Op-Ed: From Land-for-Peace to Title-to-the-Land
Salomon Benzimra, P. Eng.The writer, an engineer living in Toronto, Canada is co-founder of Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights – CILR www.cilr.org. He does consulting work in fluid dynamics, water pumping stations, and project economic analysis and his interests include Middle East politics.
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 Judea & Samaria – 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 today, 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 false notion of “occupation” has poisoned all the wells.
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 truths:
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 UN, 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,
- -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”?