NEW YORK, NY — President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has been taking heat from the Palestinian Authority (PA) for busting one of the great myths of the Middle East when he referred to Israel’s “alleged occupation” of so-called Palestinian territories.
Friedman was quoted saying the following during a Jerusalem Post interview:
“I think the American Jewish community tends to look at Israel somewhat myopically,” he said. The Right, he said, is portrayed as believing that peace is not possible. The Left, he explained, is portrayed as believing that only if the “alleged occupation” ended would Israel become a better society.
“Alleged occupation” seems to indicate that Friedman was questioning the claim that Israel’s communities in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem amount to “occupation.” The West Bank houses ancient Jewish cities like Hebron — home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Judaism’s second holiest site — Beit El, Shiloh, and other areas. Eastern Jerusalem includes the Jewish Quarter in the Old City as well as the Western Wall and Temple Mount, the holiest sites in Judaism.
The Guardian confirmed with the Jerusalem Post that the newspaper accurately quoted Friedman.
The British newspaper quoted a PA official as saying that “Mr. Friedman should realize that denying facts doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.” This is the same PA that denies archeological evidence of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and wildly claims that the Jewish Temples never existed.
Below, in no particular order, are six reasons Friedman was correct to question the Palestinian narrative of “occupation.”
1 – There has never been a Palestinian state for Israel to be “occupying” anything from.
The local Arabs didn’t even refer to themselves as “Palestinian” until many years after Israel’s creation in 1948. In fact, as the Jewish virtual library notes, “Leading up to Israel’s independence in 1948, it was common for the international press to label Jews, not Arabs, living in the mandate as Palestinians.”
Indeed, the Jerusalem Post, the newspaper to which Friedman granted the lengthy interview, was previously named the Palestine Post, since it was founded in 1932 under the British Mandate of Palestine. The newspaper changed its name to Jerusalem Post in 1950.
2 – The history of Jerusalem and the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria, is complicated and paints a larger picture that does not necessarily comport with “occupation.”
Jews maintained a historic presence in Jerusalem, including in the eastern sections, until they were forced to leave the Old City en masse in 1948. Jews also lived in West Bank cities like Hebron for thousands of years off and on. Hebron, for example, is home to the oldest Jewish community in the world. Jews lived there until April 1936, when British authorities evacuated the city’s Jews following mass murders by Arabs.
Jordan illegally occupied and annexed the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem from 1948 until Israel captured the lands in a defensive war in 1967. Jews then moved back to the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
The 1967 Six Day War was launched after Arab countries used the territories to stage attacks against the Jewish state. In 1988, Jordan officially renounced its claims to the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem and unilaterally recognized terrorist Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
3 – Israel considers the West Bank to be “disputed” and not “occupied” territory, with the status of the territories to be determined in future negotiations with the PA.
4 – A defining U.N. resolution leaves open the possibility of Israel maintaining control over some areas of the West Bank and Jerusalem, while international law may not consider Israel’s presence in those areas to be “occupation.”
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, a binding resolution pertaining to the West Bank, calls on Israel to withdraw under a future final-status solution “from territories occupied” as a result of the 1967 Six Day War. The resolution does not call for a withdrawal from “all territories,” a designation deliberately left out to ensure Israel’s ability to retain some territory for security purposes under a future deal.
The Jewish Virtual Library explains:
The Security Council did not say Israel must withdraw from “all the” territories occupied after the Six-Day War. This was quite deliberate. The Soviet delegate wanted the inclusion of those words and said that their exclusion meant “that part of these territories can remain in Israeli hands.” The Arab states pushed for the word “all” to be included, but this was rejected. They nevertheless asserted that they would read the resolution as if it included the word “all.” The British ambassador who drafted the approved resolution, Lord Caradon, declared after the vote: “It is only the resolution that will bind us, and we regard its wording as clear.”
Also, as the Committee for Accuracy for Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) pointed out in an email blast, international law does not make Israeli settlements illegal:
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which is relied upon by those who claim the settlements are illegal, does not apply in the case of the West Bank. This is because the West Bank was never under self-rule by a nation that was a party to the Convention, and therefore there is no “partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party,” as Article 2 of the Convention specifies. Moreover, even if it did apply, by its plain terms, it applies only to forcible transfers, and not to voluntary movement. Therefore, it can’t prohibit Jews from choosing to move to areas of great historical and religious significance to them.
5 – While complaining about “occupation,” the Palestinians have repeatedly refused successive offers of a state.
Those offers predate the existence of the so-called Palestinians. After Israel was founded in 1948, a military coalition of Arab nations immediately formed to wage war on the new Jewish state. Arab states waged the war after refusing to accept U.N. Resolution 181, which called for the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. The Jews immediately accepted the resolution, but the Arabs forthrightly rejected the plan, launching a war to destroy the Jewish state.
The Palestinian Authority has since rejected every Israeli offer of a state. State offers were made at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, the Annapolis Conference in 2007, and more offers were made in 2008. It was recently reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quietly made another such offer in 2014. In each of these cases, the PA refused generous Israeli offers of statehood and bolted negotiations without counter offers.
6 – The Bush administration committed to allowing some existing Jewish settlements to remain under a future Israeli-Palestinian deal.
In its article about Friedman’s “alleged occupation” comments, the Guardian relates:
The US state department itself also refers unambiguously to the “occupied territories” in its own reports, including in a human rights report earlier this year.
The newspaper ignores the U.S. commitment under the Bush administration, which was reportedly a key element in Israel’s decision to unilaterally evacuate the Gaza Strip in 2005.
In 2004, just prior to the Gaza evacuation, President Bush issued a declarative letter stating that it is unrealistic to expect that Israel will not retain some Jewish settlements in a final-status deal with the Palestinians.
The letter stated:
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.
Elliott Abrams, the Deputy National Security Adviser for Global Democracy Strategy during Bush’s second term, was instrumental in brokering understandings between the U.S. and Israel on settlements. In a June 2009 piece published by the Wall Street Journal, Abrams accused the Obama administration of “abandoning” those U.S.-Israel understandings by taking positions critical of all settlement activity.
There were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank … principles that would permit some continuing growth.
They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.
The prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation – the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank.
For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program: Aaron Klein Investigative Radio. Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.