Sovereignty, the ability of a government to act in its own interests, is the essence of statehood. Extensions of jurisdiction, the application of authority and institutions to assure the protection of its citizens are what define statehood.
A relatively modern concept, associated with 16th century French philosopher Jean Bodin, sovereignty expresses national independence and the right and responsibility to rule. Its roots, however, are in the Bible, Jewish thought and Jewish history. A thousand years ago, Rashi defined Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael. The realization of Jewish sovereignty, the right of the Jewish people to its homeland, however, continues to be challenged in wars and by efforts to delegitimize Israel.
In 1967, following the Six Day War, Israel regained important pieces of Eretz Yisrael, areas enshrined in history and allotted to the Jewish people by international agreement – including the League of Nations, the British Mandate, US Congress and the UN Charter – as “the Jewish national homeland” – Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (Yesha) and the Golan Heights.
Revealed in texts and embedded in consciousness, these areas formed the crucible of Jewish history. When Jews returned to the rubble of synagogues and homes left by the Jordanian army, tombs of Rachel (near Bethlehem) and Joseph (near Shechem/Nablus), Gush Etzion and Hebron/Kiryat Arba, and the desolate volcanic plateau beneath Mount Hermon, Golan, they were not invaders; they were reclaiming what rightfully belonged to them.
Jewish communities (“settlements” to distinguish them from those established before 1967) were built throughout Yesha, despite opposition from international and domestic anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist organizations. Since no Jews lived there before 1967, due to a state of war and anti-Jewish policies of the Arab governments who illegally occupied these areas, extending Israeli sovereignty would have been problematic, if not illogical. Moreover, Israeli leaders begged the Arabs to take them back – albeit in return for peace.
After half a century, however, the situation has changed. Over 500,000 Jews live in Yesha, in “Area C” (designated by the Oslo Accords), and nearly the same amount in new neighborhoods of Jerusalem. There are no official statistics for the Arab population of Area C – one estimate by a pro-Palestinian NGO, however, cites about 40,000. With an overwhelming Jewish majority, the time has come, therefore, to assert Israeli sovereignty over vital historic areas of the Jewish national homeland.
On behalf of the Jewish people, past and future, by virtue of historical claims, international law, and civil and humanitarian rights, Israel is entitled to extend sovereignty in Yesha – at least over “Area C,” in which all Jewish settlements are located. Settling in one’s homeland is not “occupation,” it is a natural right.
Conquered by many civilizations and empires, the Land of Israel, is claimed authentically as its “historic homeland” only by the Jewish people. In recognition of that uniqueness, lacking any authentic competing claim of sovereignty, extending Israeli law and sovereignty serves Israel’s legitimate and strategic purposes.
Claims of Arab Palestinians to Eretz Yisrael/Palestine as their “homeland” are motivated by politics, not history, archaeology, or nationality. Their concept of “Palestine” (“from the river to the sea”) is defined by the absence of Jews, not the presence of Arabs; their identity is ideological: the destruction of Israel – nothing else.
Palestinian Arabs who seek “national self-determination” can turn to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which was carved out of the area of Palestine by the British in 1922; more than half of its population is Palestinian. Why then do they need yet another state, especially one ruled by those who seek Israel’s destruction?
Extending Israeli law and sovereignty to Yesha recognizes Jewish claims to the land, not as “occupier,” but as rightful inheritor, not as “oppressor,” but to establish justice and the rule of law, not to deprive Arabs of their right to ‘normalcy,’ but to ensure civil rights and humanitarian law to all residents.
Extending Israeli sovereignty over Yesha corrects the anachronistic governing administration from military to civilian rule. This in itself is consistent with modern enlightened concepts of political authority and nationhood.
Extending Israeli sovereignty affirms the historical truth that Israel’s right to exist comes from millennia of Jewish civilization, from prophetic vision and prayer, documented by authentic sources and acknowledged universally.
Israeli sovereignty is not a matter of international approval, but of Jewish self-respect and self-determination. Protecting its citizens – the raison d’être of a nation – requires extending Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria; it is essential for Israel’s security and well-being and it is the fundamental expression of Zionism, a spiritual renewal.
The return of the Jewish people to its homeland is a reaffirmation of God’s presence in history, and the purpose of the Jewish people – to bring spiritual redemption to the world.
That may explain why, unfortunately, many are opposed to Israel and are dedicated to its destruction. Ironically, Israel is a threat to Islamist, communist and totalitarian regimes because it stands for the rule of law, for a new era of Enlightenment and for the betterment of mankind. That is why we celebrate Israel’s Independence Day.
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.