Demanding that Israel stop all construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem implies it's all "illegally occupied." But, then, to whom does it belong? What are Israel's legal and historic claims?
Jewish reverence for Jerusalem is special because it is the spiritual center of the Jewish people; but Jews have no less affection for and identity with hundreds of historic places throughout Judea and Samaria. The Land of Israel isn't an amusement park of sentimentality, or Hollywood of memories and museums. It is at the core of Jewish consciousness.
Sacrificing some communities in order to save others, amputating hilltops and settlements to assuage Arabs and the international community only encourages more radical demands and undermines Israel's raison d’être. There is, however, an alternative.
The State of Israel can and should change its archaic and ambiguous position and extend full sovereignty to all Jewish communities throughout Judea and Samaria, including State Land and areas necessary for defense and security.
Extending Israeli sovereignty would correct the anachronistic and undemocratic governing administration from military to civilian rule. This in itself is consistent with modern enlightened concepts of political authority and nationhood.
A symbol of integrity, extending Israeli sovereignty is not motivated by nationalism or conquest, but expresses the connection between the Jewish people and its ancient homeland, a resounding statement of Zionism's meaning and purpose.
Such a step is consistent with binding international law incorporated in League of Nations, British Mandate, US Congressional and United Nations Resolutions; it fulfills the historic role of the State of Israel, and legal and moral obligations to its citizens and the Jewish People.
Revealed in archeology, documented in texts and embedded in consciousness, these areas formed the crucible of Jewish history and Jewish civilization. Although occupied by many conquering armies, only the Jewish People revere Eretz Yisrael, Judea and Samaria, as their Homeland, the Holy Land (Eretz HaKodesh.)
Palestine, the name branded by its Roman conquerors, referred to Philistine invaders and the status of Jews after slaughter and exile: Judea Capta. Under the League of Nations and British Mandate, Palestine originally included what are now Jordan and the Golan Heights. Before 1948, however, the term "Palestinian" referred to Jews, not Arabs; Arabs didn't identify as "Palestinians."
Judea and Samaria ("the West Bank"), and eastern Jerusalem, conquered by Jordan in 1948 in a war of extermination, then by Israel in 1967 in self-defense, is historically and legally part of the "Jewish National Homeland." Jordan's claim of sovereignty over this territory was rejected by the international community and unilaterally revoked. Israel, therefore, has not occupied areas belonging to another state, or people, nor does Israel hold these areas in "belligerent occupation," i.e. legitimately claimed by or belonging to anyone else.
Essence of authenticity
Although Israel's sovereign rights in Eretz Yisrael, the Jewish National Home, are recognized by all Zionists and nearly all Jews, whether it should exercise those rights in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria is debatable. By not asserting its claims, however, Israel undermines its strategic and security interests and jeopardizes its survival.
Abandoning parts of Eretz Yisrael - "Land for Peace" – in practice, Land for Nothing, has only produced more terrorism and suffering on all sides. Asserting Israel's sovereign rights is the only viable, realistic and authentic road map to peace and stability.
Based on myths and fabrications, Arab "Palestinians" offer claims motivated by politics, not history or legal foundation. Their concept of "Palestine" is defined by the absence of Jews, not by the presence of Arabs.
Extending Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria affirms Jewish claims to the land, not as "occupier," but as rightful inheritor, not as "oppressor," but to establish justice and the rule of law, not to deprive Arabs of civil and humanitarian rights, but to ensure them.
Extending Israeli sovereignty affirms the historical truth that Israel's right to exist does not come from the Holocaust, but from Scripture and history, millennia of Jewish civilization, documented by myriad ancient sources, universally acknowledged.
Israeli sovereignty, therefore, is not a matter of international acceptance, but of Jewish self-respect, self-determination and self-affirmation. The State of Israel represents the Jewish return to history and its homeland. Protecting its citizens, the raison d’être of every nation, requires extending Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria; that is not only necessary, but intrinsic and compelling, the essence of authenticity.
The author, a former assistant professor of History (CUNY) is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem