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OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Israel from the river to the sea

Zionists are not hypocrites when they claim the entire Land of Israel.

A map of Israel marking out the so-called Green Line, produced for Tel Aviv classrooms. Credit: Tel Aviv Municipality.
A map of Israel marking out the so-called Green Line, produced for Tel Aviv classrooms. Credit: Tel Aviv Municipality.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. The author of three books, he teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.

The Zionist community isn’t used to being accused of hypocrisy. Usually, it feels that it is held to a double and hypocritical standard. But there is one issue on which Israel is seemingly guilty of hypocrisy.

Palestinians and their advocates often chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” They display maps of a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This erases Israel and implies the expulsion or slaughter of Israeli Jews.

When Zionists condemn such maps, they are accused of having similar maps that show all the land from the river to the sea as Israeli. The maps, it is claimed, erase “Palestine.”

This raises the complex question of the borders of the Land of Israel. Historically, these borders were fluid. Various Jewish kingdoms, from King David to the Maccabees, ruled over territories of various sizes. Under Roman, Christian and Muslim conquerors, there were no set borders at all. Borders were not officially drawn until the British received the Mandate for Palestine.

Originally, the Mandate included all of the Land of Israel and what is now Jordan. The early Zionists hoped to establish a Jewish state within these expansive borders. They were greatly disappointed by Britain’s decision to lop off most of the Mandate and give it to the Hashemite clan to form what became Jordan.

The Zionists were let down again when the United Nations 1947 Partition Plan divided the remainder of Palestine between a Jewish state and a prospective Arab state. Nonetheless, the Jews accepted the plan, while the Arabs rejected it out of hand and launched a war of annihilation against the Palestinian Jews, only to be defeated by the new State of Israel.

Israel’s borders were not finalized even after its victory. The only demarcations were a series of armistice lines. These lines became obsolete with Israel’s stunning victory in the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel quadrupled its size.

Israel left part of this land in exchange for a peace treaty with Egypt and unilaterally left the Gaza Strip in 2005. Under the Oslo Accords, parts of Gaza, Judea and Samaria were handed over to Palestinian Authority control. The international community, including the U.S., now takes it for granted that the only path to peace in the Middle East is the creation of a Palestinian state in the entirety of Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

Despite all this, it is clear that both traditional Judaism and early Zionism believed that the entirety of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Jewish people.

Indeed, the Palestinian claim to the entirety of the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea is dubious at best. Historically, for example, there has never been an independent Arab state on any part of the Land of Israel and the Palestinians have turned down every offer to establish such a state.

The Palestinians are entitled to claim whatever land they want, but they cannot demand that the world acquiesce to their demands. While it is understandable that the Palestinians are upset by Zionist claims to the entire land, they cannot escape the fact that the Jews’ claim to the land far preceded that of the Palestinians. Israelis do not claim the entire land in order to negate Palestinian claims, but to reinforce their own rights to their historic homeland.

Jews have every right to assert that the entire land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea should be governed by the Jewish people and called Israel. There isn’t an ounce of hypocrisy in this. Unlike the Palestinians’ more recent claim to the land, the Jewish claim has historical and legal support. Anyone is entitled to their opinion that Israel shouldn’t rule parts of that land, but to claim Israel doesn’t have the historic and legal right to do so ignores reality itself.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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