There are those who, thinking they are "pro-Israel" -- and therefore apparently immune to criticism from others who are "pro-Israel" -- wish that the Levy Report had never been written, and now wish that it would be buried, covered up with sand. Their reasoning seems to be that in explaining the legal history the authors of the Levy Report have made too good a case for Israel. That legal, moral, and historic claim includes the San Remo agreement and the clear intent of those who created the Mandates system for the League of Nations. One of those mandates was the Mandate for Palestine -- set up for the exclusive purpose of establishing the Jewish National Home (to metamorphose, when the time was right, into the Jewish State), just as other Mandates were set up for other purposes, to meet Arab and Kurdish and, in the case of Lebanon, impliedly a Christian-dominated realm and refuge as well, in the territories that formerly were part of the Ottoman Empire, but at the end of World War I, when that empire crumbled, were left in limbo. The only problem with the Levy Report is that it ought to have appeared not in 2012, but in 1967, after the Six-Day War, and it ought to have accompanied the swift and unapologetic annexation of "the West Bank" and a declaration by the Israelis that they were now taking the territory that was theirs by right, as the Mandates Commission and Professor Rappard (outraged when the British at the Cairo Conference in 1921 simply cut off all of historic Palestine east of the Jordan, and handed it over to a hastily-created "Emirate of Transjordan" which came into existence only in order to soothe the Hashemite Abdullah, who was jealous of his younger brother Feisal being given the throne of newly-created Iraq, and was making threatening feints in the direction of French-held Syria) would certainly agree.
Some of those who wish the Levy Report had never appeared apparently think Israel has done well by refusing to make publicly its overwhelming legal and moral case. Ever since the Six-Day War, successive Israeli governments have been supine and seemingly unable to recognize the vast propaganda campaign that was mounted against the Jewish state. Israelis themselves started to talk, and they still do, about "the Palestinian people" instead of, at every opportunity, holding up for inspection and ridicule that notion, and at the very least, taking care always to use the word "Palestinian" adjectivally, as in "Palestinian Arabs." Even today, the Israelis could make a point of doing so, and so could those who wish them well. What's preventing them from opposing, instead of parroting, the carefully-constructed language of the enemy who wishes them nothing but evil?
Here is an article by Jonathan Tobin. While it takes the right side, it contains statements that, if they are not typos, are examples of the very thing that should always be avoided. At the end of the article, I present two examples.
As I wrote last week, the release of a report establishing the legality of Israel’s presence in the West Bank issued by a panel of Israeli experts chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy has been widely condemned. The attacks on Levy’s report have come from both those who support the Palestinians as well as Israelis and friends of Israel who oppose the settlement movement. Among the most prominent examples of the latter came in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu organized by the Israel Policy Forum, a liberal group that came into existence to support the Oslo peace process and which has been eclipsed in recent years by the failure of the polices they promoted. The IPF letter takes the position that, if adopted by the government, the Levy report dooms the two-state solution to the conflict and “will strengthen those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”
While the concerns expressed in this letter are real, those who signed are mistaken not only about the impact of Levy’s report but also about how to build international support for Israel and the hope of peace. What the signers don’t understand is that it is the opposite tack — Israel’s abandonment of a position that would uphold its rights — that has done the most to convince the world the Jewish state is in the wrong and strengthened the resolve of the Palestinians to never accede to a compromise on territory and two states. While one document cannot undo the damage done by Oslo and 19 years of failed peace processing, the Levy report can at least begin to remind the world the Israeli-Arab conflict is not one of balancing Palestinian rights and Israeli security but the rights of two nations.[is Tobin here accepting the idea of "two nations" -- i.e., two "peoples" -- that is, accepting the heart of the Arab proaganda war against Israel, that rests firmly on the construct of this "Palestinian people"? And doesn't the Levy report remind the world of the very opposite, not that there are "two nations" -- the Jews and the "Palestinians" but, rather, the Jews and the Arabs, and the Arabs already possess 22 sovereign states, more than a thousand times the size of tiny Israel, with vast and unmerited wealth from an accident of geology? Why does Tobin here apparently agree that the issue is between "two nations" with one of those nations apparently being these "Palestinians" when he should be saying -- yes, it's a war, but not between two nations. It's a war between the Arab Muslims (and other Muslims, more distant but those who take Islam seriously, and do not have their own reasons for despising the Arabs - as the Iranians and Turks have in the past shown they do, and as a consequence made shaky informal alliances with Israel when their interests coincided) and the Infidel nation-state of Israel.
The Levy Report provides, in detail -- with many legal scholars, of the level of Julius Stone and Eugene Rostow, being quoted -- the brief for Israel. That state, the report maintains, correctly and unapologetically, has a right to hold onto every inch of the territory it took possession of in the Six-Day War. By that war no new legal claim was created, for that existed long before the Six-Day War. What changed was that now Israel could enforce its claim. The Sinai, not part of Mandatory Palestine, was different. In Gaza, which was assigned to Mandatory Palestine but seized and held by the Egyptians in the 1948-49 war, Israelis have simply decided the whole place is not critical, as are those parts of Judea and Samaria renamed the "West Bank," to Israel's survival. I would have thought that Tobin would say that what is at stake is what degree of autonomy can be given to the local Arabs, consonant with Israel's security needs. That's it, and that is exactly what Tobin seems to dismiss when he writes: "the Levy report can at least begin to remind the world the Israeli-Arab conflict is not one of balancing Palestinian rights and Israeli security but the rights of two nations." That sentence has it backwards, and the words chosen are also wrong. Here is how it ought to go: "The Levy report can at least begin to remind the world that the Jihad against Israel is not one about "the rights of two nations" but, rather, about how much autonomy the local Arabs can be given that would be consonant with Israeli security."
