Published in The Jewish Press
Despite Israeli Prime Minister Barak’s promises that “Jerusalem will remain united under Israeli sovereignty forever,” it seems that the Israeli government is ready again to cross another sacred line which will lead to a de facto division of the city, in pursuit of the so called “peace.”
Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told reporters that the logical solution to the Jerusalem question is to have district autonomy for Arab neighborhoods of the city with the Old City, which includes the Temple Mount, Western Wall and City of David, taking on a status similar to that of the Vatican. This would give the Palestinian Authority political sovereignty over the Old City, while the overriding security responsibilities would remain with Israel.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s chief of staff, Danny Yatom signaled in March the Israeli government’s readiness to transfer certain areas surrounding Jerusalem such as Abu Dis, Eizariya and A-Ram, to the sole control of the Palestinians as part of the third redeployment scheduled for June or as part of a permanent agreement, Abu Dis is only 700 meters away from the Temple Mount, facing the Old City.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are in the midst of negotiations to reach a final agreement concerning the permanent status of the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, including their Jewish settlements, and Jerusalem.
This is a time in our long history that the Jewish people needs to consciously decide, if we are willing to forget our past and change our history forever, in pursuit of the illusion of peace and world approval. If a Palestinian state were to be established in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, with Jewish settlements removed and Jerusalem de facto divided, there would be no turning back for generations to come, since at that moment our history would be distorted forever and our moral and historical rights to the land where Jewish civilization began, would be given away.
Like many successive Israel governments and leaders, I have been guilty of not bothering to articulate the emotional and historical connection that so many Israelis and Jews have felt toward Judea and Samaria, choosing rather to stress the more rational security arguments against relinquishing the land. However, the fact is that the Arabs have had no trouble in expressing their attachment and their claims to the same land, almost always embellishing them with a false history.
Thus, Israeli reluctance and the Arabs’ shameless lies have combined to produce the commonly accepted views that the Jews have no moral right to live in Judea and Samaria, and should return it to its “rightful owners,” the Arabs, that Jewish settlements are illegitimate and that the “Palestinian People” have a legitimate claim to a Palestinian state and a capital in Jerusalem.
To entertain such ideas require an astonishing historical amnesia. For these were places where Jews have lived for millennia. All of these “West Bank settlements” were founded before the Arabs invented the term “West Bank.” Over 90% of the places mentioned in the Bible are located in Judea and Samaria. There are thousands of archeological ruins and sites in the area that relate to the history of the Jewish people in this land from the 12th century BCE and almost none relating to Arab history.
However, in the past six years since the Oslo agreement was signed, Israel has given away Bethlehem, the home of Rachel’s Tomb, and the birthplace of King David; Shechem (Nablus), where Joshua read the law to the people, site of the Tomb of Joseph, and the city where the ten tribes established the first capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel; and Jericho, where Joshua entered the land of Israel. Also given to the Palestinian Authority was 80 percent of Hebron, site of the Cave of the Patriarchs where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives Sarah, Rebekah and Leah are buried, and the city where King David was anointed, and where he reined for seven years before moving his capital to Jerusalem.
In any final agreement, Israel seems to be willing to give away more land in Judea and Samaria, in addition to the 40% it has already given and remove Jewish settlements. We must decide if we are
willing to give away the Jewish settlements of Elon Moreh, where Abraham was promised the land; Bet El, where Jacob dreamed of the ladder to heaven; Shilo, which housed the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and served as the center of the Jewish people for four centuries before Jerusalem; Beth Horon, where the Macabees defeated the Greeks; and Betar, where the second great Jewish revolt against Rome was finally crushed.
Above all, there is the Old City of Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish people for over 3000 years, which the Arabs call “Arab East Jerusalem”. Historically, neither East Jerusalem nor any other part of Jerusalem has ever been a capital of an Arab or Muslim state, but it was the capital of ancient Israel for 12 centuries and there was always a continued Jewish presence in the Old City. The Palestinian Arabs were never a distinct nation and they never had a state in any place, including present day Israel or Judea and Samaria. It was the Roman Empire, bent on destroying any emotional attachment to the land, that renamed the country “Palestine” to replace Judea and the Jews themselves who were called “Palestinians”.
Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era, Jews resided in cities in Judea and Samaria but were forced to leave as a result of Arab massacres and riots. In the twentieth century, the right of Jews to live in Hebron, Shechem, and East Jerusalem was recognized by the nations of the world in the Balfour Declaration,
the Treaty of Versailles, and the League of Nations British Mandate. In 1947, the Arabs rejected the United Nations partition plan of coexistence with the Jews and proceeded to attack Israel. The Jordanians conquered Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem including the Old City and expelled its ancient Jewish community, destroyed synagogues and Jewish cemeteries and forbade Jews for the next 19 years to live or visit the holy places in the city. They never established a Palestinian state nor did they make Jerusalem its capital.
Now, Arafat and the Arab world are united in their efforts to claim Jerusalem, while some of us are willing to see a Palestinian flag over our beloved Old City. In February 300 “Rabbis” in the U.S. signed a letter asking Israel to share Jerusalem with the Arabs, and Americans for Peace Now sponsored an event on Capitol Hill with an Arab American group in which top American Intelligence officials discussed with them strategies for ending Israeli control over parts of Jerusalem.
During the recent Papal visit, the chief Moslem religious leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheik Ikrema Sabri, an Arafat appointee, told reporters that the figure of six million Jews killed in the Holocaust is “exaggerated and used by Israel to gain international sympathy,” adding that “It is not my fault if Hitler hated Jews. Anyway, they hate them just about everywhere.” Are we willing to let such people have the custody of our history?