U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s remarks over the weekend, in which he indicated Israel could annex parts of Judea and Samaria, are not so dramatic as they seem. As former President George W. Bush’s famous letter from over a decade ago points out, it would be unrealistic to ignore the changes on the ground since the 1967 Six-Day War.
In practical terms, both administrations said the same thing. What makes Friedman’s comments different is his statement that Israel has a right to the land.
Friedman essentially said that if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally forms his fifth government, the U.S. administration will no longer try to negotiate a settlement based on the 1967 borders and will discard this notion, recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the settlement blocs or even over all settlements in Judea and Samaria.
Settlements comprise less than five percent of Judea and Samaria.
Friedman’s comments lie in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s diplomatic onslaught against Israel in its final days, when it let the United Nations Security Council pass Resolution 2334, which states that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is illegal. This radical and distorted anti-Israeli decision will haunt us down the road; it is against international law and only encourages anti-Semitism.
The Obama administration’s conduct was disgraceful because it took place after Donald Trump had already been elected. It was designed to undermine the incoming administration even before inauguration day.
But ever since Trump took the oath of office, Israel and Washington have never been closer. Though if a Democrat wins the 2020 U.S. election Trump’s policies will be reversed and Israel will once again face constant pressure on all diplomatic fronts.
But Israel’s right to Judea and Samaria, which Ambassador Friedman reminded us all of, will not change.
The entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River was designated for Jewish settlement by international law as early as the 1920s, through several international bodies, including the League of Nations.
This right did not expire with the 1947 partition plan, and not with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. It has remained in place after the Six-Day War and was accepted by jurists in Israel in the first generation after that war.
Only recently have Israeli legal scholars started to interpret international law against Israel, but this too is changing.
Amnon Lord is an Israeli journalist with the daily newspaper “Makor Rishon.” His articles and essays about media, film and politics have been published in “The Jerusalem Post,” Mida, Azure, Nativ and Achshav.
This column first appeared in Israel Hayom.