Israel, Illegitimacy, And The Obama Administration
by Gerald A. Honigman
As of November, 2013, we are in the midst of the current round of alleged peace negotiations between Israel and Arabs who have been openly honest about not accepting a Jewish State regardless of what the latter gives and gives and gives…
Is anyone involved in arm twisting Jews listening? Or, is it that they hear but don’t care? I think the latter defines this reality.
Those who do care are exhausted having to rehash the responses over and over again. But, tell me please, what other choice is there? So those who know the following already, please understand.
The Obama administration (not to mention the perpetual Arabists in Foggy Bottom), from the get-go, has made its position very clear, and it has been honest–at least about this issue. Its leader, while still a senator, repeatedly stated that he expected Israel to return to the pre-’67 armistice lines, not borders, which made it a mere 9 to 15 miles wide. Indeed, he said Israel would be crazy–exact words–to not accept the Saudi Peace Plan which demanded this, among other things.
So, the inevitable has now occurred.
Israel would not prostrate itself low enough to the demand that the Jews agree that their presence in lands where their forefathers have lived for millennia was illegal and illegitimate, so Secretary of State John Kerry was the latest pea in the pod to unleash both barrels on them.
With messes at home and abroad that Obama increasingly is at least finally being questioned about, if not held accountable for, the Jews are being pressured to pay the price by giving him a “victory” he can point to–even if it’s another “peace for our time” 1938 Munich-style sellout variety.
America 2013 has thus now become a proponent–not honest mediator–of the Arab position…one that sees not only Judea and Samaria as theirs and theirs alone, but, in reality, virtually the rest of the region as well.
G_d only knows what other threats–besides those Kerry unabashedly announced– Israel is facing right now. Yet, is it not better for Israel to deal with these sooner rather than later? It faces three more years of Obama–not three months. And former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton may very well be the next American leader. She has the same attitude as Obama on this issue.
While there are other related episodes that could be cited, back in February 2011, the United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israelis living beyond their 1949 armistice line-imposed sardine can of a state. In doing so, however, President Obama’s representative, Dr. Susan Rice, lashed out at Israel, stating that America agrees with the rest of the members about “the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.” Kerry is simply being consistent.
Volumes have been devoted to the legitimacy issue of Jews living in areas within the original April 25, 1920 border of the Mandate of Palestine. Recall that the eastern edge took it right up to the present nation of Iraq, then the Mandate of Mesopotamia. Jews, Arabs, and others were all allowed to live anywhere in the Mandate.
Indeed, the Minutes of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the United Nations’ predecessor, the League of Nations, showed scores of thousands of Arabs pouring into the Mandate from elsewhere due to the economic development occurring due to the Jews.
Thousands of other Arabs had arrived in the latter 19th century with Muhammad Ali and son Ibrahim Pasha’s Egyptian armies and never left. Solid documentation from numerous other sources testifies to this huge influx of Arabs into the Mandate of Palestine from elsewhere as well–Arabs setting up Arab settlements in Palestine. Experts suggest that the number was even far greater due to many Arabs arriving into the Mandate across porous borders under the cover of darkness–so they were never recorded. And before we leave this thought, consider the following…
Concerning the Arabs in the Mandate, after the Arab attack on Israel in 1948 backfired, the United Nations Relief Works Agency–UNRWA–was set up to assist Arab refugees. In doing this, the very word “refugee” had to be redefined from its prior meaning of persons normally and traditionally resident to those who had lived in the Mandate for a minimum of only two years prior to 1948. Please ponder the implications of this and also consider that no such agency was created to assist Jewish or any other refugees. More Jews fled “Arab” lands as a result of the Arab attack on Israel in 1948 than vice-versa.
After Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill’s gift to Arab nationalism of almost 80% of the original 1920 Mandate of Palestine with the creation of the Emirate of Transjordan in 1922, Jews were forbidden to live east of the Jordan River.
When Transjordan joined other Arab states in attacking a re-born Israel in May 1948, it grabbed the areas known as Judea and Samaria for thousands of years on the west bank of the river. While ancient Jewish communities were massacred by Arabs earlier in the 1920s and 1930s, Transjordan officially made these lands also Judenrein after conquering them.
So, Jews–who, along with Arabs, were supposed to be able to live anywhere in the Mandate–were now forbidden to own land or live in roughly 90% of the original 1920 Mandate. Israel wound up with some 12% of the original Mandate of Palestine’s territory.
Now, here is where the “legitimacy” issue comes into play…
First of all, please note that in Arab eyes, the whole region is solely theirs and they call it “purely Arab patrimony”–despite scores of millions of non-Arab peoples who live there…subjugated and frequently massacred by Arab rulers. So, when anything related to Israel is called illegitimate, keep this in mind. The fight has never been over how big Israel is, but that Israel is.
