on June 30, 1922. The resolution was signed on Sept. 21, 1922, by then President Warren G. Harding, and was further supported by the Anglo-American Convention, a treaty signed by the U.S. and British governments in 1924, stipulating that the U.S. fully accepted the mandate for Palestine.

Perry, Santorum and others are not making any new statements but repeating traditional American diplomatic policy: Jews have a legal right to reside in Judea and Samaria and build their homes there.

Yisrael Medad resides in Shiloh and is a Yesha Council spokesman.

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