Monday, June 18, 2012

Is It Time Israel Starts Asserting Its Legal Rights?

Guest Voice

We welcome a new Guest Voice, Salomon Benzimra, a professional engineer who writes persuasively and, more important, rationally about Israel. In this article, he argues for Israel asserting its de jure (legal) rights under international law to defend itself, notably against nations that are particularly hostile to its existence. Consider the following, which some might find counter-intuitive: "The 'land for peace' concept was deemed acceptable for Sinai but it cannot be readily transposed to territory located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea–specifically Judea and Samaria (J&S), commonly misnamed 'the West bank.' The difference is obvious: Israel has a strong claim on J&S – historical, cultural and also legal."

by Salomon Benzimra, P.E.

If someone in your neighbourhood claimed that your house was built on stolen land, wouldn’t you show the legal title to your property? Why doesn’t the Government of Israel act likewise?

The negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are deadlocked. Israel and the Quartet (U.S., EU, U.N. and Russia) are eager to resume the “peace process.” This process is based on the concept of “land for peace,” which was derived from UNSC Resolution 242. It was first applied to the Sinai Peninsula and it led to a peace treaty, however shaky, between Egypt and Israel. It was later invoked in 1991 at the Madrid Conference which spawned the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO. The latter application has been a resounding failure almost since the Declaration of Principles (Oslo I) was adopted in 1993.

The “land for peace” concept was deemed acceptable for Sinai but it cannot be readily transposed to territory located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea—specifically Judea and Samaria (J&S), commonly misnamed “the West bank.” The difference is obvious: Israel has a strong claim on J&S—historical, cultural and also legal. Therefore, a new foundation must be introduced that conforms to recent historical events and international law in order to resume negotiations on a sound footing.

What is wrong with “land for peace” when applied to Judea and Samaria?

  • It implicitly conveys the idea that Israel is in control of a territory that lawfully belongs to others. For reasons that are debated to this day, Israel accepted to be a “belligerent occupier” in 1967, and even though the occupation is not illegal (as UNSC Resolution 242 clearly attests), Israel is nonetheless viewed as an “occupier” of a foreign land.
  • The detractors of Israel avoid all the legal intricacies and only retain that “the West Bank is under occupation.” There is hardly a statement from any Arab leader and their leftist supporters that does not refer to the “occupation.” It is then claimed that the territory must be returned to its previous owners – as all other occupied lands were in the past.
  • This false perception was amplified by the U.N., starting in 1969, with a plethora of General Assembly resolutions pointing to Israel as a “colonial, imperialist, racist” entity which deprives “the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination, sovereignty and independence in Palestine.” Such a forged narrative culminated in 1974 with UNGA Resolution 3236 and the creation, by the United Nations in 1975, of the “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.” (CEIRPP).
  • The reckless twisting of reality increasingly evolved into an overt anti-Israel attitude in academia, the media, civil society and diplomatic circles where “apartheid,” “illegal settlements” and “stolen land” are liberally hurled at Israel. Simply put: the false notion of “occupation” has poisoned all the wells.
Restore factual truth

To restart peace negotiations on a sound footing, a new “Declaration of Principles” should include the recognition by the Quartet of Israel’s de jure title of sovereignty to the land west of the Jordan River. This would not be a policy change from their part; it is merely a restatement of what the international community had already recognized when its members approved the Mandate for Palestine. Most of the present EU countries, during their membership at the League of Nations, approved it in 1922-23. So did Canada, Australia, Japan and many other countries which are now members of the U.N. The U.S. ratified the Anglo-American Convention in 1925 in which the full text of the Mandate was incorporated.

The concept of sovereignty has been recognized as one of the most controversial in international law. Even though the de facto sovereignty of Israel over Judea & Samaria has never been asserted by Israel since 1967, the de jure title of sovereignty is iron-clad. Few peoples, if any, obtained the same international recognition as the Jewish people did in San Remo (1920) and in subsequent agreements for the reconstitution of their national home in Palestine on the grounds of their historical connection to the land. But this seminal foundation of the State of Israel seems to have been erased, and the erasure forgotten. To avoid an Orwellian inversion of reality, the de jure title of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria ought to be brought to the fore:
  • To restore the factual evidence from historical legal documents;
  • To dispel the current perception that J&S are “occupied Palestinian territories,”as commonly labeled by the UK, the U.N., the ICRC and other international agencies;
  • To challenge the false notion of a “Palestinian people,” dispossessed of “their land” and entitled to political self-determination on territory which, actually, was lawfully allocated to the Jewish people over ninety years ago in an act of international law; and
  • To open the door for a fair resolution of the status of the non-Jewish populations living in J&S in order to arrive at a lasting peace in the region.

Israel’s de jure title of sovereignty over J&S is of crucial importance. If this acquired right of the Jewish people is not forcefully asserted, the State of Israel will be facing further territorial claims from the Arabs, one more preposterous than the other. This is to be expected since the Arabs understand there is no difference between territory acquired by Israel (“liberated” is the correct word) in the Six Day War (1967) and in the War of Independence (1948-49): Western Galilee may well follow J&S.

