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Simone I. Cohen Scott

SImone Cohen Scott: Conference on Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria

Part III –Wherefore the Arabs? (Once Sovereignty is Declared)

By Simone I. Cohen Scott, February 15th, 2013 from Jerusalem

At the conference on Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria I attended, there was a  panel discussion on the  topic ‘The Status of the Arabs When Israel Will Apply Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria’, and was moderated by Eran Bar-Tal, economics editor of Maariv.

Participants of the panel were: Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post; Prof. Arieh Eldad, former Member of Knesset; Advocate Elyakim Haetzni, former Member of Knesset; and Dr. Martin Sherman, Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.  

Since 1993 and the Oslo Accord, Judea and Samaria has sometimes been referred to as Areas A, B, and C.  Israelis, familiar with their nuanced situation and precarious security, know the geography well. 

For the Diaspora, this link to a map will be helpful.

Ms. Glick began by saying a precedent was set when Jerusalem and the Golan were annexed. “Israel immediately began to govern there, and that has lead to normalization.  Not having done the same in Judea and Samaria has left a political vacuum.”  She doesn’t believe the demographics reflect the arguments used against this solution, as population numbers over several decades have reflected a two-thirds Jewish majority.  Furthermore, both communities have three children per family. “There needs to be a change of attitude about this,” she said, “and more effort at building a consensus among the Israeli population.”  She added that Arabs would have the right to apply for Israeli citizenship, with the same criteria as other countries.

Professor Eldad commented that when the choice of Israeli citizenship was offered in Jerusalem and the Golan, Arab leaders told the population that Israel would not remain in charge.  Those who doubted this were fearful of retribution if they applied. ”Talking about ‘two states’ needs to stop”, he said “and be replaced by the discourse that this is ‘Our Land’.  There is a hesitancy to say this, particularly in diplomatic circles.”

Gradual annexation will not change Arab expectations, he explained, and application of Israeli law to Judea and Samaria is further complicated by a need for legal reform.  The judiciary frequently dismisses Jewish claims in deference to complaints (not legal claims) of Arabs. Humanitarian laws are not being upheld, but instead are favouring Arabs. There is a political dictatorship, the judiciary circumventing actual Knesset rulings, which needs to be remedied.   He urged that the Levy Report, which proves that Israel has the legal right to live, build, and govern anywhere in Judea and Samaria, (see Part II) be adopted quickly by the new Knesset. He hopes the coalition will be formed with this in mind. 

Advocate Elyakim Haetzni put forward a surprising fact. “This declaration of sovereignty has already been done.”  He explained that in summer of 1967, the Knesset “passed an amendment to a governmental order which gave jurisdiction and right of administration over all parts of all the lands of Israel.  This is an act of sovereignty and Israel now has the right to govern in Judea and Samaria.  This fact has been kept hidden.”

He suggested that once Israel governs completely in area C, (meaning enforcing law, providing security, building and maintaining roads and infrastructure, planning parklands, developing resources and industry, monitoring factory emissions, pollution, etc.), there needs to be sections within areas A and B where Arabs communities would be governed by Israeli rule of law, regarding security, infrastructure, and so forth, but would vote in Jordan.  He cited a precedent for this in an area of Italy populated by Germans. These Arab communities, if they choose to remain, would be residents of Israel, where they would have limited autonomy, but would vote as citizens of Trans-Jordan.  Those who choose not to live in such an arrangement could emigrate elsewhere.  There will be objections, as there would be to any steps at all, but speculations are that 60% of Arabs in Judea and Samaria would prefer an Israeli to a Jordanian government.

Dr. Sherman believes it paramount “that Israel chooses to do what’s best for the Jews”.  To his thinking, “This leaves no room for Arabs.”  Possible Arab self rule has two categories of issues to consider: the geographic; and the demographic.  As a political scientist he sees no Arab collective that could only govern partially.  “An Arab entity within Israel would be a cultural burden,” he said, referring to the writings of John Stuart Mill, nineteenth century British philosopher, who said that what makes a nation are shared memories of either pride or humiliation.  “Here in Israel, any other solution except division is not a reality.  In a combined entity,” he explained, “the smaller group must accept the sovereignty of the larger.  Arabs will never do this.”  Incentives to emigrating elsewhere, compensations like education, housing, or other financial benefits, should emphasize the humanitarian aspect, not the political.  He said that presently in Israel Arabs receive better compensation than do Jews. “This is not ethical,” he stated.

The second round of discussion was mostly reiteration of what already had been said.  It seems, looking at these deliberations, that when Moses was prevented from entering the Promised Land, G-d was doing him a favour. The grunt work was left to Joshua. There is still much to do.  In the words of Ms. Katsover and Ms. Matar, founders of Women in Green, and the organizers and co-chairs of the Conference: "We are looking forward to intensive work that will lead to practical expression in every field that is relevant for the application of sovereignty, the issuing of position papers on legal, international, economic, political, moral issues, aided by experts in every field, and planning for the next Conference." See

There is an expression here in Israel: ‘The difference between difficult and impossible is that impossible takes longer.’

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