US State Department
US State DepartmentiStock

Israel’s former Justice Minister was “mystified” when a State Department spokesperson recently said Judea-Samaria "settlements" were “illegal even under Israeli law.” In fact, such building and developing in the region that flourished as an integral part of the Jewish monarchy in biblical times, are “of course” fully legal under Israeli law, former Israeli Justice minister Zachi Hanegbi wrote last Monday.

His letter was published in the Israeli English language daily, The Jerusalem Post, which had covered what the State Department spokesperson said last week.

In a 30 June Department briefing, an American reporter and two Arab reporters cooperated to elicit statements from a State Department spokesperson, Jalina Porter, about Judea-Samaria "settlements," a loaded word for Jewish communities in the area that was originally meant to be part of Israel, overrun by Jordan in the 1948 War of Independence, and regained by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. Due to Palestinian Arab counter-claims, the area can be called "disputed" territory, but is certainly not "occupied," despite the common use of the term.

Said Arikat, Washington bureau chief at Al Quds Daily Newspaper, said to be the most widely read Palestinian Arab daily, joined forces with Hiba Nasr (Correspondent at Asharq News, a Saudi media group) and Abigail Williams (State Department reporter for NBC News). Porter, a former political advisor for Democratic elected officials, took all the trio’s questions.

Former Justice Minister Hanegbi complimented Porter, saying she was an “experienced communications professional”. Yet, Hanegbi said, Porter may “have been led astray by a recent illegality allegation about Evyatar by a (non-attorney) Meretz minister.” Meretz is a radical left wing party and member of Israel's new government.

Hanegbi (Likud), an attorney by training, explained that Jewish residence in Israel’s Judea-Samaria region is “fully legal” and not only under Israeli law. Prof. Eugene Rostow, dean of the USA’s leading law school, “affirmed this decades ago, adding that it is impossible to contend that Israeli settlements are illegal”, the former Justice Minister said.

“Moreover, US Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas and other top American legal minds explained that the international community specifically undertook to encourage close settlement by Jews in Yehuda-Shomron (Judea-Samaria)”.

It follows that building and developing for Israelis and Jews in Yehuda-Shomron “are in fact obligations arising from international law – which are, additionally, irrevocable,” Hanegbi said. So much for never-ending mendacious "legal" efforts to make the biblical heartland of Israel "judenrein."

Rochel Sylvetsky made aliya to Israel with her family in 1971, coordinated Mathematics at Ulpenat Horev, worked in math curriculum planning at Hebrew U. and as academic coordinator at Touro College Graduate School in Jerusalem. She served as Chairperson of Emunah Israel and was CEO of Kfar Hassidim Youth Village. Upon her retirement, Arutz Sheva asked her to be managing editor of the English site, a position she filled for several years before becoming Senior Consultant and Op-ed and Judaism editor. She serves on the Boards of Orot Yisrael College and the Knesset Channel.