But after two decades of appeasement, futile concessions, destruction of Jewish communities, and territorial transfers rewarded by terror, can we still hope that the present Government of Israel will forcefully assert its rights to the land and take a proactive stand to uphold the legitimate rights of the Jewish people and rectify the past failed policy of “peace at any cost”?

Salomon Benzimra is a chemical engineer based in Toronto, where he professional work includes process design of water-pumping stations, energy systems and project economic analysis. He is interested in Middle East politics, and, accordingly, he co-founded Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights (CILR), which has been in existence since 2009.
Copyright ©2012. Salomon Benzimra. All Rights Reserved. A version of this article was originally published in Arutz Sheva (June 14, 2012). It is republished here with the author's permission and Arutz Sheva.


  1. All the options are dangerous. Withdrawing from Gaza led to a jump in anti-Israel hatred all over the world. Rockets aimed at civilians followed as the night the day. On the other hand, if Judea and Samaria officially become part of Israel, there will be an actively disloyal--and rapidly increasing--population within the country.
    Sometimes I think there really IS a God, and He's an embittered anti-Semite. He hardens the hearts of the world's people against Israel and against Jews everywhere.

    1. You're right, of course, but the status quo is also not working. It might be a good bargaining tool.

    2. Bargaining tool my eye. But you are right that the status quo is not working. It is time that Judea and Samaria are annexed. Now would be a good time as the Arabs have quite clearly broken the Oslo Agreement by seeking to get statehood unilaterially.
      However I don't agree that the West Bank is "commonly misnamed" I doubt the name change was inadvertent. Steven Plaut has a better suggestion. The Arabs have changed the name because, he says, wouldn't they look silly claiming the Jews were illegally occupying Judea.
      Annexing Judea and Samaria would still leave the Jews with a big population majority because according to Yoram Ettinger citing valid studies, the PA has overstated the Arab population there by 1,600,000, and the Jewish birth rate is now higher than the Arab birth rate. In any event, not all the Arabs there would want to pledge their fealty to the Jewish State although I think all the Settlers would. Even those in Migron and Ulpana. The Arabs who didn't could remain as noncitizen residents or paid to go elsewhere.

      In Gaza, after Israel ends the rocketfire by taking it over, Israel could provide them with home rule but not let any terrorist candidates or parties run for office. Israel could make all the external decisions. This would fully comply with Israel's obligations under the San Remo convention as the Arabs, for 400 years of rule by the Turks from Constantinople, never had any say in the policies of the caliphate. Nor did they vote in the British elections from 1920 to 1948 nor the Egyptian Elections from 1948 to 1967. All the restriction on not impairing non-Jewish civil and religious rights means, as agreed by the parties and stated in the French process verbal, the the non-Jews would not have to surrender any rights when the Jews asserted sovereignty.
      Having a bona fide claim to sovereignty would be wasted as a bargaining tool. Far better simply to assert the claim. Ultimately, with continued Jewish immigration, Gaza could be annexed too.

    3. "The West Bank" was given that name by the Jordanians after it captured and occupied that territory in the 1948 war. It had no legal claim to the land. Yet, the name persists to this day for the same reasons that the international community is blind to Israel's legal claims yesterday & today. That reason alone might make Israel's annexing Judea and Samaria, as you and the article writer have suggested—although moral and legally right—a difficult proposition to put in place. I am not even sure that a majority of Isrealis would agree to this political move.

  2. A second Arab-Palestinian State west of the Jordan River is a fantasy that will never happen. It is Jewish territory for eternity. As referenced below, there is no justification whatsoever for another Arab-Palestinian State west of the Jordan River.
    The Arabs have Jordan which is Jewish territory, the also have the homes and the over 120,000 sq. km. of the territory they confiscated from the over a million Jewish families they expelled who now reside in Israel and they also have over 13 million sq. km. the Arabs were allocated with a wealth of oil reserves, when the Ottoman Empire dissolved by the Allied forces in WWI.
    If you read the 1917 Balfour Declaration (Which emulated Napoleons 1799 letter to the Jewish community in Palestine promising that The National Home for The Jewish people will be reestablished in Palestine, as the Jews are the rightful owners). Nowhere does it state an Arab entity west of The Jordan Rive. The San Remo Conference of 1920 does not state an Arab entity west of The Jordan River. The Mandate for Palestine terms does not state an Arab entity west of the Jordan River. It specifically states a Jewish National Home in Palestine without limiting the Jewish territory in Palestine. It also states that the British should work with the Jewish Agency as the official representative of the Jews in Palestine to implement the National Home of the Jewish people in Palestine. I stress again; nowhere does it state that an Arab entity should be implemented west of the Jordan River.
    As a matter of historical record, The British reallocated over 77% of Jewish Palestine to the Arab-Palestinians in 1922 with specific borders and Jordan took over additional territory like the Gulf of Aqaba which was not part of the allocation to Jordan.
    No where in any of the above stated agreements or any resolutions that provides for an Arab entity west of the Jordan River. It specifically states political right to the Jewish people. The U.N. resolutions are non-binding with no legal standing. The Oslo Accords is null and void.
    YJ Draiman


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