Amid the countless words of analysis of US President Obama's address to the United Nations last week, precious little has been said about his use of the words "Palestinian lands." The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is apparently the first and only organization to comment on it.
"Surely Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel ... [and if] Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land," Obama said.
The ZOA says that using the words "Palestinian land" to refer to Judea and Samaria "prejudges the issue of sovereignty and borders, and is not accordance with international law, which designates Judea/Samaria as unallocated territory, without a recognized sovereign."
Over the past century, Judea and Samaria (collectively known as Yesha) has been under the control of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, Jordan and Israel – but never under "Palestinian" control. In fact, no such Arab country has ever existed in history. Only since 1993 has there been a "Palestinian Authority," but it was specifically not granted control or authority over areas of Jewish settlement. For Obama to say that Israel cannot to "settle Palestinian land," therefore, is a total misnomer.
The ZOA noted that Obama's use of this term "unjustly designates the biblical, religious, and historical heartland of the Jewish people for millennia, before the Arab conquest of the region in the seventh century, as belonging to Palestinian Arabs."
The ZOA acknowledges that Judea and Samaria are disputed areas, "but it is also important to note that Israel has better claim [to them] in law than any other party."
As has been noted many times, to the apathy of most of the world, Judea and Samaria - the area termed the "West Bank" - were earmarked for Jewish settlement in 1920 at the San Remo Conference. This decision was then reaffirmed by the League of Nations and the United Nations, and has never been superseded by an internationally binding agreement.
Jordan's assumption of control over the area from 1949 until 1967 was never recognized by any country in the world, except for Great Britain. The Arab League specifically negated it. Judea/Samaria is thus "unallocated territory under international law," the ZOA affirms, and thus Israel's control of it does not impede on the sovereign territory of any other entity.
Even the Oslo Accords do not prohibit Israeli residence and construction in these territories. On the contrary, states the ZOA: they "provide for Israeli and Palestinian building in zones under their respective controls. Oslo also lists this as a final status issue, to be negotiated by the parties themselves, and Israel is entitled to assert its right for its citizens to live and build in these territories until such time as a peace settlement is reached."
Israel has consistently called for direct negotiations with the PA, but the latter has refused for the past eight years – except for two meetings held in the space of one week over six years ago.