JERUSALEM, PALESTINE — In a highly provocative statement — one that was most likely well planned — United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in an interview this week to the New York Times that “Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”
Responses to this statement were quick to pop up, with the Israeli “Left” condemning and the Right expressing their agreement. Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gil’ad Erdan said:
The Trump administration’s view, which was expressed by Ambassador Friedman, is the only one that might bring about change and make the Palestinians understand that boycotting Israel and the United States and supporting terror and incitement won’t achieve anything.”
Erdan continued: “For years the Palestinians were told that time is in their favor and therefore (in addition to many other reasons) they refused.”
Bezalel Smutrich, chairman of the “National Unity” Party said that it seems the Americans finally understand that Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Smariah will “uproot the Arab desire for an independent state,” and that this desire is what is “fueling terrorism and the violent struggle for over one hundred years.”
It seems interestng that the Zionist perception is that more opression and more exclusion will convince the Palestinians to stop fighting for their rights.
On the Israeli Left the responses were quite strong. Ofer Cassif, of Hadash-Ta’al Party, tweeted “Neither the government of Israel nor the U.S. administration can hide the truth – the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian territories that will be released and lawfully returned to their owners as part of a just peace deal.”
לא יקום ולא יהיה! לא ממשלת ישראל ולא ממשל ארה”ב יסתירו את האמת: הגדה המערבית, רצועת עזה וירושלים המזרחית הם שטחים פלסטינים כבושים שישוחררו ויוחזרו כחוק לבעליהם במסגרת הסכם שלום צודק.
— Ofer Cassif עופר כסיף (@ofercass) June 8, 2019
Cassif went as far as publishing a letter he wrote to Ambassador Friedman, which was also turned into an ad saying, “We are not a US Protectorate.”
Mtanes Shehadeh, head of Balad Party, also tweeted, saying that permanent Israeli sovereignty of Palestinian territories would be a violation of International law.
ממשלת ישראל וממשל טראמפ חושבים שהם יכולים לכפות על העם הפלסטיני ועל האזור הסדרים הזויים וחד צדדיים, ולהפר את החוק הבינלאומי בכזאת קלות.
סיפוח הוא פשע מלחמה, ולישראל אין ולא תהיה שום ריבונות במ”מ אחד מהשטחים הכבושים.
— Mtanes Shihadeh (@MtanesShihadeh) June 10, 2019
The truth hurts
It is true everywhere that the truth hurts, but perhaps nowhere as much as in Palestine. In this particular case the truth is that if one accepts the legitimacy of Israel in the Galilee, the Naqab, Jerusalem or any other part of Palestine, then there is no room to draw an artificial line and say “this is as far as it goes and Israel has no right to Judea and Samaria.” Not to even mention the fact that the line that is used here — the “Green Line” that delineates the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — was drawn by Israel, based on Israeli interests when the Zionist state was established. And then — in 1967, when it no longer suited Israel’s needs — it was de facto eliminated by Israel.
When the cease fire lines were drawn in 1949, lines that defined the state of Israel and are known as the pre-1967 borders, it was Israel that decided what parts of Palestine would be included within the newly established Zionist state. It was clear to the Israeli military and politicians that these were not permanent boundaries. Israel’s first foreign minister, Moshe Sharet, mentions in his memoirs an occasion when important Jewish leaders came for a visit to Jerusalem. They were invited to a gathering where several speakers presented, one of whom was my father, then a young lieutenant colonel. Sharet notes with great pleasure how the young Peled made it clear that the eastern boundary of the State of Israel needed to be the Jordan River. He added that the military is prepared for the day when the government will give the order to complete that task.
It was about ten years later, and almost exactly 52 years ago, that my father was now one of the Israeli army’s generals and the job was completed. Israel’s eastern boundary was pushed all the way to the Jordan River and Judea and Samaria came within the boundaries of the state. Needless to recall here that Jewish settlements in these areas were built almost immediately and any talk of giving them up was considered treasonous.
Just as we either accept racism as legitimate or we reject it, we either accept the legitimacy of Zionism or we reject it. There is no room for a middle way. If any proof is still needed that as long as Zionists control Palestine Palestinians will enjoy no rights, the past seven decades supply ample proof. As long as there is an “Israel,” Palestinians will continue to suffer from forced exile, arbitrary detention, and ongoing killing of civilians.
Is David Friedman, the former Trump lawyer and major supporter of settlements, right? No! However, if one accepts the legitimacy of the Zionist state then one might as well accept Ambassador Friedman’s statement and Israeli sovereignty over all of Palestine. The Zionist state claims all of Palestine to be “The Land of Israel,” and has in fact taken over and settled all of Palestine.
Consecutive Zionist governments have made it clear that there is no West Bank, only an area of The Land of Israel called Judea and Samaria. Israel makes it clear that settling Jewish people anywhere in the Land of Israel is a right that is not negotiable. No single form of opression by Israel will end until the entire system of Zionist occupation and oppression is brought to an end. It is like trying to put out fires while allowing the arsonist to keep pouring fuel into them. The arsonist is the Zionist state.
Not a random statement
David Friedman’s statement was not random and was not made out of the clear blue sky — he does, after all, represent the United States government. The statement is well timed and goes along with policies we have seen enacted by the Israeli government and supported by the Trump administration: recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel; defunding UNRWA; closing the Palestinian mission in Washington, and in fact deporting the head of the mission along with his family; the recognition of Israeli sovreignty over the Syrian Golan Heights; and the proposed state of “New Palestine.”
All of these point to the inevitable recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and are part of the grand, so-called Deal of the Century.
Feature photo | President Donald Trump, left, turns to give a pen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, after signing a proclamation in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, Monday, March 25, 2019. Trump signed an official proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Other attending are, from left, White House adviser Jared Kushner, U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the U. S. Ron Dermer, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”
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