How Jews Gained Okay <br>For ‘Close Settlement’<br>Of Judea and Samaria
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
President Obama’s passive aggression toward Israel has been evident ever since his Cairo speech five months after his accession to the presidency. After affirming “unbreakable” bonds between America and Israel, he segued to Palestinians. They “endure the daily humiliations . . . that come with occupation” — an “intolerable situation.” America, he pledged, “will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinians aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” Then he departed to visit Buchenwald — but not Israel.
Fast forward to last week’s Security Council Resolution 2334, citing Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law with “no legal validity.” It was endorsed by 14 of its 15 members, including Venezuela, Malaysia and Ukraine – not known for their familiarity with Israel, Palestinians or the Middle East. As instructed by President Obama, America abstained, reversing its 2011 veto of a similar resolution. It is Resolution 2334, contradicting nearly a century of international law, that lacks legal validity.
In 1922, the League of Nations, incorporating language from the Balfour Declaration five years earlier, unanimously recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” Originally encompassing land east and west of the Jordan River, “Palestine” was redefined by British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill to provide England’s World War I ally Abdullah, son of the Sharif of Mecca, with his own kingdom of Transjordan. The British Mandatory government withheld the right of Jewish settlement in his country. Article 6 of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine explicitly protected “close settlement by Jews” on land west of the Jordan River, thereafter to be called “Palestine.”
That guarantee, never rescinded or superseded, endures as the international legal foundation for the legitimacy of Jewish settlements. Article 80 of the Charter of the United Nations, established after World War II as the successor to the League of Nations, explicitly protected “the rights of any peoples or the terms of existing institutional instruments to which members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.” Drafted by Zionist representatives (including Benzion Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s father) it preserved the right of the Jewish people to settle throughout their historic homeland west of the Jordan River – including biblical Judea and Samaria, labeled Jordan’s “West Bank” after its conquest during Israel’s war of independence.
Following the Six-Day War two decades later, Security Council Resolution 242 permitted Israel to administer the West Bank (and Golan Heights) until “a just and lasting peace” was achieved in the Middle East. Even then, Israel would only be required to withdraw its armed forces (civilians were not mentioned) “from territories” – not from “the territories” or “all the territories.”
The absence of “the,” the famously missing definite article, was neither an afterthought nor an accident. It resulted from what Eugene V. Rostow, the American Undersecretary for Political Affairs who played a major rule in drafting Resolution 242, described as months of effort to decisively clarify its meaning. He insisted that “the Jewish right of settlement west of the Jordan River . . . was made unassailable” by the League of Nations Mandate, no less applicable to the West Bank than to Tel Aviv and Haifa. “The Jewish right of settlement in the area,” Rostow asserted, “is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing Palestinian population to live there.”
In sum: since 1922 Jews have held the internationally guaranteed legal right, never revoked, to “close settlement” west of the Jordan River. To be sure, the international drumbeat of settlement illegitimacy (a war crime according to the Rome Statute adopted by the International Criminal Court in 1998) has remained unrelenting. Noise, however, is not law. Mr. Obama’s preference for abstention provides additional confirmation – if more is needed — of his penchant for passivity. For further confirmation, see his inaction following President Assad’s flagrant disregard of Mr. Obama’s own “red line” on chemical weapons.
As for Secretary Kerry’s farewell address, surely designed to seal his (dismal) place in diplomatic history, the less said the better. Claiming to speak “hard truths,” he asserted the familiar cliché that “the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state” is to return to pre-1967 lines, precisely the boundaries that invited Arab attacks in 1948 and 1967. With familiar moral equivalence, he bracketed Israeli settlement expansion with Palestinian “violence, terrorism, incitement.” Despite all his professed love for Israel, he as yet fails to understand that Jews living in Judea and Samaria, their biblical homeland, do not occupy someone else’s land.
Mr. Auerbach’s next book is “The New York Times, Zionism and Israel, 1896-2016.”