In a few weeks, Israel’s government will begin discussing extending Israeli law over parts of Judea and Samaria. Those who refer to this as “annexation” often decry it as an egregious violation of international law, one that is sure to end any prospect for peace with the Palestinians. Yet, even a simple reading of history reveals that it is the continued use of the term “annexation” – which, intentionally or otherwise, effectively denies the Jewish people the right to exercise sovereignty over our homeland – that is egregious, and actually makes peace an ever more remote possibility.
There is no peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians because the Palestinian Authority leadership refuses to acknowledge the Jewish people’s indigenous claim to the Land of Israel. The PA’s official statements and policies, as well as educational textbooks and television programming, attest to this. If the Jews are indeed European colonists, as the Palestinians contend, then they must be expelled, much like the British, French, Ottomans and other colonial powers.
After decades of subjugating his people to this indoctrination, Mahmoud Abbas is too weak a leader to negotiate, and therefore clings to the fantastical and unrealistic maximalist demand for the full territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
Those who use the term “annexation” subscribe, in whole or in part, to this Palestinian narrative. According to their logic, because Jews are foreigners, applying Israeli law to territory in Judea and Samaria is akin to annexation. However, as former prime minister Menachem Begin once stated, “You can annex foreign territory. You cannot annex your own country.”
For historical and legal reasons, Judea and Samaria is indeed Israel’s “own country.”
Israel’s historical claim to this territory dates back over three millennia. Ever since Moses led the Israelites to the Promised Land after the Exodus from Egypt, Jews have lived and exercised sovereignty in Israel. Even when the Romans sacked the Second Temple in 70 CE, Jewish communities survived in Jerusalem and elsewhere in our homeland.
The return of the Jewish people en masse to the Land of Israel in the late 19th century and the creation of the State of Israel in the mid-20th century is not a story of a foreign people colonizing a foreign land, but one of a native people reuniting with their brothers and sisters in their ancient homeland.
Israel’s claim to Judea and Samaria is also codified in international law. The 1920 San Remo Conference, which formed the basis for the League of Nations mandate system after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, assigned the Mandate for Palestine to the British.
AS IT WAS British policy to “establish a Jewish national home” in Palestine per the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the cause for a Jewish state became part of international law. This carried over to the United Nations, whose charter recognized all existing international treaties.
When the British abdicated control of Mandatory Palestine in 1948, the deed for the land transferred to a Jewish state, which became Israel following its declaration of independence. However, in the course of the Arab war against Israel, Jordan seized control of Judea and Samaria (an illegal act, per the UN Charter), renaming it the “West Bank” of the Jordan River, but ultimately relinquished all claims upon signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1995.
No other state has a claim to historical sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and no non-state actor can assert sovereignty over territory it has never possessed.
Extending Israeli law will also serve as a reality check against those who believe “annexation” will destabilize the region. After liberating Judea and Samaria and unifying Jerusalem in the course of a defensive war in 1967, Israel extended sovereignty to the eastern part of its capitol city. Today, Jerusalem welcomes millions of visitors every year, and is a place people of all faiths can practice their religion in peace. Only under Israeli control has this been possible.
In 1981, in one of the most important acts of Begin’s career, Israeli extended sovereignty to the Golan Heights. That decision ensured Syria could no longer use the commanding heights to launch shells or send fedayeen raids into defenseless Israeli farming villages. Today, the Golan’s topography provides Israel a buffer against the Syrian civil war and an outpost to disrupt Iran’s attempts to send arms to its terrorist proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Violence rages across the Middle East because of Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, terrorist organizations, inter-Arab rivalries, and a host of other reasons, but not because the Jewish state exercises sovereign control over its own territory.
With history and international law on its side, and given the Palestinians continued unwillingness to negotiate with and recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Israel’s government will begin the internal discussion of how to apply sovereignty to our most ancient lands in Judea and Samaria. Those who decry it as “annexation” are doing nothing more than appeasing the Palestinian narrative and making peace ever more elusive. This puts them, to use their words, on the wrong side of history.The writer is Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations. He previously served as a member of the Knesset from the Likud Party, as minister of science, technology and space, and as deputy minister of defense.