Former US vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC on March 2 that Israel’s annexation and settlement policies are undermining support for the Jewish state among young people.
What is “undermining support” for Israel “among young people” and others is the failure of those politicians like Biden who consider themselves “pro-Israel” but are misinformed about the legal status of the West Bank, and consequently are not capable of understanding, explaining, and defending Israel’s rights to that area. Biden himself does not know why the settlements are legal, and merely assumes, like tens of millions of others, that they are illegitimate because everyone tells him so — the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, the U.N. General Assembly, the Arab League, the O.I.C. But his statement at AIPAC merely reveals his ignorance of the history of the Jewish state. It is not enough to consider oneself “pro-Israel” – you have to get Israel’s history straight, in order to adequately defend the country. This Joe Biden has not done. He doesn’t dislike Israel, unlike some in his party, including the infamous “Squad” and Bernie Sanders; Biden likes Israel, but doesn’t know enough to make its case.
Let’s review the history of the Mandate for Palestine. Biden does not know that when the League of Nations established the Mandates system, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, several mandates were created exclusively for the Arabs. France held the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, Great Britain held the Mandate for Iraq. Those European powers were responsible for guiding the local populations to achieve independence. In the end, as we all know, the Arabs have by now managed to acquire 22 separate states, far more than any other people, places where they treat non-Arab Muslims – Kurds, Berbers, black Africans – with contumely or worse. And in many of those Arab states, non-Muslims are often humiliated, persecuted, and sometimes killed.
The one territory reserved for the Jews was that set aside for inclusion in the Mandate for Palestine. It extended from the Golan in the north to the Gulf of Aqaba in the south, and from an area east of the Jordan River “out into the desert” to the Mediterranean. The British, who held the Mandate for Palestine, then unilaterally decided that all the territory east of the Jordan — 78% of the territory that was originally to be included the Mandate – would be closed to Jewish immigration, so that it would instead become part of the newly-created Emirate of Transjordan (later the Kingdom of Jordan). What was left in the Palestine Mandate for the Jews was 22% of the territory that was originally to have been included. This was the sliver of land that went from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, and from the Golan to the Gulf of Aqaba. That Mandatory territory, that was to have formed the future Jewish state, included all of what became known as the West Bank. I doubt that Joe Biden knows any of this. He doesn’t strike me as having done his homework. He doesn’t feel he has to, you see, because his heart’s in the right place, he’s “pro-Israel.” How wrong he is.
When the League of Nations closed in 1946, soon to be replaced by the United Nations, there remained the question of what would happen to the Mandate for Palestine. Article 80 of the U.N. Charter – “the Jewish people’s article,” as it was called – made clear that the provisions of the Mandate still held, and would be honored by the United Nations as the successor organization to the League of Nations. The Mandate finally came to an end on May 14, 1948, when Israel, the successor state to the Mandate, declared its independence.
In the 1948-49 war, at the end of hostilities the Arab Legion of Jordan held onto those parts of Judea and Samaria west of the Jordan that the Jordanians soon renamed the “West Bank.” In taking possession of the West Bank, Jordan did not establish a legal claim; it remained a military “occupier.” Israel, which did have a legal claim to the West Bank, was not in a position to enforce that claim; that would come only after the Six-Day War. But juridically the West Bank remained, as it had been under the Mandate, part of the Jewish National Home. In 1967, Israel did not establish a new legal claim, but merely became able, through force of arms, to enforce the claim it had always possessed since the Mandate was created . Joe Biden needs to understand the exclusive intent of the Mandate for Palestine – to create the Jewish National Home – and to recognize the territory , including the entire West Bank, that had been assigned to it. He might then take quite a different view of Israeli villages and cities (tendentiously described by so many as “settlements”) and of Israel’s so-called “occupation” of the West Bank. He owes it to Israel, and to himself, to get this story straight.
When Biden tells an AIPAC audience that he thinks Israel’s “settlement and annexation” policies are causing Israel to lose support, instead of blaming Israel, he should have made a different claim: “We who are pro-Israel need to do better to make the case for that embattled country. We need to understand Israel’s overwhelming legal right to the West Bank. Even if, on practical grounds, some may question the wisdom of Israel annexing the entire West Bank, no one should deny that Israel has a perfect right to do so. We need to study the relevant history to make the case for Israel, instead of mindlessly repeating such loaded, and inaccurate descriptions, as “occupied Palestinian lands.”
