Jan. 1, 2018
I don’t celebrate the secular new year, but I imagine that many, if not most, of my readers do. And so, I am delighted to wish one and all a good year.
What I sense in the air is not a fireworks display, but a sense of progress: A movement in the right direction, in both senses of that word. Imperfect, less steady or defined than we might like, but progress.
Most encouraging is a vote that took place in the Central Committee of Likud Sunday night, at a hall outside of Tel Aviv. By the unanimous vote of more than 1,000 members, the following resolution was passed (emphasis added):
“Fifty years after the liberation of Judea and Samaria, and with them Jerusalem, our eternal capital, the Likud Central Committee calls on Likud’s elected leaders to work to allow unhindered construction and to extend Israeli law and sovereignty in all the areas of liberated settlement in Judea and Samaria.”
This is not binding on the Knesset, or even on Prime Minister Netanyahu, who chose to absent himself from the vote.
This is, however, an important step forward, and it will have impact beyond the symbolic. Come primary time, hopefuls for the Likud list must depend upon the support of the members of the Central Committee.
I would note here just a few details:
The wording is somewhat vague so that some people are interpreting this as applying to all of Judea and Samaria, and others, to Area C, and still others, to the built up areas of Jewish communities. I have been informed by a knowledgeable source that this vagueness was deliberate. It remains to be seen how this plays out.
What is clear is that this moves definitively beyond “the two state solution” as it has been touted for twenty plus years. It speaks in unambiguous terms of sovereignty and is clearly an historic step forward.
As to that term, “sovereignty,” some clarification is also required: In some news reports the term “annexation” is being utilized. This is not synonymous with “sovereignty” and is inappropriate in this context.
Annexation applies when a nation attaches to itself land that did not previously belong to it – incorporates land into its domain. But according to international law, Judea and Samaria are rightfully part of Israel, but have not to this point been fully claimed. To extend sovereignty to this area means fully claiming our rights to it, applying Israeli law and assuming it is under Israeli jurisdiction.
As to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the point has been made that while he chose to absent himself for the vote, he did not move to block it. How he will handle this depends on a number of political factors. What is beyond doubt is that his decision on this matter is critical.
Among the prominent figures of the party that did attend: Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Welfare Minister Haim Katz, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, Communications Minister Ayub Kara, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Science Minister Ofir Akunis, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, MK Yehuda Glick, MK Amir Ohana, MK Sharren Haskel.
Many spoke out.
Said Erdan: “The time has come to express our Biblical right to the land…We are telling the world that it doesn’t matter what the nations of the world say. We must recognize this sovereignty.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, chairs the Bayit Yehudi party, which calls for sovereignty over Area C. He had been eager to see Likud members vote for this and was delighted at the news that they had. Bayit Yehudi is a member of the Likud coalition.
At the very same time that this is taking place, MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), chair of the Eretz Yisrael Lobby in the Knesset, is promoting a new initiative that would mandate that every bill that has passed the preliminary vote and is on its way to second and third readings and a final approval by the Knesset, would also undergo a step to determine how it would be implemented in Judea and Samaria.
At present, application of Israeli law to Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria is not automatic, but is handled via the Civil Administration, which is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defense.
If passed, this, too, would represent a step forward.