Explaining Israeli Sovereignty in the Land of Israel
I thank Marc W., an old high school and college friend, for inspiring this article regarding my April 12 column, [https://israelseen.com/2020/04/14/steve-kramer-the-nerve-of-some-american-jewish-leaders/]. You might have had similar questions to Marc’s. Below are my answers.
I have some questions – this was the first I heard about Israeli desire to apply civil law in the disputed territories, and that is as far as Israeli intentions go now – is that correct?
Yes. Israeli civil and and criminal law will be applied to Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria, replacing military law. The Arabs will remain in their autonomous areas. Israel will have sovereignty of those areas under Israeli law.
Is Israeli civil law something that the Arabs in those areas would suffer from, even from their perception?
The application of civil and criminal law applies only to Israeli citizens. It has no bearing on the Palestinian Arabs living in their own towns and cities. Palestinian Authority (PA) laws govern the Arabs living under their control, and the PA provides education, health care, courts, universities, and infrastructure.
If an Arab kills a Jew – who prosecutes the Arab? Or vice versa a Jew kills an Arab? Does the location of the crime make any difference?
Today Israelis living in Judea and Samaria are tried for murder in Israeli military courts. If a Palestinian Arab who lives in the PA is tried for a crime against Israelis, it will also be in the military court. The location of the crime is immaterial.
The Palestinian Authority has its own courts which try its citizens. Their courts do not have jurisdiction over Israeli citizens. Israelis soldiers who commit crimes against Palestinian Arabs are tried in Israeli military courts.
And what would the difference be in terms of day-to-day life between military law and Israeli civil law?
There will be no differences for Palestinian Arabs. Israelis will benefit by having the same legal system as all other Israeli citizens, regardless of religion or race. Example: We sold our home of 25 years in Alfe Menashe, a small town just beyond the Green Line, the 1949 Armistice line (NOT A BORDER). We were required to pay a large deposit to cover any contingencies such as liens or fines levied for zoning irregularities. This is usually a pro forma operation, with most of the deposit returned after a month or two. Several months passed, but our attorney couldn’t connect with anyone in the Judea/Samaria branch of the Israel Land Authority (currently under Israel Defense Forces authority). It actually took two years to get straightened out. With civil law applied instead of military law, problems like this would be eliminated.
It [application of civil law] is a step short of domination, which I think is the American view of Israeli intention and that drives some of the negative feelings.
Israeli Jews want to live in the Jewish heartland, which is beyond the Green Line. Israelis have been living there for millennia, except for the period when Ottoman or British rule prohibited Jewish communities there.
Domination is not the goal. The American Jewish concern over Israeli domination of Palestinian Arabs is misplaced. The great majority of Israeli Arabs living in Israel do not want to live under PA sovereignty. All Israelis in the Land of Israel want to live under Israeli civil laws. But the majority of the Palestinian Arabs would like to replace Israel. That’s something to be concerned about. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/poll-palestinians-backing-2-states-become-minority/)
The other thing I think plays a part in American gut reactions to what Israel wants to do is that in America we do not put so much value on tradition.
That’s because the history of the US is relatively short, with no history to validate it. The history belongs to the Native Americans, whom Americans aren’t very concerned about.
If you cannot be occupiers, what is the goal?
Jews cannot be occupiers of Judea or Samaria, by definition. Think about it – the original inhabitants of Judea were called Jews (or Israelites) and Jews remained in these areas continuously for thousands of years, waxing and waning as foreign invaders ruled the area.
Therefore, Jews are not occupiers of any part of the Land of Israel. It would be more accurate to name the Arabs as occupiers, because Jews are the indigenous people of the land. Yes, we want sovereignty, but not as “occupiers.” See the generally acknowledged definition of native peoples below, which applies to Jews in the Land of Israel.
UN definition of indigenous peoples, January 2004
“Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.“ [Obviously, Jewish Israelis prevail in all of Israel at this time, unlike, e.g. Native Americans.]
In Israel’s case, the Jews/Israelites were invaders 3,500 years ago, but the peoples who preceded them disappeared by assimilation or otherwise, leaving only archaeological remains. No people other than Jews can claim historical continuity in this land and prove it by historical writings, artifacts and the stubborn tenacity that Jews have exhibited for the land of Israel for thousands of years.
beyond the 1949 Armistice lines, aka the Green Line, which were emphatically defined by all side NOT as borders.
As to our intentions, consider this: David Ben-Gurion, as the leader of the Jewish Agency in the Yishuv (pre-state Israel), was empowered to accept the UN 1947 Partition Plan. He did so knowing that the truncated “state” on offer was much smaller than desired, but that hopefully it could be enlarged. The plan, which called for an Arab state and a Jewish state, was vehemently rejected by the neighboring Arabs. (The Palestinian Arabs had no say in the matter; they had scant consciousness of being ‘Palestinians,’ they identified themselves as Arabs.)
The surrounding Arab states immediately began attacks on the Jews, who retaliated and eventually declared the State of Israel in May, 1948. Israel won its independence and its sovereignty was increased, as Ben-Gurion had hoped. So intentions are important, but the Arab reaction is what counts.
Similarly, after defeating three Arab invading armies (Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian) in 1967, Israel regained all of the land promised to it in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the San Remo Conference of 1920, which were both adopted in full by the League of Nations. That being said, Israel’s territory is only 22% of the original territory allotted for a “Jewish home” by the League of Nations, because Britain amputated 78% of it and gave it to the Hashemite clan just before the Mandate took effect. This gift became Jordan. All this is away of saying that, for now, extending Jewish law fulfills Israel’s intentions. What happens in the future is, of course, unknown.
it One thing is certain: the Israeli Arabs do not want to trade Israeli governance for Palestinian Arab governance. This was recently proven when that idea was briefly floated as part of the Trump peace plan and vehemently rejected.
While Muslims ruled the Land of Israel after the fall of the Roman Empire, Arab Muslims ruled here only sporadically, during the 7th-11th centuries. Only one Arab city was built under Arab rule: Ramla. Jerusalem was never an Arab capital. The country became a backwater under Muslim rule, as well as the entire Levant. The population dwindled and didn’t begin to revive until Jews, under the influence of the Zionist movement, brought vigor and capital to Palestine in the late 19th century. Because of Jewish development, Arabs from further east and Northern Africa migrated to Palestine for employment. Arabs follow the same pattern today, to Europe and North America.
The last Muslim hegemony over Palestine was by the Ottoman Empire, which ruled for 400 years until its defeat in WWI, when the British took over control of the area. For centuries before King David made Jerusalem his capital (about 1,000 BCE), Jews/Israelites were present in the land, with several Jewish monarchies during that period.