The application of Israeli sovereignty to Jewish communities in the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria—in line with US President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan—has sparked international debate around the globe. World leaders, international bodies, role-players, outsiders, experts and laymen have all weighed in on the topic. While some—notably Israel, the US and Bible-believing Christians—have given the move their nod of approval, the majority are opposed.
Advocates are applauding the extension of authority over the Jewish communities in Israel’s biblical heartland—the contested area the world calls the “West Bank.” They have gone to great lengths to describe the Jewish people’s inextricable historic ties to the land, explain how the move upholds international law and underscore the beauty of an indigenous people living in their indigenous land. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sums up the situation: “We are not occupiers in a foreign land. This is our homeland since Abraham the Patriarch came here 3,500 years ago. The word ‘Jew’ comes from ‘Judea.’”
The naysayers charge that the move contravenes international law and will spell the end of a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. They fail to mention that the Palestinians have walked away from the negotiating table numerous times and have turned their backs on every offer of peace. Moreover, the charge of contravening international law often is not corroborated with facts and remains a sweeping accusation.
Let’s take a look at the voices for and against Israeli sovereignty in the biblical heartland.
“Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.”
—Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
“Withdrawing from territory captured in a defensive war is a historical rarity…the State of Israel has already withdrawn from at least 88% of the territory it captured in 1967. This Vision provides for the transfer of sizeable territory by the State of Israel—territory to which Israel has asserted valid legal and historical claims, and which are part of the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.”
—President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan
“Yet the Jewish people for more than two millennia has consistently maintained the strongest claim to be the aboriginal people in its ancestral homeland, and their existence and roots are widely documented, acknowledged and recognized.”
—Amb. Alan Baker in “The Jews: One of the World’s Oldest Indigenous Peoples”
“Judea and Samaria—the name Judea says it all—is territory that historically had an important Jewish presence…It is the biblical heartland of Israel. It includes Hebron, where Abraham purchased a burial cave for his wife Sarah; Shiloh, where the tabernacle rested for 369 years before the Temple was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem; Beth El, where Jacob had his dream of the ladder ascending to heaven; Kasr al-Yahud, where Joshua led the Israelite nation into the Promised Land and John the Baptist baptized Jesus [Yeshua]…So, intuitively, who has a good claim to the land? The answer, with all due respect to all the scholars, seems obvious.”
—US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman
“International law defines ‘occupation’ as one power occupying the lands of a foreign sovereign….Israel is not occupying any foreign sovereign’s land; Israel entered the area known as the West Bank in 1967 and took over the authority to administer the land from Jordan, which was never considered to be a sovereign in the area…Israel and the Jewish people have claims to the area that go far back into history. Anybody who reads the Bible can appreciate the fact that there is a very solid historic legal basis to the claim of Israel…and therefore Israel considers the territories not to be occupied, not to be Palestinian, but as in dispute.”
—Amb. Alan Baker in “Israel’s Rights in the Territories under International Law”
“[I]t cannot seriously be contended, as the EU, France, Britain, Russia, China and other states do, that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal and that annexation is contrary to international law. This position is political, not legal.”
—Michel Calvo in “Israel: The Settlements Are Not Illegal”
“My first name, Benjamin, dates back to Benjamin the son of Jacob, who was also known as Israel. Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea and Samaria 4,000 years ago, and there’s been a continuous Jewish presence in the land ever since. And for those Jews who were exiled from our land, they never stopped dreaming of coming back. They never stopped praying. They never stopped yearning. As the prime minister of Israel, I speak for a hundred generations of Jews who were dispersed throughout the lands, who suffered every evil under the sun, but who never gave up hope of restoring their national life in the one and only Jewish state.”
—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
“We must work to discourage any possible initiative toward annexation.”
—High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles
“We won’t allow the transfer of Palestinian land to anyone.”
—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
“The Palestinian leadership…are absolved of all agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments…including ones regarding security…We hold the American administration fully responsible for the oppression befalling the Palestinian people, and we consider it a primary partner with the Israeli occupation government in all its aggressive and unfair decisions and measures against our people.”
—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
“The continuing threat of annexation by Israel of parts of the West Bank would…deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations. Israel must abandon its threat of annexation.”
—UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov
“There are violations of international law of different degrees of severity, and an annexation of the Jordan Valley and the settlements would be considered a serious one. This qualification implies that there would be consequences, as it would not be considered ‘serious’ otherwise.”
—Eric Danon, French ambassador to Israel, tells the Times of Israel.
“If Israel really annexed the West Bank…it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I don’t want to make threats and create an atmosphere of loggerheads, but we are considering all options.”
—King Abdullah II of Jordan
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