ZOA Condemns EU, PA and Obama Administration Moves To Declare Legal “Settlements” Illegal
News Press Release
January 26, 2016

Morton A. Klein,, president of The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) released the following statement:

The European Union (EU) (with the Obama administration’s support) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are once again waging perverse diplomatic warfare to attempt to deny the fact that Israel has the strongest legal right to areas over the 1949 Armistice lines, including the Jewish towns and communities in Judea/Samaria (misleadingly so-called “settlements”), the eastern portion of Jerusalem (the old city, also called the City of David after the Jewish King David who ruled there), and the Golan Heights. 


(1) On January 18, 2016, the European Union passed a resolution declaring legal Israeli “settlements” to be illegal and an “obstacle to peace,” and declaring that EU agreements with Israel will no longer apply over the 1949 Armistice lines (the non-binding lines marking where the fighting stopped after seven Arab nations invaded Israel in 1948-1949);

(2) On January 20, 2016, the Obama administration backed the EU’s anti-Israel resolution; and

(3) the Palestinian Authority (PA) is reportedly attempting to pass a UN resolution declaring legal Israeli “settlements” to be illegal and an “obstacle to peace.”   The PA’s planned anti-Israel, anti-Semitic proposed UN resolution is expected to also demand that the (600,000) Jews living over the 1949 Armistice lines must be removed from their homes, communities, jobs and synagogues.  In other words, the PA seeks to ethnically cleanse Jews from the lands to which the Jewish people have the strongest legal right (as well as the strongest historical and religious rights).  

The recent EU resolution, and expected PA UN resolution thus have no legal grounds to transform the 1949 Armistice lines into a border.

The ZOA strongly urges the Obama administration to veto and strenuously oppose the PA’s planned anti-Israel UN resolution.  Throughout the past seven years, the Obama administration has repeatedly attempted to ameliorate its anti-Israel actions by asserting that only a solution negotiated by the PA and Israel is appropriate.   The PA’s unilateral UN resolution would be the death knell of any possibility of a negotiated solution.  Such an anti-Israel UN resolution would enable the PA to avoid sitting down and negotiating with Israel, and avoid making a final peace.  Instead, the PA would take whatever it can obtain from the Obama administration and the UN, and continue demanding the destruction of all of Israel.  A UN resolution would also reward the PA for inciting the ongoing wave of Palestinian Arab knife, car ramming and shooting attacks that have murdered 29 and wounded 280 innocent Israelis in the past 4 months – and encourage the PA to increase these attacks.

Israel has the strongest legal right to Judea/Samara/Jerusalem/the Golan:

Under the internationally binding San Remo agreements, League of Nations’ decisions, British Mandate and the UN Charter [Article 80], Israel (known as “Palestine” when those legal agreements were signed and enacted) is the Jewish national home and belongs to the Jewish people.  Palestine at the time also included all of Jordan.

In 1921-2, Britain excised the territory east of the Jordan River earmarked for the Palestine mandate and established the Emirate of Transjordan under Abdullah, son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, one of Britain’s war-time allies against the Turks. Thus, when the final version of the Mandate was adopted and approved by the League of Nations in 1922, the entire territory east of the Jordan River once earmarked for Palestine and, thus, the area for the development of the Jewish National Home, had been lost to Zionism. Jordan is a majority Palestinian Arab state.

The Jewish people were the only people who ever had an independent sovereign state or kingdom in Israel.  No independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine, and no Arab capital ever existed in Jerusalem, even after the Muslim invasions in the seventh century.

Jewish sovereignty lasted over 400 years – longer than the existence of the United States – through King Saul’s unification of Jewish tribes who had already lived in the land of Israel for hundreds of years, King David’s establishment of Jerusalem as the capital in 1000 BCE, King Solomon’s building of the First Temple and consolidation of government functions, and King Solomon’s son’s division of the kingdom into two parts, until the Babylonian conquest of Judea in 586 BCE. 

The very name “Judea” —a term which was commonly used by the international community throughout the centuries — is derived from the same root as the word “Jew,” testifying to the deep Jewish connection to the land.  The Jewish people also enjoyed brief periods of sovereignty during the next 700 years, until the Romans drove out many – but not all of the Jews in 135 CE after the Bar Kochba revolt and renamed Judea “Syria Palestina” in attempt to de-Judaize Israel.   Josephus estimated the Jewish population at nearly 7 million in 70 CE.  This was reduced to about 3 million by 135 CE.

