By Elyakim Haetzni

The Final Settlement talks between Israel and the terrorist authority opened with great fanfare. Included among the subjects to be discussed are two items upon which agreement will be rapidly reached since Israel has already waived its rights. These are the creation of a Palestinian state and the fate of the Jewish settlements. Barak and his ministers have already declared their willingness to uproot Jewish communities and their agreement to the creation of a terrorist state.

There is a close relationship between these two items since a Palestinian state can neither come into existence nor maintain itself if the Jewish settlements remain in their present locations. The State of Palestine and the Jewish settlements are mutually exclusive. Barak must uproot most, if not all, of the Jewish communities in order to pave the way for the new state which will come into existence upon the ruins of the settlements. Maybe this is what Barak meant by his recent statement that we must "separate" from cherished parts of our homeland.

But, this separation is a historic watershed, the likes of which have not occurred since the days of Abraham, the founder of the Jewish People, to whom the"Promised Land" was promised. It is sometimes overlooked that as long as there is no Final Settlement, this "separation" from parts of our homeland has not yet taken place. Under the interim agreements, even Area A which was turned over completely to Arafat, is still formally under Israeli military rule. Arafat was granted "powers and authority" but it was explicitly stated in the Oslo agreement that, until a final agreement, each side reserved its rights and claims. Formally, we can still claim Gaza. The final step in which Israel waives rights to its own land, has still not happened. The wise men of Oslo left this crucial step for Barak.

The situation from the view point of international law is extraordinary. On the entire surface of the globe there is not one area left which is not ruled by some form of sovereignty - except Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza district. It is as though there were a heavenly plan to enable the Jewish People to claim its historic homeland. How did this unusual situation come about?

Since the Jews were driven out of Eretz Yisrael by the Romans almost 2000 years ago, no nation or people have claimed this land as their homeland. Eretz Israel was always part of some empire - Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Mameluke, Turkish, until in this century the world solemnly recognized "Palestine" to belong to the Jews in the same way that France belongs to the French. The League of Nations gave Great Britain a mandate to prepare the way for the realization of "the historic connection between the Jewish People and Palestine and the right to re-establish the Jewish national home." The mandate required Great Britain to enable Jewish immigration and close settlement on the land. In 1948, the British abandoned Eretz Yisrael, leaving a vacuum. This vacuum was filled by the establishment of a Jewish state within what is called the Green Line and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was established by the Arabs east of the Jordan River. The Egyptians captured the Gaza District but exercised a military regime there rather than claiming sovereignty. Jordan professed to include Judea and Samaria, including Jerusalem, within its realm but this was not recognized by our Supreme Court nor by the world community. In any event, in 1988 Jordan renounced all claims to the area.

Thus, for all practical purposes, Judea, Samaria and Gaza were left in an international legal vacuum which beckoned to the authentic historic owner to come and consumate its claim. But the owner continued to hesitate and, since Oslo, he is relinquish his home, room by room. Worse, according to the timetable of Wye and Sharm, he will abandon the entire edifice by next year. And so, for the first time since the days of Joshua, this land will become the home of a foreign people.

There is a method in this folly, because none of the empires who were here, including the most recent Turkish and British, had any true authorization to bequeath ownership on this land. Only the Jewish People, the real owners, can do so. Thus we have arrived at the frightening absurdity which has been disturbing me for many years: In the diaspora, the Jewish People albeit weak and helpless, never purported to give away their right to the ownership of Eretz Israel. I have asked rabbis and religious sages, whether ever anyone of any stature - Moses, Maimonides or any other great Jews or a Rabbinical court or any Jewish Congregation - were authorized in the name of the Jewish People to transfer our land to others. And the consistent answer was always negative. It seems, therefore, that the Jews found no other way how to get rid of the inheritance of their forefathers but to achieve international recognition of their rights, to shed much blood to create a state and consequently establish an internationally recognized entity, duly authorized to give away their land.

It is a historical fact that although the Jewish People were exiled from their land, they never separated themselves from it. "Separation" was left for Barak to carry out. Jews over the centuries, even when they could not live here, at least tried to be buried in this land. We did not abandon the land in our dreams and prayers. Our religious and cultural lives were dominated by our relationship to our land. Now the time has come, sincerely to ask ourselves - can the State of Israel waive the rights of the People of Israel to its homeland? Even from a religious viewpoint: Are observant Jews in the Knesset, in the Government, in the public service, in the army, allowed to participate in the relinquishment of our ownership of this land to a foreign nation, violate the ancient covenant between the Creator and our father Abraham?

Or perhaps this "separation" has neither authority nor legal sanction nor can it be recognized as binding by the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael and in the Diaspora?

If so, what are the results and consequences? What will be the fate of a state that abandons its land, tears itself away from its past and its roots?


Elyakim Haetzni is an attorney and Israeli activist who lives in Kirat Arba. [22.9.1999]

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