Biden should deepen his own understanding, by reading – perhaps for the first time though he has been in Washington for the past 40 years — the Mandate for Palestine. The most important part of the Mandate document is the Preamble:
Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The declaration of November 2, 1917, which is referred to in the preamble, is the Balfour Declaration, which declared British support for the establishment of the Jewish National Home.
Note the phrase, too, about how “nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” The drafters quite deliberately left out any mention of “political rights” because, of course, a Jewish National Home, leading to the establishment of a Jewish state, would necessarily impinge on the political rights of local Arabs.
Article 4 of the Mandate makes clear that it is to lead to the creation of a single Jewish National Home, and not to the creation of two states, Jewish and Arab, in the territory west of the Jordan that was ultimately assigned to the Mandate:
An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognised as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration to assist and take part in the development of the country.
The Zionist organization, so long as its organization and constitution are in the opinion of the Mandatory appropriate, shall be recognised as such agency. It shall take steps in consultation with His Britannic Majesty’s Government to secure the co-operation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home.
Then there is Article 6 of the Mandate, which Biden might profitably commit to memory. It calls on the mandatory authority to “facilitate Jewish immigration” and “encourage…close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands”:
The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.
So to repeat yet again for Joe Biden’s sake, and it deserves this constant repetition, the West Bank was always intended to be part of the Jewish National Home. Thus it was intended by the Mandates Commission, headed by the distinguished Swiss law professor William Rappard, who was outraged when the British ended all Jewish immigration in the land east of the Jordan, which had supposed to have been subject to the provisions of the Mandate. Had the Jews managed to hold onto the West Bank in the 1948-49 war, it would have become, as the Mandate always intended, part of Israel, every bit as much as Tel Aviv or Haifa or Ashdod. No one in the Western world would have objected. When the Jordanian army seized and held territory west of the Jordan in the 1948-49 war, Jordan emulated the Romans, who had renamed “Judea” as “Syria Palaestina” or “Palestine” to efface the Jewish connection to the land. The Jordanians renamed the parts of Judea and Samaria it now controlled as “the West Bank” for the same reason.
Jordan remained the illegal “occupier” of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967; its only claim was that of military occupation. The “Palestinian people” had not yet been invented, so Amman made no move to hand the West Bank over to the non-existent Palestinians. The juridical situation was quite different for Israel, its claim to the West Bank is based not on its “occupation” of the territory since 1967, but on the Mandate for Palestine itself. But, someone might object, hadn’t the Mandates system expired when the League of Nations, which had created the many mandates, ceased to operate in 1946 and was soon replaced by the United Nations?
No, because by its own charter, the United Nations recognized the continued relevance of the Mandates system. The UN Charter, and specifically Article 80 of that Charter, implicitly recognize the “Mandate for Palestine” of the League of Nations. This Mandate granted Jews the irrevocable right to settle in the area of Palestine, anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Professor Eugene Rostow, then Dean of Yale Law School, has explained:
This right [of settlement] is protected by Article 80 of the United Nations Charter. The Mandates of the League of Nations have a special status in international law, considered to be trusts, indeed “sacred trusts.”
Under international law, neither Jordan nor the recently-invented “Palestinian” Arab people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have a substantial claim to the sovereign possession of the West Bank.
To sum up: the Jewish claim to the “West Bank” is based clearly on the Palestine Mandate of the League of Nations, which gave Jews the right to settle anywhere between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and from the Golan in the north to the Red Sea in the south. That right was not extinguished when the League of Nations came to an end. Article 80 of the U.N. Charter recognized the continuing relevance of the Mandate’s provisions. The West Bank always formed part of the territory assigned to the Jewish National Home, where the British were to “facilitate Jewish immigration” and to “encourage close settlement by Jews on the land.” Jordan was an “illegal occupier” of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967; in 1967, through its military victory, Israel at last became able to enforce the claim it had never relinquished.
Biden is almost certainly unaware that the Mandate for Palestine assigned all of the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean to the Jewish state. Such ignorance is widespread; few among the political and media elites in the Western world have bothered to read the Mandate, or Article 80 of the U.N. Charter. If they did, they would understand that the Mandate itself gives Israel the right to build settlements – which then naturally grow to become villages and cities – all over the West Bank. Biden’s remarks to AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference in Washington, DC strongly criticized what appears to be growing momentum toward unilateral Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank.
