This article was written by a group of Judea and Samaria leaders: Nir Bartel, Oranit Council Chairman; Shai Rosenzweig, Alfei Menashe Council Head; Eli Shaviro, Mayor of Ariel; Assaf Mintzer, Elkana Local Council Head; Haim Mendel Shaked, Har Adar Local Council Head, Arie Cohen, Megillot Local Council Head, and Oded Revivi, Efrat Local Council Head.
We are at the precipice of a historic moment of international recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish land of Judea and Samaria.
We stand like the Zionist Congress and the leadership of the Yishuv ‘Settlement Movement’ immediately after the recommendations of the 1937 Peel Commission. We stand like the leadership of the Yishuv after the November 1947 UN vote on the Partition Plan.
The essential difference is not only in the amount of real estate under discussion for a proposed Jewish homeland, but in the approach of our leadership. Today our leaders are hemming and hawing. In the past they took to the streets - not to protest - but to dance as they rejoiced over the recognition and legitimacy offered by the international community for the formation of a Jewish State.
Now it is our turn. The leaders of the Settlement Movement in Judea and Samaria must be appreciative of the recognition and legitimacy being offered by the most powerful country on earth. We must be grateful and rejoice in The Deal of the Century.
The Deal of the Century is a defining test for the leadership of Judea and Samaria. It is the leaders who must ultimately accept or reject the existing plan. They are the ones who must stand before their constituents and present what the plan can and cannot guarantee. They are the ones who must say what is being done for the good of Judea and Samaria, and what is for the good of the State.
It is the leadership that must explain that although we will not be able to fulfill the entire dream here and now, we can certainly take steps towards its fulfillment. They must explain that though we oppose a Palestinian state, and though we want more than what is being offered, we nevertheless say yes to the Deal of the Century, as we want to ensure sovereignty and the immediate application of Israeli law wherever possible.
A children’s writer in “Morning for the Children” once wrote "We only got a little bit of this land, though all of it was promised to the people of Israel". Only some of our dreams came true after the November 29th 1947 UN decision, but just look at what this ‘little bit’ has become! November 29th was a monumental day, as it was the day that most of the nations of the world recognized our right to freedom and independence in our ancestral land, and in our right to bring our scattered people back home.
There are formative moments like these, at the junction of decision-making, where the implications are historically significant and have an irreversible impact on the future. We, the heads of the Settlement Movement in Judea and Samaria are experiencing such a moment. We can seize this opportunity to implement sovereignty in large sections of our land, even if our entire dream is still not yet realized.
When the Peel Commission was published in July 1937, representatives of the Zionist movement considered their response. The question was whether to embrace and welcome the possibility of establishing a Jewish home in Israel, however incomplete, or to publicly oppose the plan, to refuse, and give up the possibility of a Jewish state. Another aspect of the decision was about the relationship between the Jewish community and Britain, which was then an important and central power.
There was heavy opposition from large groups within the Zionist Congress, including Agudat Yisrael, which chose to quote one of the their leaders, Rabbi Menachem Zamba, who perished in the Holocaust, and said, "A land of Israel that is missing just one footstep of land is like a Torah scroll that is missing one letter - it is invalid".
Despite this, David Ben-Gurion rejoiced when he read the Commission’s report. However, he chose to publicly oppose it, so that it would then be presented as a British plan, and would therefore not trigger automatic opposition from the Arabs. He informed the Colonial Minister that the entire Zionist movement opposed the division of land. This position caused Zionist allies to strongly attack the plan in parliamentary debate. And so, instead of approving the division of land, Parliament decided to bring it before the League of Nations.
We can't help but wonder whether a Jewish state could have been declared as early as 1937. What would have happened if there had been a Jewish state to open its doors to European Jews, who instead had to bang on doors that were locked and appeal to hearts that were hardened against them?
Ten years later when the partition plan was proposed before the United Nations, the attitude was different. The Zionist movement made great efforts to ensure that countries would vote in its favor. Everyone took to heart the consequences of the decisions of the past decade. Jamal al-Husseini, head of the Arab delegation to the United Nations, declared "the separation line will be nothing but a line of fire and blood."
When the president of the world’s strongest power endorses our right to this land, recognizes our right to settle throughout the region, and seeks to secure and safeguard its existence, should we tell him yes or no? Immediately after the Peel Commission, the Jews turned to Zionist British General Orde Wingate, asking him to analyze defense capabilities. The enclaves in the partition proposal posed endless challenges, but we knew how to determine what was right for this nation and this land.
We said yes, that the Jewish nation needed a home. We said yes, that the Jewish nation needed good relationships and strong allies. We said yes, because we understood that it was right to take whatever was being offered to us in that moment. And we said yes, because unlike Husseini, we do not want a "line of fire and blood." We understand that the situation in Judea and Samaria is complicated. We understand that the Arabs are not leaving this land. We want to ensure that neither are the Jews.
Just a few years ago, disengagement, evacuations and settlement freezes were on the agenda of the Oslo Accords, the Wye Accords, and the Camp David Accords. How can we stand on the sidelines against Prime Minister Netanyahu's efforts to bring a certificate of insurance to the "settlements" and to ignore his plea that "these tracts of land are the heartland of the Jewish nation. It is time to bring them under Israeli law, and to write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism”.
We cannot ignore the fact that now, the voices calling for sovereignty come from Likud, Blue and White, and even Labor! When Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz accepted the position of Defense Minister he requested “to promote Trump's program”. Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi said he "sees a historic opportunity in the program".
Can we let these statements fall on deaf ears? In what mandate will we ignore the consensus created by the people? What right do we have to stand before our children and tell them that we said no to that which was eminently possible to achieve?
We must secure what we have. We must say yes to the Deal of the Century. We must accept what is being offered in order to guard and preserve the cities and towns in Judea and Samaria forever and ever.