It is impossible not to notice the similarity between the Ulpana situation and the Sharon-led Expulsion from Gush Katif. In both cases a prime minister elected by the Right, whose ideology certainly does not endorse destruction in Israel’s heartland, veers sharply left and compels his ministers and coalition to support a Peace Now move – a move completely against their will.
Since the 1967 Six-Day War, when we were miraculously forced to liberate Israel’s heartland and Jerusalem, we have insisted on rejecting the gift of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Instead, we have created a time bomb, which has rolled on from generation to generation. We cannot expect the current Likud leaders to demonstrate more fortitude and determination than the leaders at the peak of Israel’s legitimacy, immediately after the amazing 1967 victory. Since 1967, when an Israeli leader (whoever he is) is faced with a strategic decision that entails choosing between maintaining the status quo or annexing Judea and Samaria, the outcome is a given.
In truth, we cannot maintain civilian life on a legal foundation of military occupation forever. Peace Now is doing us a great favor by forcing us to decide once and for all whether the Land of Israel belongs to us.
When Israel was established in 1948, the Temporary State Council passed the Legal Jurisdiction and Authority Act. According to this act, Israeli law applies to all the territory in our hands. In the War of Independence, Israel conquered quite a bit of territory beyond what the UN had designated for the fledgling state in the Partition Plan. At the war’s end, Israel applied its law until the very last centimeter, extending its sovereignty over all the territory in its hands. All of those places became part and parcel of the State of Israel: Nahariya, Eilat, Nazareth, Beersheba, and much more.
After the liberation of Judea and Samaria in 1967, Israel did not need to pass a new law. All that was necessary was to repeat what it had done in 1948. Nobody forced Moshe Dayan to block the Arab refugees trying to escape from Israel at the Jordan River and to send them back to Shechem and Qalqilyah with bouquets of flowers. And nobody forced him to give the Arab wakf the keys to the Temple Mount.
But why should we denigrate Dayan? The consciousness of the entire Israeli leadership – including the religious leadership – was not prepared to deal with the identity challenge that suddenly burst into its reality, the land of the forefathers that fell into its lap.
The chance for peace with the Arabs vanished as soon as they realized that they really hadn’t lost the war at all and that Israel saw the territory that it had conquered as nothing more than a bargaining chip. Three months after the war, the Khartoum Council gathered and the Arab countries announced three decisions: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.
Israel could not swallow the territories it had liberated, but it also couldn’t purge itself of them. On one hand, there was no one to give them to because nobody was willing to take them. On the other hand, the Zionist spirit that still coursed through the veins of the Labor Party preferred to apply the 1948 rules to 1967. The orphans of Gush Etzion and the Jewish community of Hebron wanted to return home. Their demands were very much a part of the Israeli discourse.
This is the basic outline that explains how the settlements in Judea and Samaria were created. For all practical purposes, Israel declared to the world that this is not our land but rather it is occupied territory. It explained settlements as security needs. That type of legal foundation can hold up for 3-4 years – not 40. The best PR professionals in the world cannot explain the justice of our settlements in Judea and Samaria when our conduct shows that we see ourselves as foreign conquerors settling our citizens in a land that is not ours.
Whoever fantasizes about an Israeli retreat from Judea and Samaria, with or without a partner, already has the precedent of the Expulsion from Gush Katif and the subsequent missiles raining on Beersheba and Ashkelon. It seems that we will not be able to change the Creator’s decision since the miraculous Six-Day War that this land will remain ours – despite ourselves.