The world must realize that the Land of Israel is ours.
By MARTIN OLINER
Biblical commentator Rashi’s first comment on the Torah is that the reason why Genesis began with the creation of the world and not the first commandment was to teach that the Jewish people have a God-given right to the Land of Israel.The more than eight centuries since Rashi wrote his commentary have proven how necessary it was for the Bible to begin by making that point.Since then, the connection of the Jewish people to its land has been continuously questioned. That has been especially true over the past 50 years regarding cities highlighted in Genesis, such as Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem – and of course, Jerusalem.That is why US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement about the legality of so-called settlements was a policy change of biblical proportions.“The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said.As an attorney, I can say that Pompeo’s statement is legally correct. As George Mason University law professor Eugene Kontorovich wrote: “Under international law, occupation occurs when a country takes over the sovereign territory of another country. But the West Bank was never part of Jordan, which seized it in 1949 and ethnically cleansed its entire Jewish population. Nor was it ever the site of an Arab Palestinian state.”As a religious Zionist, our ideology is strengthened by seeing the leaders of the world confirm that our land belongs to us. The midrash, which talks about an oath of the Jewish people to not forcefully reclaim our land without the world’s permission, is once again rendered obsolete.AdvertisementPompeo’s statement about Judea and Samaria, like US President Donald Trump’s December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, belongs in the same league as the Balfour Declaration a century earlier, when the world’s leading empire affirmed the right for a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel.The Balfour Declaration led three years later to the San Remo Conference, where the world adopted the declaration’s call for a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. If only Secretary Pompeo’s words about Judea and Samaria would have faced similar international affirmation rather than the condemnation they received!Instead, it was condemned by European countries, who deny the reality of Jews living in Judea and Samaria for 3,300 out of the last 3,500 years. While they can choose to label selectively, they will never change our history.Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked those hills, and they will remain part of Israel forever.Pompeo also deserves praise for saying that the policy which says that Israel’s establishment of civilian settlements is inconsistent with international law has not worked and has not advanced the cause of peace.This has been proven time and time again. Israel withdrew from every settlement in the Gaza Strip and has received tens of thousands of rockets in return, but no peace.Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, spent eight years obsessing over settlements. But the only negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians during his tenure took place during the nine months starting in July 2013, when his administration agreed to ignore construction in Judea and Samaria.Obama’s experience proved that what sets back peace is not where a Jew lives but those who are obsessed over where he lives.His parting efforts to get Israel condemned in the United Nations for settlement construction indicated that Obama never got over that obsession.Now that America’s policies are completely different, it is time for Europe and the rest of the world to follow suit, even left-wingers in Israel. Pro-Israel groups operating in the US dare not equivocate in their thanks and support, or obfuscate their position in confusing tweets.There was no thievery. As Rashi says: The world must realize that the Land of Israel is ours.The writer is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity, and a committee member of the Jewish Agency. Martinoliner@gmail.com.
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