Israel has to stop the threats of annexation and settlement activity,” he said. “That’s going to choke off any hope for peace.
Biden has things all wrong. First of all, it is insulting to describe Israel’s people and government discussing the merits of annexation of part or all of the West Bank as constituting “threats.” Israel does not intend to “threaten” anyone in debating the question of how much of the West Bank to annex at first, and according to what timetable. No threats have been uttered or implied. It’s the Arabs and Iranians who have a long history of “threatening” about one thing or another if they do not get their way. Some, like Iran, threaten to wipe out Israel or to attack America. In October 1973, the Gulf Arabs threatened to decrease their deliveries of oil so as to destroy the economies of the West. Iran has repeatedly threatened to shut down the shipping lanes in the Straits of Oman and to hit American bases in the Middle East; Turkey has threatened to close the American base at Incirlik and threatened the leaders of Germany and the Netherlands for not allowing Erdogan’s men to campaign among the Turks in both countries.
Biden believes the very opposite of the real situation. He thinks Israel is “choking off any hope for peace” with its settlement-and-annexation policy. Hopes for peace have been repeatedly dashed not by Israel, but by the Palestinian leaders – first Arafat and then Abbas – who came to Washington, were offered deals by Israeli negotiators that gave them 95%, and then 97%, of the West Bank, but the Palestinians disdained to even consider such offers. They wanted a total Israeli withdrawal and a “return” to the 1949 armistice lines, which the Arabs, who refused an Israeli offer in 1949 to make those armistice lines into internationally-recognized borders, now want to do so. It’s too late. The offer no longer stands. The train left that particular station 70 years ago. And even today, it’s Mahmoud Abbas who is “choking off any hope for peace” by refusing even to discuss the Trump peace initiative.
What keeps the peace between Israel and the Arabs, including both the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, and the neighboring Arab states, is precisely the deterrent power of the IDF. And a critical, even indispensable component of that deterrence is Israel’s continued possession of the West Bank. It needs to have some minimal strategic depth on its eastern flank, so that the IDF can hold off a potential invasion force from the east while Israel reservists are still being mobilized. If Israel were forced to surrender the West Bank – as Biden implicitly thinks it should – it would be all of eight miles wide at its narrowest point, from Qalqilya to the Mediterranean.
Biden warns that such moves –any expansion of settlements, an, a formal annexation of some or all of the West Bank settlements that exist — are damaging Israel’s cause in the US:
To be frank, those moves are taking Israel further from its democratic values, undermining support for Israel in the United States, especially among young people of both political parties. That’s dangerous. We can’t let that happen.
Israel is not moving “further from its democratic values.” In Israel itself, a thriving democracy treats Israeli Jews and Arabs equally. Arabs serve in the Knesset, sit on the Supreme Court, are high-ranking diplomats, and are even officers in the IDF. They study, live, and work beside Jews. There is no apartheid, contrary to the claims of pathological Israel-haters. As for the Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel has welcomed the Trump Plan, which not only contemplates an independent Palestinian state, but also hopes to raise some $50 billion in aid for that new state, a colossal sum that would do much to increase the prosperity among Palestinians. Abbas turned down flat the Trump Plan even before reading it. Nor did he wish to discuss that potential aid of $50 billion for the Palestinians that had been mentioned in the meeting in Manama, Bahrain – a meeting that Abbas refused to attend or to send representatives. Now that Mahmoud Abbas and his sons have amassed a family fortune of $400 million, they don’t appear too concerned about the people, many of them living on the edge, whose interests the Palestinian leadership is supposed to further.
Israel has no desire to rule over Palestinians in the West Bank; it wants them to have a separate state, where they have full control over their own domestic destinies. Israel only wants to ensure that such a state would be sufficiently demilitarized – as, for example, by not having an air force – so as to not be able to threaten Israel. But otherwise, Israel is ready to accept a state of “Palestine,” even on land that Israelis know belongs to them, as long as it will lack the wherewithal to militarily threaten Israel. This readinesss of Israel to yield land on the West Bank so that it might become most of “Palestine” has gotten Israel no credit; Biden should give recognize that sacrifice and give the Israelis the credit they deserve.
