If You Build It, They Won’t Come

How to make Israel’s field of dreams real.

In response to the UN upgrading of Palestinian status to that of observer state, a de facto abrogation of the Oslo Accords, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has authorized plans for building in East Jerusalem and for the construction of 3000 homes in the E1 corridor that connects the community of Ma’aleh Adumim to the capital, a distance of only five miles. Critics have accused the Israeli government of precluding an eventual contiguous Palestinian state (though bypass roads could easily be constructed), of engaging in reprisal tactics from a spirit of pique and rancor (despite legal justification to act as it did), and of sabotaging the groundwork for peace (though it is precisely the Palestinian refusal to negotiate that has put the prospect for peace in jeopardy). These are some of the stale clichés and bromides that pass for reasoned political analysis these days. An Israeli house is a fearsome thing, apparently.

In his essay collection Poetry, Language, Thought, philosopher Martin Heidegger—admittedly no friend to Jews or Israel—compared a house to a kind of ship moving through time. A house, or a “dwelling,” breasts the waters of the future, “design[ing] for the different generations under one roof their journey through time.” What may be true of houses in general is even more so for Israeli houses, which navigate not only the years ahead but the turbulent medium of threatening and unpredictable political weather. The Israeli house is purpose-built and, so far as possible, unsinkable. Its function is to prevent foundering and to ensure survival.

For political columnist Daniel Greenfield, an Israeli house, say a “five-floor apartment building complete with hot and cold running water,” is a cutting-edge offensive weapon. Greenfield’s ironic perspective is bracing and timely, countering not only the Palestinians’ overheated and lying rhetoric about Israeli refractoriness and putative aggression, but puncturing the duplicitous diplomatic furor over Israel’s pursuing its historic and legal rights in Jerusalem and the areas in Judea and Samaria over which it exercises juridical control. But according to our diplomatic apparatchiks and a jaundiced media, the peace process could be irreparably damaged by Israeli brick-and-mortar far more than by Palestinian rocket-and-mortar. Israeli houses endanger the hope for peace, Greenfield wryly continues, “by creating ‘facts on the ground,’ a piquant phrase that only seems to apply to houses with Jews. Muslim houses in no way create facts on the ground, even though they are built out of the same material and filled with people. Or perhaps they create the good kind of facts on the ground. The kind of preemption of negotiations that the professional peacemakers approve of.”

Discounting the Muslim and Third-World countries whose animus against the Jewish state is well understood and unavoidable, it is obvious that the reason the vast majority of Western nations either abstained or voted for the Palestinian initiative has nothing to do with moral or legal principle, but with calculations of naked venality. Australian foreign minister Bob Carr made this abundantly clear. “If we had voted no,” he explained, “that would have been a body blow to our interest in over 20 Arab countries”—all of which, let us remember, are vehemently anti-Semitic, anti-Western, dictatorial and socially and politically regressive regimes.

Moreover, when it comes to illegal building, the onus falls on the Palestinians: more than 1000 illegal Arab homes are built annually in Jerusalem and many thousands more in Judea and Samaria. Palestinian construction in the region, points out former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger, “is dramatically larger than Jewish construction there.” Every stone laid by the Palestinians is a violation of the Oslo Accords (no less, as we have noted, than Mahmoud Abbas’ unilateral initiative at the UN). Jewish building, on the other hand, is undeniably legal, as per Article 80 of the UN Charter, which upholds the Palestine Mandate of 1922. As Eugene Rostow, former U.S. Undersecretary of State and a co-author of the pivotal UN Resolution 242, writes, “Jews have the same right to settle in [Judea and Samaria] as they have to settle in Haifa.” Indeed, the legal documentation in question considered Judea and Samaria, the official name used by both the Mandate and the UN between 1922 and 1948, as part of the Jewish National Home.

In addition, writing in the American Journal of International Law, Rostow clarifies in his discussion of 242 that Israel was “certified by the Security Council” to remain in the captured territories and “would not be required to withdraw without a prior agreement of peace.” And such a hypothetical withdrawal would be selective. Further, as the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs correctly argues, “The right of the Jewish people to settle in Palestine has never been terminated for the West Bank" (American Journal of International Law, vol. 84, July 1990, p. 718). Interestingly, there are no 1967 borders to which Israel would be required to return. In fact, there are only armistice lines, and the Jordanian peace agreement with Israel specified that these armistice lines would have no bearing on future negotiations to determine final borders. Lord Caradon himself, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations and, along with Rostow, one of the chief framers of Resolution 242, stated in the Beirut Daily Star for June 12, 1974 that “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.”

As I wrote in Hear, O Israel!, the bald truth is that there are no pre-existent, officially-recognized pre-1967 borders, only armistice lines reflecting the reality of the end-of-war situation in 1949—and these were not graven in treaty-stone. Clause 5(2) of the Rhodes Armistice Agreement specifies that “In no sense are the ceasefire lines to be interpreted as political or territorial borders” and that they do not affect “the final disposition of the Palestine question.” This is as true post 1949 as it is post 1967. These boundaries, known at present as the Armistice Demarcation Line, or Green Line, have yet to be finally determined, but as Resolution 242 makes plain, Israel is not expected to return to a prior, unsettled, indefensible position. Meanwhile there is nothing preventing Israel from building in officially designated territories, including Jerusalem and parts of Judea and Samaria. There is no getting around this fact except by the routes of deception, ignorance or willful myopia, aka the “road map.” In an address delivered to the Zionist Organization of America on September 6, 2012, David Horowitz clinches the matter in his usual forthright way: “After 2,000 years of exile, the oldest surviving indigenous people in the world has won the right to some of its stolen homeland. I look forward to the day when Judea and Samaria, the historic centers of Judaism, become part of the Jewish homeland as well.”

Every Jewish home in Jerusalem and in the permissible surrounding areas is a sort of Noah’s Ark, a vessel intended to withstand the flood of a clamant and expansionist Palestinian effort to acquire territory to which it is not entitled. According to both international jurisprudence and historical reality, the territory in question was never Palestinian land in the first place. As Ted Belman of Israpundit writes, “At best they are Israeli lands and at worst they are disputed lands.” But they are not occupied lands. And there is no legal instrument that denies Israel the right to build in Jerusalem and parts of the Shomron.

Let us not be in doubt about what Israelis call the matsav, or situation. For the enemy, all of Israel is a “settlement.” East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are the equivalent of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba. The Palestinians are on the march, militarily (Hamas) and diplomatically (the PA), with the intention of destroying Israel either in a single holocaust or by piecemeal disintegration. Israel must continue to build wherever it can, to solidify its frontiers, to establish its existence as a fait accompli, and to forestall a predatory antagonist from building in its stead. “Build, Bibi, Build,” urges David Efune in The Algemeiner. Whether regarded as a liner sailing through time or a form of military hardware, the Israeli house is what keeps the country rooted in its legitimate allodium and prohibits the intrusion of squatters.

For Israel to make real its field of dreams, the current Mandate is clear. If you build it, they won’t come.

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