The imperative of Jewish sovereignty

Jewish sovereignty speaks to the purpose and promise of the State of Israel and to everyone who is inspired by that vision.

April 7, 2011 21:27
2 minute read.
Israeli flag over settlements (illustrative).

Israeli flag flutters over settlement of Ofra 311 R. (photo credit: Laszlo Balogh / Reuters)


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As the PA/PLO presses for UN recognition of statehood, the question of who has sovereign rights over Judea and Samaria becomes critical. Historically and legally part of the Jewish national homeland, it is also claimed by Palestinians. To whom does this area belong? A uniquely Jewish definition of sovereignty provides a compelling answer.

Sovereignty, the ability of a government to act independently and in its own interests, is the essence of statehood. Applying just authority and institutions to assure the protection and well-being of its citizens are what conventional statehood is about. A relatively modern concept associated with 16th-century French philosopher Jean Bodin, then later with Hobbes, Rousseau, Hegel and others, sovereignty is the expression of national independence and the right and responsibility to rule.

The roots of Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), however, are not modern. They are biblical, grounded in Jewish thought and history: the first and second Temples, commonwealths and civilizations that flourished in the Land of Israel, especially in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

A thousand years ago, the great biblical and Talmudic commentator Rashi explained Jewish sovereignty. When the Jewish people conquer, settle and re-establish political sovereignty in the Land of Israel, the nations of the world will accuse them of stealing the land. His reply: Other nations simply occupy their lands; God Himself gave Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people as an everlasting inheritance. This suggests an understanding of Jewish sovereignty that transcends politics.

Sovereignty, like beauty, may be only in the eyes of the beholder, but it also says something about those who behold it. Unlike that of other countries and contexts, the concept of Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael adds a distinctly intimate dimension – Shechinah, God’s Presence, an eternal bond between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, a reverence for The Land itself as sacred.

The State of Israel, therefore, on behalf of the Jewish People, has the obligation and responsibility to say the truth: Eretz Yisrael, including Judea and Samaria, legitimately, legally and historically belongs to the Jewish People; it always has and always will. Proclaiming Jewish, rather than simply Israeli sovereignty is an authentic statement of the relationship between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

DECLARING JEWISH sovereignty clearly and unequivocally will correct the distortion and misunderstanding of those who ignore or deny Jewish history and international law grounded in the League of Nations and in its Mandate for Palestine.

The Jewish return to Eretz Yisrael and the establishment of a state, Israel’s towering achievements in science and technology, its contributions to world civilization and myriad creative innovations are physical, material representations of a profound spiritual dimension – the fulfillment of Jewish sovereignty and destiny.

Jewish sovereignty speaks to the purpose and promise of the State of Israel and to everyone who is inspired by that vision.

It is a statement of affirmation, not apology – of commitment, not appeasement. It is what true Zionism is all about. Israel’s failure to express Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria weakens its diplomatic position and strengthens those who contest its claim. Sovereignty Now.

The writer is a historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.

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