You don’t have to be anti-Palestinian to be pro-Israeli,” Biden told the conference. “Israeli and Palestinian children are equally deserving of safety, security, and an opportunity to pursue their dreams.
Is Biden suggesting that Israel standing on its rights, both under the Mandate for Palestine, and according to an entirely independent justification for its holding onto the West Bank, U.N. Resolution 242, which guarantees Israel the right to “secure and recognizable boundaries,” is somehow illegitimate? Are “Palestinian” children, who are raised in a culture of extreme violence, who are taught to hate and to want to kill Jews – on Palestinian children’s shows you can see these serious-faced youngsters, ages four to seven, making stabbing notions with their knives as they chant slogans about killing Jews — really the moral equals to Jewish children, who are not taught to hate at all? And when Biden thinks that “Palestinian children are equally deserving of safety, security, and an opportunity to pursue their dreams,” he’s not taking into account what really goes on.
It’s the Palestinian terrorist leaders who endanger the lives of Palestinian children, by deliberately placing weaponry in schools, hospitals, and in apartment buildings, in order that children will be killed by incoming Israeli fire. It is the terrorist leaders who deliberately place Palestinian children in the front rank of the marchers during the Great March of Return, hoping they will be wounded or killed and thus become grist for the propaganda mill of Hamas. And what are the “dreams” of these Palestinian children? Their main “dream” is to kill Jews, all the Jews. How does Joe Biden intend to undo their entire upbringing, based as it is on the Qur’an itself, and the more than one hundred verses that command Muslims to engage in endless warfare – to fight, to kill, to smite at the necks of, to strike terror in the hearts of, the Infidels, and especially to fight and to kill the hated Jews, the worst enemies of the Muslims. Biden does not realize the depth of the pathological hatred of Jews among the Palestinians, a hatred based on the immutable Qur’an. When he refers to giving the Palestinian children their “opportunity to pursue their dreams,” he should be made to understand that while an Israeli child’s dream might be to become a pilot, or a journalist, or to work in a high-tech or agricultural start-up, the dreams of the Palestinian children are always to kill as many Jews as they can.
However, Biden said, the Palestinians must take steps to advance peace as well.
“Palestinians need to eradicate incitement on the West Bank,” he said. “They need to end the rocket attacks from Gaza. They need to accept once and for all the reality and the right of a secure democratic and Jewish State of Israel in the Middle East.”
Vaste programme, monsieur – as De Gaulle once answered a heckler who had cried out “Mort aux cons!” (“Death to all dopes!”). The Palestinians are not going to “eradicate incitement on the West Bank.” Whether you are a Slow Jihadist of the Palestinian Authority, or a Fast Jihadist of Hamas, you want the same goal: an end to the Jewish state and its replacement by “Palestine.” Biden assumes that Israel is invincible. Sadly, it isn’t true. The numbers of precision-guided missiles, as many as 140,000, that Hezbollah possesses in southern Lebanon aimed at Israel, the similar stockpile of rockets that Hamas has in Gaza, Iran’s bases both in Iran for long-range missiles that could potentially strike anywhere in Israel and, from closer up, in Syria (though Israel has been carefully destroying them) – these are the unprecedented dangers the Jewish state faces. It cannot be expected to perform miracles; it should not be asked to live with dangers no other country has. Israel requires a minimum of strategic depth, and for that it needs the West Bank.
Biden does not realize the Islamic basis of the pathological hatred for Israel. It cannot be waved away. The Palestinians will never eradicate incitement on the West Bank or — still more unlikely — in Gaza. Why did Biden not mention the threat from Gaza? Was it oversight, or his realization that the terrorists in Gaza, those of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, will never stop such incitement to violence against Israel; it is their reason for being?