Throughout the next 1900 years, there was also always a Jewish presence in Israel – despite persecutions and expulsions and foreign conquerors – none of whom ever established an independent state in Israel.  The Mishnah (200 CE) and Jerusalem Talmud were compiled (200 to 500 CE) in Israel.  In 614, there was another Jewish revolt, which enabled Jews to rule Jerusalem for 3 years – well before the various Moslem invasions began in 632.  The Moslems ruled from afar – from Cairo, or Turkey or Damascus or Baghdad – and never established an independent sovereign kingdom or state in Israel/Palestina.   Jews helped Arabs defend Jerusalem from the Crusaders.  The famous Jewish poet Yehuda Halevi, died in Jerusalem in 1141.  The famous Rambam Nachmanides died in Israel in 1270.

Israel continued to be central to Jews in the diaspora throughout all this time too.   Jews pray towards Jerusalem every day and Shabbat – while Muslims pray towards Mecca.  Jerusalem is part of Jewish wedding ceremonies, and Jewish comfort to mourners.  Jerusalem is mentioned almost 700 times in the Bible – and is never mentioned in the Koran. 

By the late 1700s to mid-1800s, most of Israel was a wasteland, as a result of repeated conquests, plunder and Bedouin raids.  Mark Twain and others wrote about the desolation.  In 1785, the total population of Palestine was about 50,000 to 100,000.

Numerous plans were suggested by writers, politicians including Napolean and Egyptian ruler Mehmet Ali, and others for large-scale Jewish restoration to Palestine in the 150 years prior to Israel’s rebirth – and no one ever suggested that the Holy Land should not be returned to the Jews because it belonged to someone else.

Napolean launched a campaign in 1799 to conquer Palestine, with a promise to restore it to the Jews.   Mehmet Ali, who ruled Palestine from Egypt from 1831-1840, agreed to Moses Montefiore’s plan for large-scale Jewish regeneration in Palestine – but Turkey regained control in the interim.   The Turks were also interested in Jewish restoration plans.  

Jews were the majority group in Jerusalem from the 1840s onwards.  

Jewish immigration and restoration of the land also brought Arabs into the area, for the jobs created by Jewish development.  The Arabs emigrated into Israel from Egypt, North Africa, Algeria, Syria, etc.; the Arabs are not an “indigenous” people to Judea/Samaria/eastern Jerusalem.  Common “Palestinian” Arab names such as Mughrabi and al Masri make it obvious that they hailed from outside Israel. 

During World War I, the Jewish legion and Jewish intelligence operations played a major role in helping Britain free Palestine from Turkish rule – while the Arab population did virtually nothing.  T.E. Lawrence wrote that “there is no national feeling” among the Arabs.

In 1919, Emir Faisal, who was briefly king of Syria, and then became king of Iraq, and Chaim Weitzman signed a treaty outlining friendly relations between Syria and a Jewish Palestine that extended to the Litani River (now part of Lebanon), the territory east of the Jordan, and part of the Sinai. 

In 1917, the Balfour declaration promised the Jewish people a homeland in Palestine – which then also included the area that is now Jordan.  This was enshrined in the legally binding San Remo agreements.  Britain used its promise to the Jewish people to obtain the British mandate over Palestine.  League of Nations documents made the mandate a sacred trust on behalf of the Jewish people.  However, in 1920 to 1923, the British carved out 78% of the Palestine mandate and gave it to Jordan – an immense betrayal of the Jewish people’s rights.  (A betrayal which the recent EU resolution seeks to make even worse.)

In November 1947 the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations committee’s recommendation to divide the Land of Israel west of the Jordan river into two states: one Arab and one Jewish.   But this plan was never implemented, and therefore was not binding under international law, because the Arab states all rejected the 1947 “partition plan” and instead started a war to prevent the plan’s implementation and destroy the fledgling Jewish state.

When Israel declared its statehood in 1948, the UN and numerous nations recognized Israel.  Seven Arab nations responded by invading the Jewish State, with the declared intention of murdering all the Jews there.

After the 1948-1949 war, Egypt occupied Gaza, and Jordan illegally occupied Judea/Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.  The Jews living in these areas were killed or were expelled.  Jordan destroyed 58 synagogues in eastern Jerusalem, and used the tombstones from the 3,000-year-old Jewish Mount of Olives cemetery to line latrines and pave roads.   Jordan denied Jews access to the holiest Jewish religious sites, including the Kotel (Western wall of the Temple) – thereby violating Article VIII of the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement, which called for “free access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives.”

