A Fresh Perspective: End the occupation, bring sovereignty

When Judea and Samaria are unable to grow and prosper, both Palestinians and Israelis end up suffering from the lack of growth.

By
April 27, 2016 16:45
West Bank

Efrat settlement, West Bank. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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A Channel 2 report broadcast last week showed the miserable life of some of the Palestinian workers who must go through the Kalandiya checkpoint, just north of Jerusalem, every day to go into Israel and work.

Some workers spoke about needing to wake up before 3 a.m. to start work at 8. The long wait at the security checkpoint makes it impossible to predict how much time they will wait, and they must therefore make it out as early as possible.

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When seeing this heartbreaking report about the hardships that the simple Palestinian worker goes through, many thoughts come to mind.

Of course, the first thought is one of the tragedy of the fact that we even need such a security checkpoint. If there were no terrorist attacks, Palestinian workers could go to work and back home in a few minutes, without needing to go through this daily horror. In fact, in the report, one could sense the frustration that the Palestinian workers had against those who lead the latest wave of violence, which only makes their situation worse. A second thought, however, is much more meaningful when trying to think of a solution to this problem. On the one hand, one must ask himself if Israel could not invest in making these checkpoints more comfortable to the workers who go through them every day. On the other hand, if the utopian peace that the left so desires were to come true, and two states for two people were to be established, this would not simply be a checkpoint, but an actual border. Borders are much harder to cross than simple checkpoints, and the situation of these Palestinian workers would only worsen.

Judea and Samaria – occupied territories? Since 1967, Judea and Samaria have been in a limbo. The question arose how to deal with these territories, which were not under Israeli control. Israel’s official policy was to declare that these territories were not occupied, but rather liberated. They had been unjustly occupied by Jordan, in clear contravention of the San Remo declaration of April 1920, 96 years ago this week, and the British Mandate, which provided that all the territory of the mandate would be used for the establishment of a Jewish state.

Still, Israel decided to apply the humanitarian parts of the laws of occupation to these territories on a voluntary basis. This means that the tool that exists in international law called “laws of occupation” is present and alive in Judea and Samaria, even if the land belongs to Israel.

The consequences of this status quo are horrendous for both sides. On the Israeli side, it is almost impossible according to the laws of occupation to expand the Israeli presence in these territories, unless it is done for security purposes.

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The result is that Israel applies a discriminatory policy where Jews are treated as second-class citizens in the area of Judea and Samaria.

The Palestinians are also victims of this situation. All the long-term planning for these areas must be done according to the laws of occupation. The problem is that the occupation is by definition temporary and therefore the laws of occupation do not provide the necessary tools for proper planning. The legal system in place in an area is one of the most defining factors in deciding whether the area can gain long-term economic growth and prosperity. How can a system thrive where, for example, buying land is an incredibly complex legal question? How can a system thrive where the military is the ruler, such as is the case in Judea and Samaria? When Judea and Samaria are unable to grow and prosper, both Palestinians and Israelis end up suffering from the lack of growth.

Aside from these technical difficulties, there is also a more crucial question.

As long as Israel treats these territories as occupied, even if it declared that it is doing so on a voluntary basis, the main policy focus towards these territories will be one of separation. After all, occupied territories are not a part of the sovereign territory of a country.

They also have a different legal system guiding them.

Going from separation to coexistence The Left in Israel has long advanced the idea of peace through separation.

The way to get to peace, according to the Left, is to separate Israel from a new Palestinian state that would be established in Judea and Samaria.

This way of thinking does not include Judea and Samaria as an integral part of the State of Israel, thus submitting it to the difficult laws of occupation.

It is the way of thinking that turns the Kalandiya checkpoint into a true impenetrable border, thus further harming the standards of living of the Palestinians.

The Right, while in power for some time, has yet to propose a coherent worldview to compete with the twostate solution. However, the principles it believes in are clear: No to separation.

Yes to coexistence.

Of course, the top concern for Israel is security; if security concerns mandate hurting coexistence, then the security concerns are more important. In the example of the Kalandiya checkpoint, it is clear that a checkpoint is needed there for security purposes and Israel cannot allow any Palestinian to enter Jewish cities as long as terrorism is present. However, since separation is not what we seek, but rather coexistence, then the Right should lead the fight for more decent infrastructures at the checkpoint that would make it more efficient and more humane.

This is exactly what Uri Ariel, a hardline right-wing minister, said when he described the conditions at the checkpoints.

“Go and see how they stand and wait to enter Israel at the checkpoints. It’s shameful and a disgrace to the State of Israel and to the security establishment.

People stand there in terrible conditions: in the summer heat, in the winter rains. Why can’t we fix this?” he asked.

The answer is that we need a paradigm shift in policy making, one that moves away from the dream of separation from the Palestinians and starts working toward coexistence. “We are responsible for the region,” Ariel said.

The legal changes that need to accompany this paradigm shift are very simple: Israel needs to end the occupation of Judea and Samaria and start implementing sovereignty. Many think that ending the occupation means pulling out of these areas. Actually, what it should mean is taking full responsibility for what happens there by becoming the permanent sovereign power there, and stopping this unclear policy of claiming a right to the land on the one hand, while applying the laws of occupation on the other.

We liberated Judea and Samaria 49 years ago; it is time for Israel to move away from legal paradigms meant for temporary control of land and to take full responsibility for what goes on there.

This will be good for Israel, and it will be good for the Palestinians as well. 

The writer is an attorney and a former legislative adviser to Knesset’s coalition chairman; he previously served in a legal capacity at the Foreign Ministry. He is a graduate of McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s master’s program in public policy.

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