Biden should say something like this:
Look, here’s the deal: Israel is the only state the Jewish people have. They have lived in the Land of Israel for more than 3000 years. It came into existence against all odds. It was the refuge that took in hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors of the Nazi camps. A little later, Israel took in 800,000 penniless Jews who had fled or been expelled from Arab countries. It managed to fight, and win, three major wars for its survival. It has fought, and won, many smaller campaigns as well against the PLO, Hamas, and Hezbollah. The Arabs already have 22 states. They are, in fact, more richly endowed with states than any other people in the world. That matters. They’ve proven to be masters of propaganda. The Arabs, with some help from Soviet experts in disinformation, deliberately created the ‘Palestinian people’ in the 1960s and managed to convince the world that the local Arabs were this separate people, so that the lopsided war of the Arabs against on Israel could be presented merely as a conflict between ‘two tiny peoples, each wanting its homeland.’ There was nothing to distinguish ‘Palestinian’ Arabs from other Arabs in the same region. Not language, not religion, not customs, not anything. Zuheir Mohsen, a leader of the Palestinian terrorist group As Saiqah, succinctly explained – and please listen closely because it’s important, and I just wish Bernie was here to hear it — ‘The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.’
Now – and here’s my other point – it’s not just the Mandate for Palestine that gives Israel the right, should it wish, to hold onto, and allow Jews to settle on, the West Bank. All of the West Bank. There is U.N. Resolution 242. Any of you remember it? Well, it’s very important. It’s the Resolution that was passed by the General Assembly in the fall of 1967. And it gave Israel the right to retain territories it won ‘in the recent conflict’ – the Six-Day War – if it was necessary for its security. The phrase used was to assure Israel it would have ‘secure and recognizable boundaries.’ Now back in 1967, President Johnson had the Joint Chiefs send some military experts to Israel to report on what territories Israel would have to keep for defensive reasons. And they came back the report – I read it recently – that said that in the West Bank, the Israelis would have to keep, at an absolute minimum, the Jordan Valley, so as to protect against invasion from the East. At a minimum. That’s what they said. And Israel’s military has no intention of giving up control of the West Bank. You have to see Israel, as I have –see how very small it is, and how much it needs the West Bank in order to survive.
Lord Caradon, the British ambassador to the U.N. who was the main author of Resolution 242, when subsequently interviewed explained that the Arabs kept trying to change a particular phrase in that Resolution, which calls for Israeli withdrawal ‘from territories’ won in the recent conflict. The Arabs kept trying, and kept failing, to have that phrase changed to ‘all the territories.’ They never got it. And so, reinforcing the Mandate for Palestine, there is U.N. Resolution 242, which gives Israel an independent right on which to stake its claim to the West Bank.
Look, the Palestinians have an offer: a state of their own, with a capital in a suburb of East Jerusalem, and what’s more, $50 billion in aid. $50 billion! Think of what they could do with that money. I don’t agree with President Trump on almost anything. But his peace initiative is worth a try. A half-dozen Arab countries – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain, Oman – gave it their initial approval, as a starting point. They had to vote with all the others against the plan at the Arab League, and the O.I.C. Nobody wants to stand out. It was a pro-forma protest. But it’s pretty clear to me that many of them are tired of the whole Palestinian business. They’ve got civil wars in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. They’ve got problems with the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State remnants around the Middle East. Egypt is in a water war with Ethiopia. Lebanon’s economy is cratering, and Hezbollah has taken over the whole shebang. And above all, they’ve got to worry about an aggressive Iran, which is in Yemen, and Iraq, and Syria, and Lebanon, causing as much mischief as it can. That’s gotta be more important than whatever Mahmoud Abbas wants.
The time is ripe for the Palestinians to realize that this is the last, best deal they’re going to be offered. It’s not just me saying that. Not just Joe Biden. It’s the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Bahrainis, the Egyptians. That’s the difference between me and Bernie on the Middle East. He’s just got it in for Israel. It’s weird. He thinks Netanyahu is a ‘racist.’ He thinks Israel is a ‘racist’ state. He might even move the Embassy back to Tel Aviv. I think he’s nuts. My position is clear: I want the Israelis to stay safe, to have their IDF always able to deter any would-be aggressors, and to keep the territory it needs – it’s Israel’s decision, not ours — to make that deterrence credible. There’s a lot I didn’t know before. But now I’ve read the Mandate, and Resolution 242, and a lot else besides. So let’s stop talking about ‘occupied Palestinian lands’ and have Israel’s rights to the West Bank — the whole West Bank — recognized. And let Israel take it from there.
Yes, I know. A fantasy. Feel free to send that fantasy to the Biden campaign. Someone just might persuade him to read it. Stranger things have been known to happen.