I do not understand why Israel has not already annexed Judea and Samaria. These regions, the heart of ancient Israel, are generally known today as the “West Bank” of the Jordan River. Three times, Arab states have attacked Israel in an effort to carry out a second Holocaust. Three times, Israel has defeated them. No principle of justice required Israel, having escaped annihilation by force of arms, to retreat back to the inadequate borders of 1948.
When the United States defeated Mexico in the Mexican War, what did we do? We annexed the Southwest. When France defeated Germany in World War I (more or less), what did it do? It annexed Alsace and Lorraine. After World War II, how did the Dutch obtain compensation from Germany? They annexed certain lands that were later sold back to West Germany for a large sum. Many such examples could be offered.
If Israel had annexed Judea and Samaria decades ago, most of the subsequent tortured history of its relations with the Palestinians would have been avoided. Most observers have assumed it is too late for such a “radical” step. But the Palestinian Authority’s threat to declare its own nationhood unilaterally, along with its rapprochement with Hamas, has caused the possibility of annexation to surface once again.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
Ideas about annexing parts of the West Bank that until recently were considered extreme have been gaining traction in the Knesset in recent weeks as the Palestinian Authority continues threatening to declare a state unilaterally in September. …
“We’ll have to protect ourselves,” [National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau] said. “If [the Palestinians declare a state], I’m going to suggest to my government to extend our sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and over the highly populated blocs we have in Judea and Samaria, just to start with.” …
“A Palestinian declaration of statehood would officially bury the Oslo Accords, which state that final borders will be decided via negotiations and that unilateral actions constitute violation of the accords,” [Likud MK Danny] Danon said. “The Palestinians declaring a state would free us of all the diplomatic, security, and economic commitments we made in the Oslo Accords.”
Danon favors responding to a Palestinian declaration of statehood by annexing all of Area C, which includes all the West Bank’s Jewish settlements and empty land. He said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should follow the example of his predecessors Levi Eshkol, who annexed eastern Jerusalem, and Menachem Begin, who annexed the Golan Heights.
A source close to the prime minister said that Netanyahu has kept his cards close to his chest as to how he would respond to Palestinian unilateral action, but that he has said in the past that Israel has its own unilateral options.
Danon said he hoped the threat of annexation could help Netanyahu persuade European leaders to stop the United Nations from voting on Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly in September.
My own inclination would be to aim higher–annex all of the West Bank, not just portions, and entirely moot the idea of an independent Palestinian state, not just deter the U.N. from supporting one for the moment.
Some will say that such annexation would violate international law. But, except for certain limited areas where nations have agreed to cooperate to advance specific mutual interests, there is no international law. When has international law ever protected Israel from its enemies? Never.
When Arab states attacked Israel three times, did that violate international law? Certainly. When Palestinians launch rockets into Israel from Gaza, does that violate international law? Of course. When Iran and other countries ship munitions into Gaza and the West Bank for use in terrorist attacks against Israel, does that violate international law? Sure. When Arab terrorists blow up buses and restaurants and slaughter Jewish families in their sleep in an effort to destroy the state of Israel and kill as many Jews as possible, does that violate international law? It certainly violates any law, national or international, that may apply. Has the world ever cared about these countless violations of international and domestic law by Middle Eastern Arabs? Not much–with the single, honorable exception of American Christians.
Before every boxing match, the referee meets in the center of the ring with the boxers. He goes over the rules of the match–the three knockdown rule does not apply, you can’t be saved by the bell, and so on. The referee always concludes by telling the boxers to “defend yourselves at all times.” That instruction is really rather profound: boxing has rules, more so than most human activities, but at some level you can’t rely on them. The bell may ring; the referee may break up a clinch or pause the action to instruct the boxers or communicate with the judges. But in the ring you are never safe, and there is really only one line of defense: you. The boxer never puts down his guard.
Israel has always understood this. International law, the United Nations, and world opinion are all more or less useless. Israel’s own resources and determination and the force of arms have alone preserved the country’s existence. So I say: if annexing the West Bank is “illegal,” then, having ignored the Arabs’ violation of every known rule of law for more than 60 years, the world will just have to ignore an illegal act by Israel, too.
What would become of the Arabs now living on the West Bank? The answer depends in part on demographic analysis, but I would propose a Right of Return: all Arabs now living in Judea and Samaria would be allowed, or if necessary required, to return to their compatriots in Jordan, Gaza, Egypt and Lebanon.
In my view, Israel should have reclaimed Judea and Samaria long ago. Most think it is now too late for such decisive action; but some will say, better late than never.