by Boris Shusteff

We simply do not support the description of the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 War as occupied Palestinian territory. (Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the UN, March 1994.)

The aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa on the 1st and 2nd of December made it absolutely clear that Israel has still not made a strategic decision to achieve peace. This became obvious during an interview with Dr. Dore Gold conducted by a CNN correspondent a few minutes before Ariel Sharon emerged from his meeting with President George W. Bush. Dr. Gold, one of Sharon's advisors, was asked something about the "occupation of the West Bank" and the "expansion of settlements."

Actually it does not matter much what the question was. What matters is the response, in which Dr. Gold sidestepped the issue of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) and Jewish settlement in it altogether, and limited his answer to a general declaration about Arafat not fighting terror. And it is that response that made it obvious that Israel is not ready for peace. It is important to note that Dore Gold is extremely well-versed in the topic he was asked about. He has written abundantly on the subject of the legitimacy of Jewish settlement in Yesha. He obviously knows that from a legal standpoint the term "occupied territories" pertaining to these areas of Israel is inapplicable when used to describe those primordial Jewish lands. Therefore one could have expected a lesson in history and jurisprudence from him in response to the "loaded" question. However, he preferred to be politically correct and did not even try to challenge the ignorance of the CNN correspondent.

It is time to stop pretending that we do not know what the quarrel is between the Jews and the Arabs. It is about The Land. Certainly it is about Israel's existence and security too. But if Israel does not have the Land, there is no reason to talk about her existence at all. Without the Land the Jewish state vanishes, disappears. This is why the Arab world is putting so much pressure on the issue of another Palestinian state. If it succeeds in creating it, it takes away more land from the Jewish state. The smaller the Jewish state is, the more easily it can be destroyed. The Arab world does not care about the so called "Palestinian people."

To the leaders of the Arab world, Yasser Arafat, Hamas, Hizbullah, the "Palestinian people," etc. are nothing more than a weapon that they use in their war against the Jewish state. They do not need and do not want the presence of the Jewish state in the Middle East. Perhaps they are ready to tolerate the presence of some Jews as dhimmi (the term for a second-class "nonbeliever"), but not the state itself. They see the Jewish state as a "dagger in the heart of the Arab nation." In their minds Israel has stolen a piece of Arab property. Therefore not even a thousand "peace processes" will change their perception. This is precisely the reason why all Arab leaders or spokesmen during the course of any interview, meeting, or conversation use the words "occupation," "occupied lands" and their derivatives in conjunction with Israel as much as possible. They are not afraid to abuse these words. On the contrary, they know very well that the more frequently such terms are repeated, the more permanently they become engraved in people's minds. The leaders of the Palestinian Arabs had a ready answer to any questions asked by interviewers in the wake of the Jerusalem/Haifa massacres. It was all Israel's fault because of the Israeli "occupation," because of construction in the "occupied territories," and because the Palestinian Arabs are "people living under occupation."

True, Benjamin Netanyahu, in the course of the 50 (!) interviews that he gave in those two days, did state several times that it is a lie to say that the Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are living "under occupation" since 99% of them live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. However, even he did not cringe and did not demand from the interviewer that the word "occupation" not be used. The efforts of the Jewish state to win the hearts of the world community are completely in vain as long as it allows itself to be tagged with the word "occupier." Arafat's spokesmen will always have the sympathetic ear of civilized mankind, as long as Israel does not challenge the word "occupation." Thus far Israel's shyness on the matter makes her an accomplice in her own demise. Just look at the absolutely disastrous performance (from this standpoint) of Alon Pinkas, Israeli consul general in New York, talking with Larry King on November 10, when his opponent was Hanan Ashrawi, one of the most virulently Jew-hating Arab spokes people. In the course of the short debate, she mentioned the "O" word and its derivatives not less than 9 times, repeating non-stop that "occupation is the problem." She talked about Jewish settlements on the "Palestinian territories" and the "Palestinian land." And Pinkas was not only unable to challenge her, but what is far worse, added legitimacy to her words when he said, "One hundred percent justice is unattainable. Not for us, not for the Palestinians. This has nothing do with occupation, Larry. We think that occupation is wrong. That is why we seek to end it." Later in the debate he said that "until 1967 there was no occupation," thus obviously implying that since 1967, "there is occupation."

