Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon missed a golden opportunity to address the future of the West Bank before the 170 world leaders who had gathered at the United Nations last week to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the founding of that organization.
Instead, the words he uttered were sweet music to the ears of most of those leaders, justifying the vitriolic War of Words waged by their countries against the Jewish State, in complete betrayal of the promises given to the Jewish people by the United Nations and its predecessor the League of Nations.
Standing at the podium, Mr. Sharon meekly repeated the mantra continually preached by these countries: "The Palestinians are also entitled to freedom, and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own."
This was a far cry from the defiant words uttered by Mr. Sharon in Time on 17 April 1989: "Jordan is Palestine! The capital of Palestine is Amman. If Palestinian Arabs want to find their political expression, they will have to do it in Amman."
No attempt was made in Mr. Sharon's speech to retrace the history of Palestine, a territory created with defined boundaries for the first time ever by the Treaty of Sevres in 1920 and the League of Nations in 1922, after the defeat of Turkey and Germany in World War I. He could well have quoted Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations, the late Abba Eban, who had eloquently summarised that history when he said, in Newsweek on 2 December 1974:
"Palestine comes into modern history as a region extending on both sides of the Jordan, comprising the present sovereign territories of Israel and Jordan and the administered areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Of this original Palestine, 80 per cent became an exclusively Arab domain through the separation of Trans-Jordan from Palestine."
A modicum of research could have enabled Mr. Sharon to also remind the gathered world leaders, particularly King Abdullah of Jordan, of the statement made to the United Nations by Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Blum on 3 December, 1979:
Let me remind the Jordanian representatives of the record. Between 1922 and 1946, Trans-Jordan remained an integral part of Mandated Palestine. In 1946, it became the independent Palestinian Arab State in that area. When King Abdullah came to the Jericho Conference in December 1948, which was attended by Palestinian Arabs west of the Jordan River, he was crowned 'King of Palestine'. Abdullah, in fact, wanted to rename his country 'The Kingdom of Palestine'. King Hussein, in his memoirs, indicates clearly that Trans-Jordan was arbitrarily siphoned off from the rest of Mandated Palestine. Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan, in the Jordanian National Assembly on 2 February 1970, stated unambiguously: "Palestine is Jordan and Jordan is Palestine. The nation is one and the land is one."Given the current leadership tensions between Mr. Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu, Mr. Sharon would probably have found it difficult to quote what Mr. Netanyahu told the United Nations on 11 December 1984, although the national interest certainly dictated Mr. Sharon should do so:
Clearly, in Eastern and Western Palestine, there are only two peoples, the Arabs and the Jews. Just as clearly, there are only two states in that area, Jordan and Israel. The Arab State of Jordan, containing some three million Arabs, does not allow a single Jew to live there. It also contains 4/5 of the territory originally allocated by this body's predecessor, the League of Nations, for the Jewish National Home. The other State, Israel, has a population of over four million, of which one sixth is Arab. It contains less than 1/5 of the territory originally allocated to the Jews under the Mandate.... It cannot be said, therefore, that the Arabs of Palestine are lacking a state of their own. The demand for a second Palestinian Arab State in Western Palestine, and a 22nd Arab State in the world, is merely the latest attempt to push Israel back into the hopelessly vulnerable armistice lines of 1949.Having reminded the world leaders present of these past statements, Mr. Sharon should then have told them:
The League of Nations and the United Nations promised the Jews that they would be entitled to resettle and reconstitute the Jewish National Home on land from which they had been dispossessed 2,000 years earlier by Roman invaders, provided nothing was done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of the "existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine". No political rights were conferred or intended to be conferred on those communities then or in the future.
This promise to the Jews extended to the West Bank, which you now obscenely call "occupied Palestinian territory" and from where you wish to see all Jews removed to create a State solely for the Arab residents, contrary to the terms of the Mandate and article 80 of the United Nations Charter, which the United Nations has consistently ignored, but which it must now confront and acknowledge.
The Road Map calling for the creation of a sovereign Arab State between Jordan and Israel in the whole of the West Bank and Gaza, now supported by the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union, is the very opposite of what the United Nations has pledged to fulfil in accordance with its own Charter.
Israel now enjoys peace treaties with its neighbours Jordan and Egypt.
The path to peace in the West Bank and Gaza must involve the division of sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza between these three nations in trilateral negotiations chaired by the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Israel stands ready to enter into such negotiations to cede sovereignty of the heavily populated Arab areas of the West Bank to Jordan. Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza indicates its willingness to cede sovereignty in Gaza to Egypt or Jordan and not rule over its neighbours.
I urge you all to abandon the idea that Jews have no legal right to settle in the West Bank and reconstitute their national home in that area. If international law is to have any meaning in regulating the conduct of the international community, then you must give legal effect to the Mandate and article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
Seize the day, because the time is short.
If the 170 dignitaries present were not prepared to listen, at least the 15 million Jews all over the world would be applauding Israel's prime minister for his principled stand, instead of recoiling at his abject acceptance of Jewish rights being trampled in their own homeland by a United Nations acting in breach of its own Charter.