The Arab states also demanded that the armistice agreements signed in 1949 needed to state that the cease-fire line (the Armistice Demarcation Lines, also referred to as the “1949 Armistice lines” or “green line”) should not be construed in any way as a political or territorial border.  In accordance with the Arab states’ demand, the armistice agreements reiterated that the armistice lines were not permanent boundary lines:  The parties recognized that the armistice agreement “shall not in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party” (Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement (April 3, 1949), Article II, para. 2); and the parties agreed that the Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in the agreement were “without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.” (Id., Article VI, para. 9)

Thus the 1949 Armistice lines are not and have never been an internationally recognized border – and do not limit Israel’s rights.   The recent EU resolution, and expected PA UN resolution thus have no legal grounds to transform the 1949 Armistice lines into a border.  There is no legal basis for claiming that Jewish communities beyond the 1949 Armistice lines are “illegal.” 

Post-1949 developments further reveal the legal absurdity of the EU’s resolution.

In April 1950, Jordan illegally occupied and annexed Judea/Samaria (the “West Bank”).  Jordan’s annexation was not accepted on any legal basis, and virtually all countries (including most Arab states) refused to recognize Jordan’s illegal annexation.   Jordan continued its illegal occupation of Judea/Samaria and eastern Jerusalem from 1949-1967, in defiance of the UN Security Council and international agreements.  

The Palestinian Arabs made no claim to Judea/Samaria/eastern Jerusalem during the 19 years of Jordan’s illegal occupation of these areas.  In fact, the original Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Charter, written in 1964, specifically disclaimed PLO (the declared representative of the “Palestinian” Arab people)’s sovereignty rights to Judea/Samaria/eastern Jerusalem, stating:  “This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area.”  (Article 24.)   

In 1967, Israel pleaded with Jordan to remain out of the 1967 war.  Jordan ignored Israel’s entreaties, and began the shelling of western Jerusalem.  In the defensive war, Israel reunited Jerusalem and recaptured Judea/Samaria.  It was only after Israel captured these areas in a defensive war that the PLO demanded that Judea/Samaria and eastern Jerusalem should be theirs.

And Israel’s lawful self-defense in and of itself gives Israel the better claim.

In 1988, Jordan renounced any claim to Judea/Samaria, and declared that it no longer considered itself as having any status over that area.  On July 31, 1988, Jordan’s King Hussein announced Jordan’s full legal and administrative disengagement from the West Bank.

The Levy Commission Report on the Legal Status of Building in Judea and Samaria (cleaned up translation of key sections is here) noted that: 

“Thus the original legal status of the territory was restored, namely, a territory designated as a national home for the Jewish people, who had a “right of possession” to it during Jordanian rule while they were absent from the territory for several years due to a war imposed on them, and have now returned to it.”  

The Levy Commission Report also concluded, after careful legal analysis that: “Israel has had every right to claim sovereignty over these territories, as maintained by all Israeli governments” and “that from the perspective of international law, the establishment of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is not illegal.”

Despite Israel’s right to claim sovereignty over the areas beyond the 1949 Armistice lines, Jewish communities comprise only 2% of Judea/Samaria.  Moreover, Israel gave away control of all of Gaza and 42 percent of Judea/Samaria, where the Palestinian Arabs have their own parliament, schools, universities, TV and radio stations, newspapers and police force running all aspects of their lives except some Israeli security control necessitated by continuing Palestinian Arab terrorism.  Jewish communities over the 1949 Armistice lines are clearly not the obstacle to peace; the obstacle to peace is the PA’s refusal to accept any state (including the over-generous offers to the Arabs in 1937, 1947, 2000, 2008 and 2015) that would require them to give up their ambition of destroying all of Israel. 

In addition, the April 14, 2004 letter from former U.S. President George Bush to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon confirmed that Jewish communities over the 1949 Armistice lines would remain in Israel in any peace agreement.  President Bush’s letter stated:

“As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338.  In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”

President Bush’s letter thus further confirms that Israeli Jewish communities beyond the 1949 Armistice lines are legal.    Moreover, in the Wall Street Journal, Elliott Abrams (who handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009) demonstrated that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim that “there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements” between President Bush and PM Sharon was incorrect.

Accordingly, ZOA urges the Obama administration to retract its support for the EU resolution, and to oppose any similar PA-instigated resolution at the UN.

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