When the Israeli consul general announces to everyone watching CNN that the "occupation is wrong" and this is why Israel "seeks to end it" why should anybody be surprised that the whole world blames Israel? After Pinkas's acceptance of Israel's "occupation guilt" nobody will question Ashrawi's statement: "The real issue is that if you want peace, you have to give back that which does not belong to you. The land that Israel has to give back to the Palestinians is 22 percent of historical Palestine, and on that basis, this is a major historical compromise." Let us pause for a moment. Ashrawi said "compromise" a favorite word of the western world. She asks "only" for "22% of historical Palestine." Especially impressive is the way she chooses the words. She is not saying that another Palestinian state must be built on 22% of "historical Palestine." She says that Israel must "give back" this land to the Arabs, well aware that virtually no one will notice that her declaration calls for Israel's destruction. Because what she really means is that after Israel succumbs to the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state in the complete territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which constitute approximately 5% of historical Palestine, the Jews will still "owe" to the Palestinian Arabs the remainder of "22% of historical Palestine" - i.e. all of the territory of the state of Israel.

The Jewish state made a terrible blunder by allowing politicians and journalists all over the world, including the representatives of the Jewish state itself, to use the term "occupied territories" in conjunction with Yesha. Putting aside dozens of valid arguments proving that this term is inappropriate, it is enough only to mention that Stephen Schwebel, former head of the International Court of Justice at the Hague, wrote in the American Journal of International Law in May 1970,

" between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand and her Arab neighbors acting aggressively in 1948 and 1967 on the other, Israel has better title to the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem, than do Jordan and Egypt."

If even Jordan and Egypt have less right than Israel to ownership of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in this dispute with Israel has no chances at all. The PA existed neither in 1948 nor in 1967. It cannot be considered "a legitimate sovereign that was ousted" from Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Under international law, it is exactly this condition of "legitimate sovereignty" that defines the applicability of the term "occupied" to a certain land.

The Israeli architects of Oslo framed their agreements with the PA based on the Camp David autonomy provisions. It appears that they completely misconstrued not only the spirit but the letter of Israeli policy at that time. It was more than unambiguously presented in the Israeli Government Fundamental Guidelines, unveiled on August 5 1981 and, which stated,

"The autonomy agreed upon at Camp David means neither sovereignty nor self-determination [for the Palestinian Arabs]. The autonomy agreements set down at Camp David are GUARANTEES that under no conditions will a Palestinian state emerge in the territory of western "Eretz Yisrael. At the end of transition period, set down in the Camp David agreements, Israel will raise it claim, and act to realize its right of sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Gaza strip."

The time is long overdue for the Jewish state to realize its inalienable right of sovereignty over Yesha. It must make the strategic decision to achieve peace, and the first step in this direction is to vehemently oppose anybody's attempts to label the lands of Yesha as "occupied" territories. The Israeli government must unequivocally declare that it will see as provocative any usage by any official representative of any country of the adjective "occupied" or its derivatives in relation to Yesha. Israel must make it absolutely clear that she will view such incidents as contributing toward the deterioration of relations between that country and the Jewish state.

The second step in Israel's strategy for peace will follow naturally. It must annex the lands of Yesha. And after the declaration of annexation, a third step must be carried out. The Israeli forces should return to Yesha and mercilessly destroy Arafat's regime. As Michael Ledeen put it in the "National Review" on December 7, "If you win, they will always judge your means to have been appropriate. Once we've won, they will sing our praises. But if we start to show kindness, generosity and compassion too soon, they will interpret it as weakness, and strike again."

Let us replace the word "Americans" with the word "Israelis" and declare loudly together with Ledeen:

"We need to sustain our game face, we must keep our fangs bared, we must remind them daily that we Israelis are in a rage, and we will not rest until we have avenged our dead, we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away."

Only then it will become clear that Israel made a strategic decision to achieve peace, since there can be no peace without total victory over the enemy. 12/09/01


Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.

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