Op-ed: Even in purely legal terms, Israel did not occupy a single inch of Judea and Samaria
By Hagai Segal
The era of occupation in the territories ended this week. Finally. A committee headed by Judge Edmund Levy and comprising senior jurists went out on a limb by asserting that Israelis not an occupying power in Judea and Samaria; rather, it is the rightful owner.
In diplomatic terms, this is a problematic assertion. The gentiles won’t understand how the Levy Committee’s findings fit with all the Israeli rhetoric of the past decade, ranging from former PM Sharon’s Latrun speech to current PM Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech. They will view the findings as a fraudulent trick aimed at allowing us to evade the moral duty of granting a state to the real owners of the land. In their view, this has been Arab territory for ages.
While every Christian bookshelf contains a Bible that says otherwise, the Jews themselves have replaced it gradually with a different holy book. Its 10 commandments include “two states for two peoples,” “thou shalt not occupy,” “thou shalt not settle” and so on. Now it would be difficult to accommodate them to the Levy Report.
Indeed, it will be difficult; so what? An important legal principle asserts that verdicts must not be adapted to public opinion caprices. The clear role of honorable judges is to weed out bias or common lies, such as the claim about Israel’s occupation in Judea and Samaria. The fluent speakers of the Peace Camp nurtured it diligently. They created a false image as if this view is shared by all world jurists, with the exception of a few meaningless rightists here and there.
The Levy Committee shattered this false display. It reminded us that in purely legal terms as well, Israel did not occupy an inch in Judea and Samaria. This is a region that less than 100 years ago was promised to us by the most prominent international forum at the time (The San Remo conference.) A Palestinian state never existed there. The Jordanians annexed it violently in 1950, with almost nobody recognizing this takeover.
Hence, at worse, the region now faces a certain legal vacuum. Given our historic rights, there is no moral reason to prevent us from filling this void.
When Meir Shamgar was Israel’s attorney general, he volunteered to apply the Geneva Convention and The Hague’s rulings in Judea and Samaria. This was no admission of occupation, but rather, a humanitarian gesture to the Palestinians. In those distant days, there was a consensus here that a Palestinian state is a mad idea. The promoters of withdrawal mostly relied on demographic arguments.
The occupation chatter only started to develop with the passage of years, when the demographic threat failed to uproot Kiryat Arba and its environs. In a historic perspective, this chatter is a relatively fresh matter. Should Benjamin Netanyahu quickly adopt the Levy Committee’s conclusions, he would be able to turn back the wheel. His English is good enough to convince the gentiles too.