The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized and taken issue with President Barack Obama’s use of the politicized formulation, ‘Palestinian land,’ when referring to the legally designated Jewish homeland in Judea/Samaria (the West Bank) in his address this week to the United Nations General Assembly. In his address, President Obama referred briefly to the issue of Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, saying, “surely, Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land” (‘Address by President Obama to the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly,’ September 20, 2016).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “While we welcome President Obama’s call for Palestinian Arabs to reject incitement to hatred and murder, we cannot but take issue with his use of the politicized term, ‘Palestinian lands.’
“This term prejudges the issue of sovereignty and borders and is not accordance with international law, which designates Judea/Samaria as unallocated territory, without a recognized sovereign.
“Moreover, the President’s use of this term is political in nature, as it automatically and unjustly designates the biblical, religious, and historical heartland of the Jewish people for millennia, before the Arab conquest of the region in the seventh century, as belonging to Palestinian Arabs.
“It is well-known that there are conflicting claims to the land, but it is also important to note that Israel has better claim in law than any other party.
“The territory of the West Bank was earmarked for Jewish settlement in 1920 at the San Remo Conference. This decision, enshrined in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine entrusted to Britain that shortly followed, has never been superseded by an internationally binding agreement. To the contrary, it was reaffirmed by Article 80 of the UN Charter.
“The Arab states rejected the 1947 UN General Assembly partition resolution that called for an Arab and a Jewish state to be established in the territory of the British Mandate. As a result, no agreement on statehood and borders was ever reached. Jordan, which illegally invaded and annexed the territory from 1948 to 1967, formally relinquished its claim to the territory in 1988.
“In the absence of a peace settlement giving Jewish lands to Palestinian Arabs, Judea/Samaria is land designated for Jewish settlement under international law, not the sovereign territory of another state that Israel ‘occupies.’
“As a result Israel is not ‘occupying and settling Palestinian lands’; Israel permits Israelis to live, and build homes and communities in this territory to which it has strong legal claim, having captured the territory from Jordan in 1967 in a war of self-defense.
“The Oslo agreements do not prohibit Israeli residence and construction in these territories; to the contrary, the Oslo agreements provide for Israeli and Palestinian building in zones under their respective controls. Oslo also lists this as a final status issue, to be negotiated by the parties themselves, and Israel is entitled to assert its right for its citizens to live and build in these territories until such time as a peace settlement is reached.
“It is not Israel that has rejected direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) without conditions. It is the PA which has refused, barring two meetings held in one week over six years ago, to negotiate at all with Israel in nearly eight years.
“Moreover, these Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria occupy less than 2% of the territory in question. This is not a case of Jewish communities crowding out Palestinian ones. In any future peace agreement worthy of the name in which a Palestinian state alongside Israel is genuinely peaceful, Jews should be able to live in a Palestinian state just as Palestinian Arabs live in Israel.”