When Transjordan grabbed Judea and Samaria after its’48 attack of Israel, only two nations recognized the legitimacy of that conquest–Great Britain and Pakistan.
Therefore, newly re-named “Jordan” (holding both banks of the River, it was no longer just “Trans-”) was not the legitimate, recognized owner of the “West Bank.”
Among others who have commented, consider some of the words in a November 8, 2013 letter Israeli expert and former Ambassador Alan Baker wrote to Kerry on this very subject:
“Your determination that Israel’s settlements are illegitimate cannot be legally substantiated. The oft-quoted prohibition on transferring population into occupied territory (Art. 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention) was, according to the International Committee Red Cross’s own official commentary of that convention, drafted in 1949 to prevent the forced, mass transfer of populations carried out by the Nazis in the Second World War. It was never intended to apply to Israel’s settlement activity. Attempts by the international community to attribute this article to Israel emanate from clear partisan motives, with which you, and the US are now identifying.
The formal applicability of that convention to the disputed territories cannot be claimed since they were not occupied from a prior, legitimate sovereign power.”
When Jordan’s King Hussein decided to join his Arab brothers’ in Egypt and Syria renewed attempt on Israel’s life and shelled Israel’s Jerusalem in 1967, Jordan lost the lands it had earlier illegally grabbed from the remainder of the Mandate of Palestine. Please review Ambassador Baker’s above comments.
Now, crucial to this discussion, is the fact that the lands in question were not exclusively Arab lands–though Arabs proclaim them to be. Again, as they do practically everywhere else in the region as well.
Besides Ambassador Baker, many other experts on international law have testified to this, and while it’s not now politically correct to make this point, all of the key architects (Lord Caradon, Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow, etc.) of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 were unambiguous here. The careful wording of the final draft of 242 became one of the key instruments for peace-making between Arab and Jew in the region, and it was passed by the same organization which is now set to toss it out of the window and currently having Washington’s support in this endeavor.
All the architects agreed that all residents–not just Arabs–had the right to live anywhere they wanted in the part of the Mandate left after the creation of Transjordan in 1922.
The final, accepted draft of 242 promotes that any withdrawal by Israel from territories acquired in its war for survival in 1967–at some future time and in the context of real peace-making, not destruction-in-stages games–be done in a way to provide Israel with real, more defensible, and secure borders to replace its former 1949 armistice lines. Again, the chief architect, Lord Caradon, has been quoted extensively on this matter as have other architects such as Professor Rostow.
Those ’49 lines merely marked the spots where fighting stopped after the Arab attack in 1948 and made Israel a mere zipper of a state where most of its population and infrastructure are located–a constant temptation to be severed in half. After the ’67 War, there is no doubt that a territorial compromise over the disputed–not “purely Arab”– territories was the intent of 242 and built into its careful wording as well.
All of the above is the necessary background one needs to make better sense of the language–”folly,” ” illegitimacy,” illegality,” and so forth–being used today in dealing with this crucial issue. And when folks insist on using such words as “contiguity” for an Arab “Palestine,” please tell me how you link Gaza and the West Bank without making Israel non-contiguous.
The settlements issue is mostly all about whether Israel gets the territorial compromise promised by 242–which would allow Judeans, Jews, to return to Judea and provide Israel with real, more defensible, more secure borders–or whether it will be shamefully bullied back to what the late Abba Eban called its Auschwitz lines existence.
With all the turmoil in the Middle East involving one despot or another, the importance of Israel getting the territorial compromise inherent in 242 becomes more important, not less.
Treaties of peace–even cold, but real ones, like with Egypt or Jordan–can be torn up or emasculated to the point where they become meaningless. There is a real threat of that happening today. Take a good look around at what’s happening in that neighborhood.
What Israel faces with a more honest, rejectionist Hamas or the game playing, massive aid receiving, latter-day Arafatians of Mahmoud Abbas (who call all dealings with Jews a Trojan Horse) makes it only more imperative that Israel gets something lasting, meaningful, and concrete in return for any further concessions it makes to the birth of the Arabs’ twenty-second state and second, not first, in Palestine–and on other fronts as well (think Golan Heights).
To not insist that the United Nations Security Council upholds the intent of its own earlier resolution–which allows for such crucial compromise over the disputed territories, so Israel would get the more secure and real borders 242 assured–would be the real folly and travesty regarding allegations of illegitimacy Israel now faces. And this time, unfortunately, with an American White House leading the charge.