February 13, 2018
News Press Release

ZOA to Pres. Trump: Your Record on Israel is Great, But “Settlements” and Israel are Not What Complicates Making Peace

Jewish Settlement Givat Zeev, cc: Baz Ratner/Reuters

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein released the following statement, in response to President Donald Trump’s interview by Israel Hayom Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth (“Trump to Israel Hayom: The Palestinians are Not Looking to Make Peace,” Boaz Bismuth, Israel Hayom, Feb. 11, 2018.)

The Zionist Organization of America has often praised President Trump’s policies, and was pleased with quite a few of the president’s interview responses during his recent Israel Hayom interview, including the president’s discussion about fulfilling his campaign pledge to recognize Israel’s capital Jerusalem after past administrations failed to abide by similar promises to take this important, long overdue step; the president’s strong stance against the Iran deal – which the president aptly referred to as “catastrophic”; and President Trump’s statement recognizing the truth that the “Palestinians are not looking to make peace.” 

However, ZOA is concerned that the president wrongly stated during his Israel Hayom interview that he is “not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace”; and that “The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements”; and that “I think both sides will have to make hard compromises to reach a peace agreement.”   

The real obstacle and “complication” to making peace is and has always been Palestinian-Arab wars and terror against innocent Jews, Palestinian-Arab intransigence, and Palestistinian-Arab determination to eradicate Israel and murder Jews. 

Israel has proven time and again her willingness to make peace.  To imply otherwise is to deny history.  Israel has made sacrifice after sacrifice, concession after concession – including giving away large swaths of historic Jewish land in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) and all of Gaza to Palestinian Arabs – only to be met with Palestinian Arab intransigence, refusal to negotiate, relentless incitement to violence, and unremitting terror and rocket attacks on innocent Israelis.

The real obstacle and “complication” to making peace is and has always been Palestinian-Arab wars and terror against innocent Jews, Palestinian-Arab intransigence, and Palestistinian-Arab determination to eradicate Israel and murder Jews. 

Then-candidate Trump acknowledged Israel’s “unthinkable sacrifices” for peace, saying: “Israel has given a lot, . . . and a lot of people don’t know that.  I think the public relations, for Israel hasn’t been so great, because Israel’s given a lot, but hasn’t been given a lot of credit for what they’ve given. . . . In fact, some things have been given which were unthinkable, and a lot of turmoil it caused in Israel. Israel has not been given the credit they deserve for what they’ve done.”  (See After ZOA Complaint, Trump Commendably Acknowledged Israel Has Made Unthinkable Sacrifices for Peace,” Dec. 7, 2015.) 

We hope to hear similar acknowledgements soon again.

It is simply wrong for the president to say that “settlements” complicate and have always complicated peace.  If settlements “always complicated peace,” then why was there was no peace from 1948-1967, when no “settlements” existed?  Why did Arab Fedayeen terrorists attack Israel throughout the 1950s?  Why did Jordan attack Israel in 1967, while Judea/Samaria was already (illegally) occupied by Jordan?

The “settlements” are Jewish towns, cities and communities on the historic Jewish lands of Judea and Samaria.  Judea/Samaria are within the area designated for “close settlement by Jews on the land” and the Jewish homeland under international law – including under the Mandate for Palestine (whose rights to the Jewish people were continued by UN Charter Article 80), the San Remo resolution, and the Anglo-American Convention of 1924 – which is a U.S. treaty obligation, ratified by the U.S. Senate and U.S. president in 1925. 

In other words, the U.S. is bound by international law to promote Jewish settlement in the very same areas that the president wrongly called a “complication” to peace.

Jewish “settlements” moreover only comprise approximately 2% of Judea/Samaria – and have not grown outside of the bounds existing in 1993. There have been no new settlements built since Oslo began in 1993. 

Further, 98% of Palestinian Arabs live within the Palestinian Authority (PA), where they are ruled by their own PA government. 

Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria are essential for preserving peace.  Without a Jewish presence in Judea/Samaria, all of Israel – including Tel Aviv, other major cities and Israel’s airport, would be within easy rocket-firing range from the elevated hills of Judea/Samaria.  As President Lyndon Johnson stated on June 19, 1967, a “return to the situation as it was on June 4 [1967, when eastern Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria were illegally occupied by Jordan, and thus were in Arab hands] . . . is not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities.”

The necessity for the Jewish communities and Jewish presence in Judea/Samaria is especially vital now, with Iran, Russia and Hezbollah threatening Israel’s northern border, sending drones into Israel and shooting down an Israeli plane this past weekend.  Civilians from northern Israel may need to be evacuated to the safety of the Judean hills.   The Maccabees withdrew to, and based their operations in that same Judean terrain 2200 years ago.

In sum, Jewish communities – a/k/a settlements preserve peace; they are not a complication to peace.

We hope that the president will reverse his inaccurate comments, so as to not mar what has been his overall superb record on Israel.  The Zionist Organization of America has praised President Trump for many of the president’s actions regarding Israel and the Middle East.  (See ZOA Strongly Praises President Trump for Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital – Moving Embassy There,” Dec. 6, 2017; “ZOA Praises Trump Admin. Affirming Western Wall Remains in Israel,” Dec. 19, 2017; “ZOA Praises Pres. Trump’s UN Speech,” Sept. 20, 2018.)   

We know Israel has true friends in President Trump and VP Pence.