Confusion about the ‘Occupation’ of Palestinian Land
By Moshe Arens
cannot permanently occupy Palestinian land,” said Barack Obama in his speech
at the United Nations last month. By Palestinian land he presumably meant Judea
and Samaria, the territory between the Jordan River and the lines delineated by
Israel and Jordan in April 1949, in an armistice that followed Jordan’s
participation in the combined Arab attack on Israel in 1948. Maybe he was also
referring to the Gaza Strip, although that region is now under the rule of Hamas,
a Palestinian terrorist organization, and there is no Israeli presence there.
it Palestinian land that Jordan annexed after the conclusion of the armistice
with Israel? Nobody made that claim at the time, nor during the following 18
years when Jordan held that area.
it suddenly become Palestinian land only after Jordan joined Egypt and Syria in
their war against Israel in 1967 and was forced to withdraw from the area? Or
was it Palestinian land all along, while the Palestinian claim was left in
abeyance as long as Jordan ruled the area and sprang to life only after the
Jordanian army was defeated?
is clearly some ambiguity about the Palestinian title to this area. Many
Palestinians say Israeli “occupation” is not limited to Judea and Samaria,
but also includes the State of Israel itself.
Palestinian claim is obviously not consistent with the terms of the League of
Nations Mandate for Palestine of 1922, which recognized the historical
connection between the Jewish people and Palestine and called for close
settlement of Jews on the land. So maybe the fact that the majority of the
population living in the area east of the 1949 armistice lines is Palestinian is
sufficient to claim title to the land, a claim that was not pressed during
this isn’t the only area on the globe whose ownership is in dispute. Obama
would probably be aghast if he were told by someone that “the United States
cannot permanently occupy Mexican land.” Yes, much of the United States –
California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas – is territory captured during the
Mexican-American War of 1846-48, in a war of aggression. It was a war waged
under the banner of “Manifest Destiny” – America’s destiny to extend its
possessions to the Pacific Ocean.
is my land, from California to the New York Island,” sang Woody Guthrie, with
the war against Mexico long forgotten, except maybe by the Mexicans.
surely knows that his birthplace of Hawaii, once an independent nation, had been
taken over by the United States in an 1893 coup, becoming the 50th state more
than 60 years later in 1959. So who is the “occupier”? Can “occupation”
lead in time to a peaceful accommodation as it did in California and Hawaii?
himself was the commander in chief of an occupying army when he inherited the
American occupation in Iraq. He decided to pull out and damn the consequences.
The victims of the American exit from Iraq were the people of Iraq and the rest
of the region, not the American people.
would suggest that Israel follow the same path. Get out of the West Bank, end
the “occupation” and damn the consequences. But Israel cannot exit the
region like America; Israel is here to stay. And the first victims of an Israeli
withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would be the Israeli people, who could expect
rockets to rain down on their cities.
prospect for the Palestinian population after such a move also leaves little
room for optimism. The exit option that was available to Obama in Iraq isn’t
really available to Israel. The “occupation” of what Obama called
Palestinian land may last a while yet.