Pulling the annexation trigger – Shurat HaDin’s legal roundtable

Shurat HaDin’s practical interest in the annexation of Judea and Samaria stems from its work in representing Israeli interests in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

NITSANA DARSHAN-LEITNER, president of Shurat HaDin (photo credit: SHURAT HADIN)
NITSANA DARSHAN-LEITNER, president of Shurat HaDin
(photo credit: SHURAT HADIN)
Last week, thousands of visitors to Shurat Hadin’s Facebook page were treated to a spirited discussion between leading international diplomats on the virtues and vices of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, and the implications of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
The virtual panel was moderated by Adv. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat HaDin, the Tel Aviv-based human rights organization specializing in the legal and economic struggle against terrorist organizations. It featured Jason Greenblatt, former US special envoy to the Middle East; Prof. Alan Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Harvard University (retired); Vivian Bercovici, former ambassador of Canada to Israel; and former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who served during the Obama administration.
Darshan-Leitner explains that Shurat HaDin’s practical interest in the annexation of Judea and Samaria stems from its work in representing Israeli interests in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which is considering Palestinian allegations that Israel’s building of homes on disputed territory in Judea and Samaria constitutes war crimes. Applying sovereignty to those areas, says Darshan-Leitner, would resolve some of these issues, since these lands would no longer be considered disputed territories.
Darshan-Leitner began the roundtable with an in-depth discussion with Jason Greenblatt, who was one of the chief architects of President Trump’s plan, about the development of the plan, and the reactions of both Israelis and Palestinians to the proposal.
“According to special envoy Greenblatt,” said Darshan-Leitner, “Israel will be well within its rights to extend sovereignty over the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The idea that the Palestinians will continuously reject plan after plan and be rewarded for their intransigence must come to an end. Had the Palestinians had any interest in arriving at a negotiated settlement, that could have been achieved many years ago. Instead, they continue to follow their late leader Yasser Arafat’s extremist policy and dream of never compromising, never recognizing and never accomplishing anything for their own people. If the Israeli government goes forward with the plan to extend sovereignty, that will become the new international status quo.”
THE SHURAT HADIN panel discussed US President Trump’s peace plan and the implications of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria (Photo Credit: Shurat Hadin)THE SHURAT HADIN panel discussed US President Trump’s peace plan and the implications of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria (Photo Credit: Shurat Hadin)
Darshan-Leitner added that international acceptance of annexation of territories in Judea and Samaria should not prevent Israel from declaring sovereignty on these areas, noting that much of the international community has never accepted Israeli annexation of east Jerusalem, which was proclaimed immediately after the Six Day War in 1967, or the annexation of the Golan Heights, which was announced in 1981.
“I have no doubt that the international community will not recognize sovereignty that Israel would like to apply over Judea and Samaria,” she said. “Israel is a sovereign state and has a right to these territories, and once they decide to apply sovereignty on them, they should do it.”
Bercovici, Canadian ambassador to Israel from 2014-2016, expressed the concern that annexation of disputed territories would create an apartheid-type situation, where Jewish and Arab residents would not have the same rights. Darshan-Leitner is not concerned with that issue and says that Israel would eventually offer citizenship to the approximately 160,000 Palestinians living in those areas, because they could not keep them as second-class citizens.
IN HIS REMARKS, Dershowitz compared the current Palestinian position to that of the Jews in 1947, when the United Nations Partition Plan was presented. Although it gave them far less land than what they wanted, they accepted the terms of the agreement.
“Ben-Gurion wanted a state at any cost,” noted Dershowitz. “If the Palestinians want a state so badly, they should at least sit down and negotiate. They will get more with land swaps, and they will get an opportunity in the future. I reject the notion that it doesn’t permit for a viable state.”
Darshan-Leitner agreed with Dershowitz’s comparison, noting that the Palestinians have been presented with an opportunity. Nevertheless, she does not think that the Palestinians will compromise over land.
“I heard Yasser Arafat once say that the land of Palestine is a trust – not for the Palestinians to give it up or decide on its fate – but for the entire Muslim people to decide.” If that is the case, she said, then the Palestinians will not be pressured into giving up any of their claims to the land.
Dan Shapiro cautioned that a unilateral Israeli annexation would weaken the Palestinian Authority and might lead to violence. Darshan-Leitner says that while the PA might threaten to reduce cooperation with Israel, in the end, they will have no choice but to continue working with Israeli forces.
“Let’s not forget that the survival of Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO as the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority depends on their collaboration with Israel. They fight the same enemy – Israel helps them to defeat Hamas – and as long as the PLO wants authority, they need the help of the security services in Israel. In the beginning, they may be angry, but in the end they will go back and cooperate with Israel.”
Shapiro also said that more and more young Palestinians have completely rejected a two-state solution and want to work toward the goal of an eventual bi-national state with a Palestinian majority. Darshan-Leitner thinks that if young Palestinians are abandoning the idea of a two-state solution, it is because they would rather live under Israeli rule, than a corrupt Palestinian or Hamas government.
“A lot of people see friends on the other side, see Israeli Arabs and are envious of their situation, and say to themselves, ‘Perhaps it would be better to live under Israeli rule.’”
A final concern raised by the panel was the ability of the agreement to withstand a possible change in the executive branch. If, after the presidential election in November, a Democratic candidate wins, would the “Deal of the Century” with Israeli sovereignty remain in place?
Greenblatt suggests that a Democratic administration would not be able to change facts on the ground, despite the comments of the Democratic front-runner Joseph Biden that he does not support annexation. Former US ambassador Shapiro thinks that a Democratic administration might, in fact, cancel the agreement. “It is hard to speculate what a Biden administration might do,” he said.
Darshan-Leitner says that Israel should not miss the opportunity which has presented itself.
“We have a ‘once in 50-year opportunity,’ where the United States, our biggest ally, that until now considered the territories to be occupied, not only canceled this decision, but is allowing us to impose sovereignty unilaterally. This is an amazing opportunity, and despite all of the predictions and the apocalyptic visions, Israel can and should take this step.”
This article was written in participation with Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center.