Wall adjacent to the Kalandiya refugee camp. Photo by: Ksenia Svetlova

Excuse me for asking

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Gershon Baskin thinks that the exact location of the border has to be determined in negotiations with the Palestinians, but first there must be a decision, by the government of Israel, that there must be a border.

Is it me who simply doesn’t understand, or is it Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

The questions are really quite simple. How can Israel continue to be the democratic nationstate of the Jewish people while it continues to control, with no end in sight, millions of people who define themselves Palestinians, are not Jewish and don’t want to be Jewish, who don’t enjoy full and equal rights under Israeli control and who today number around 50 percent of all the people living between the River and the Sea? How does it make sense to continue building in areas of Judea and Samaria where such construction means that Israel intends to remain there forever?

If Israel intends to remain in all or most of Judea and Samaria and Palestinians refuse to agree to live without basic human and political rights, will Israel grant those millions of Palestinians citizenship? I don’t think that is the intention of Netanyahu or of the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews.

I want to be clear: I have no problem with Israel claiming Jews have rights to all of the Land of Israel. But we have to be equally clear that the Palestinians have rights to all of the Land of Palestine – the same geographic territory. The argument of who has more rights is futile and no international court in the world would give the case standing if either the Jews and the Palestinians petitioned for full and absolute rights, negating the claims of the other side. If Netanyahu or Education Minister Naftali Bennett want to bring the deed to the Land of Israel from God, then I suggest that they go and have their meeting with God and bring back the certificate of ownership with indisputable proof that would be accepted by all. The Torah is a very fine deed – but quite questionable as a legal document in a court of law in the 21st century.

WHILE ISRAEL makes a claim to all of the land between the River and the Sea, and some Jews go even beyond that, when claims hit the reality of millions of Palestinians and when Israel has decided that it wants to be the democratic nation state of the Jewish people, something has to give. Either Israel decides that it is either not democratic or not a Jewish nation-state, or Israel has to finally decide to place a border between Israel and Palestine (west of the Jordan River).

The exact location of the border has to be determined in negotiations with the Palestinians, but first there must be a decision, by the government of Israel, that there must be a border.

The case of Amona which now reignites the arguments over settlements is focused on the issue over rights to build on privately owned land. This is the smoke screen clouding the real issues. The first issue is the absolute necessity to create a border, but it is also the issue that building homes and communities for Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria is illegal by international law.

Yes there are a handful of brilliant international lawyers, not all of them Jews, who don’t agree with this claim, but the vast majority of international lawyers and international law opinion has determined that Israeli settlement building is illegal.

The argument that Israel was attacked in 1967 from Jordan, which it was, and that Israel was defending itself when it conquered east Jerusalem and the West Bank, which is true, doesn’t change the status of that area as “belligerently occupied territory.” It also doesn’t change the position of international law that there was no legal sovereign in east Jerusalem and the West Bank prior to June 5, 1967. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan did illegally annex the West Bank and east Jerusalem, but Jordan granted its Palestinians Jordanian citizenship. Granting the Palestinians Jordanian citizenship did not legalize the annexation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem to Jordan. The absence of a legal sovereign prior to 1967 does not make Israel the legal sovereign, nor has Israel claimed sovereignty over the West Bank, and Israel’s claimed sovereignty in east Jerusalem is not recognized by even one nation in the world.

Facts have been made into concrete realities that would be almost impossible to completely remove. The clock cannot be turned back. Israel can claim a right to all of Judea, Samaria and west of the Green Line, and even annex the territory, but if it does not grant full citizenship to all of the Palestinians there it will not be able hold on to all of it. And if Israel does grant citizenship to all of those Palestinians it can no longer be the nation-state of the Jewish people. It is that simple.

If someone has an idea of how Israel can keep it all and remain the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people, please explain that to me. I simply don’t get it.

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin is one of the most recognizable names in the Middle East Peace process. His dedication to creating a culture of peace and environmental awareness, coupled with his impeccable integrity, has earned him the trust of the leaders of all sides of the century old conflict. Few people have such far-reaching and positive impacts on promoting peace, security, prosperity and bi-national relationships.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.
Gershon Baskin

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