The Settlements in the West Bank

Excerpt from a speech by former US Ambassador David Friedman

Excerpt from the speech (January 2020) in which former US Ambassador David Friedman discusses the one issue that is still on the table — the settlements in the West Bank. 

“…And now we come to Judea and Samaria, certainly the most complicated of the issues because of the large indigenous Palestinian population. Balancing the security considerations against the freedom of movement, reconciling competing historical and legal narratives and entitlements, aiding the economy in the face of accusations of attempted normalization — it’s complicated and challenging.

But over the years, before we came into office, it’s only gotten more complicated and more challenging. The proverbial goalposts have moved and moved — to the point today where they are no longer even on the field.

Judea and Samaria — the name Judea says it all — is territory that historically had an important Jewish presence. As they say, it is biblical heartland of Israel.

It includes Hebron, where Abraham purchased the burial cave for his wife Sara; Shilo, where the tabernacle rested for 369 years before the Temple was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem; Beit El, where Jacob had his dream of the ladder ascending to heaven; Kasr al Yahud where Joshua led the Israelite nation into the Promised Land and John the Baptist baptized Jesus, and so many other famous locations.

After the Ottoman Empire fell, Judea and Samaria, as well as the rest of what was then referred to as Palestine , became subject to a British trust, which was subject to the Balfour Declaration, the terms of the San Remo conference and the League of Nations mandate. In simple terms, the British were obliged to facilitate settlement of the Jewish people in this land. That’s not to say that Jewish settlement was exclusive, that no one else had the right to live there. But Jews certainly did.

We then fast forward to 1967 and the Six Day War. After being attacked, Israel recovers Judea and Samaria from Jordan. Jordan had occupied Judea and Samaria for only 19 years and almost no one recognized its rights to the territory.

So, intuitively, who has a good claim to the land? Israel, whose historical and legal rights were recognized by the League of Nations. Jordan, which was there for only 19 years with virtually no legitimacy, and which, in any event, renounced its claim to territory west of the Jordan River in 1995, or the Ottomans who washed their hands of Palestine after World War I. The answer, with all due respect to all the scholars, seems obvious.

And because that was so obvious, the goalposts started to move. The Armistice Line of 1949 — a line to which the enemies of Israel agreed to hold until they re-armed and again sought Israel’s destruction (as they did in in 1973) — all of a sudden became the inviolate “Green Line,” the limit of Israel’s territorial entitlement.

Settlements became per se illegal under amorphous notions of international law that no one could seriously reconcile with San Remo or the League of Nations mandate.

And [United Nations Security Council] Resolution 242 became a mandate for Israel’s withdrawal from all captured territory, even though the resolution was heavily wordsmithed to avoid such an interpretation, and even though the US representative who negotiated 242, Yale Law School dean Eugene Rostow, has said that Israel has an unassailable right to settle in Judea and Samaria.

The Pompeo Doctrine does not resolve the conflict over Judea and Samaria. But it does moves the goalposts back into the field.

It does not obfuscate the very real issue that two millions or more Palestinians reside in Judea and Samaria, and we all wish that they live in dignity, in peace, and with independence, pride and opportunity. We are committed to find a way to make that happen.

The Pompeo Doctrine says clearly that Israelis have a right to live in Judea and Samaria. But it doesn’t say that Palestinians don’t. Rather, it calls for a practical negotiated resolution of the conflict that improves lives on both sides.”

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