The Occupied Territories Bill
Sir, – In 1948, my grandparents, living in a small village on the northern edge of the Negev desert, were fighting for their lives. My mother, a young girl at that time, was evacuated under fire, together with the rest of the children of the village, to a safer place.
The threat from neighbouring Arab fighters, soon to be backed by the invading Egyptian army, could not have been more real. My grandparents’ village, established in the late 19th century, had already been destroyed and burned down by Palestinian rioters in 1929, and was rebuilt in 1930.
The existential threat experienced by Jews in what was soon to become the State of Israel was well founded. Following the adoption of the UN partition plan (181) on November 29th, 1947, which was accepted by the Jewish leadership, Arab and Palestinian leaders were calling for a war of extermination against the Jews to end the implementation of the UN resolution. The memories of Jews being slaughtered by the Nazis, as well as the alliance between the Palestinian leader Haj Amin Al Husseini and the monstrous Hitler were still fresh and vivid.
One per cent of the Jewish population in the country were lost in the War of Independence from 1947-49. Some 850,000 Jews from Arab countries became refugees during the period before, during and after the war, forced to flee their centuries-old homes. Most of them came to Israel. They were received by their brothers and sisters in the newly established and still fledgling Israel and became an integral part of it.
In contrast, Palestinians who fled the war, after being led to it by an extremist and uncompromising leadership, were confined by Arab states to refugee camps, where the responsibility for taking care of them was given over to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (the UNRWA), and then were turned into political pawns in the Arab fight against Israel.
From 1949 to 1967, the West Bank and Gaza, including all refugee camps west of the Jordan river, were controlled by Jordan and Egypt.
Not a single attempt was made to establish a Palestinian state throughout those years, other than the repeated efforts to annihilate Israel for the sake of one.
In 1967, after Israel was forced to fend off another Arab extermination attempt, it took control from Jordan of the historic Jewish heartland – Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), including the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
Since then, numerous attempts have been made to reach a solution to the contradicting aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians, both with strong attachment to that land.
Many plans were introduced, only to be dismissed by a rejectionist Palestinian leadership. Tragically, mainly for the Palestinians themselves, refusal of realistic compromises is a recurring theme with Palestinian leadership.
Examples include rejecting the attempts of the British Peel committee in 1937, the historic failure in rejecting the UN Partition Plan of 1947, the far-reaching proposal in 2000, and further proposals in 2008, among others.
The history of the Jewish-Arab, later the Israeli-Palestinian, conflict in that land is long, bloody and complicated, with strong emotions on both sides.
It takes a brave and creative leadership to understand reality, work for the benefit of its people and to reach a solution.
In order to positively contribute, external actors must be aware of the complexities, listen to both sides and look at the complete picture.
Demonising one of the sides, as does the extremist anti-Israel “Occupied Territories Bill”, is reckless and destructive. – Yours etc.
Ambassador of Israel,