One of the letter’s most prominent signers, Shalem Center senior vice president (and COMMENTARY contributor) Rabbi Daniel Gordis, conceded in his op-ed published yesterday in Ha’aretz in which he explained his participation in the IPF letter, that its purpose was not to dispute Levy’s legal position. Indeed, it would have difficulty doing so from a Zionist frame of reference, as the rights of Jews to live and build in the West Bank was enshrined in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine which is the last internationally recognized sovereign in the area. Levy’s point is not that the West Bank only belongs to Israel, but that it is disputed territory to which both the Jewish state and the Palestinians may assert a claim. Those claims can only be resolved by negotiations that could end the conflict with a territorial compromise.
But Gordis and his colleagues believe the mere assertion of Jewish rights in the West Bank, even if it is accompanied as it has been by an offer to negotiate peace and territorial compromise, will never be understood by the world. They believe it will signal Israel’s unwillingness to ever make peace and doom the Jewish state not just to unending conflict but also to the problems that will arise from the presence of a large Arab population under its control. These worries are not without basis. Israel is assailed by the world for its perceived unwillingness to make peace, even though the history of the post-Oslo era has shown that the land for peace formula it embraced brought it neither peace nor security.
But what Gordis and the other 40 signers of the IPF letter miss is that by consciously downplaying its legal rights in the dispute, Israel has unwittingly strengthened the hand of those who oppose its existence, be it inside or outside the green line. By ceasing to speak of the justice of Israel’s case, the so-called “peace camp” played into the hands of those who think Jews have no more right to live in Tel Aviv than in Jerusalem or the most remote hilltop West Bank settlement.
Far from encouraging the Palestinians [Palestinian Arabs] to abandon their dreams of a “right of return” and the eradication of Zionism, the more Israel and its friends treat the West Bank and even Jerusalem as stolen territory, the less likely it is that the Palestinians will ever accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders will be drawn.
Indeed, if the Levy report has any impact on the Palestinians,[Palestinian Arabs] it is a reminder to them that their hopes of achieving the eviction of every Jew from the West Bank as well as from the portions of Jerusalem that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 are dead. If they wish to have a Palestinian [Palestinian Arab] state in the West Bank — something they were offered by Israel but refused in 2000, 2001 and 2008 — they must return to negotiations instead of sitting back and waiting for the Obama administration or the Europeans to pressure Israel into a unilateral withdrawal such as the disastrous 2005 retreat from Gaza.
Even the Obama administration has conceded that Israel will retain many of the settlements in a theoretical peace deal that will include territorial swaps. How can Israel hope to bargain for such an outcome if it is unwilling to state that Jews have every right to live in these towns and villages as well as in Jerusalem? [where is the discussion of Islam, and the fact that any further yielding of control over territory makes peace less likely to hold, even if it brings the ephemeral and meretricious consolation of a "peace treaty"?]
The assertion of Jewish rights is not incompatible with peace talks or even the surrender of much of the West Bank as part of a genuine peace accord. [here Tobin concedes too much -- why does he use, for example, the phrase "genuine peace accord"? Does he think, that in Islam, it is permissible to make a permanent peace with non-Muslims? Has he taken in, fully, what Islam inculates? What the Treaty of Hudaibiyya stands for? That is not facultative, that is a sine qua non for discussing Israel and the without-end Jihad against it, and to understand that whenever the word "peace" is used -- is in "land for peace" -- without writing it, correctly, as "peace treaty," one is accepting and promoting Arab propaganda designed to make us continue in our ignorance of Islam, and the goals, perfectly apparent to other Arabs and Muslims, of those who have manufactured the "Palestinian people" -- "Arabs and Kurds," "Arabs and Berbers," but all of a sudden, the local Arabs who are the shock troops of the Jihad against Israel have become "the Palestinian people." It's absurd.] It is hard to imagine such talks succeeding under any circumstances in the absence of a sea change in the political culture of the Palestinians that would enable them to live with a Jewish state.[and why does Tobin here not write, as he should have: "in the absence of a sea change in the political culture of the Palestinian Arabs, and a change -- impossible of course -- in the texts and tenets and attitudes and atmospherics of Islam. It can't happen. So instead of confusing a "peace treaty" which because of Islam can only be a "truce treaty" with the Infidels, those who wish for an absence of open war should do everything they can to make sure that Israel is not only much stronger than its enemies, militarily (morally, it always was and will be) but that they understand fully how overwhelming that power is. And for that to happen, Israel has to hold onto the territory between Qalqilya and the river Jordan, territory to which it is fully entitled by the League of Nations, and what's more, a right that has been amply reinforced by the numerous wars forced on Israel by its Arab neighbors beginning with that which tried to snuff out the life of the Jewish state at its birth. Not a treaty, but deterrence, is what keeps the peace between Israel and its enemies, who will continue to wage Jihad, but if Israel holds on, there are other forces at work that will lead, that are leading, to a military weakening of its immediate neighbors, and to an economic weakening of those who have battened on the oil and gas revenues. And there are ways to divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam which not only Israel, but the entire menaced West will have to start to promote, instead of trying to save Muslims from the consequences -- political, economic, social, intellectual and moral -- of Islam itself.] But they have no hope of succeeding so long as the Palestinians think Israel can be made to give up all of the land without peace. Nor will the international community ever support an Israel they believe has “stolen” Palestinian land.
A generation of abdication of Jewish rights to the West Bank has not softened the hearts of the world or the Palestinians. If Israel is ever to negotiate a peace that will bring security, it must start by saying that it comes to the table not as a thief but as a party whose legal rights must be respected.