Latest update: February 5th, 2014
WAYS OF PEACE
First, in order to remove any doubt, let us emphasize that we object vehemently to illegal actions or to violence against Israeli citizens. Our entire approach is founded on the traditional Jewish values of peace and justice, and we are far from those who call for a civil war. We’re not pacifists, and the right to self defense is rooted in our tradition, but violence among fellow Israelis is inherently unacceptable.
LEARNING FROM PAST MISTAKES
The optimists among those who are loyal to our nation and our land assume that there’s no chance for any agreement to come out of the current negotiations of the Netanyahu government with the Palestinians.
Even if it turns out that they were right, nevertheless, a sane and responsible public must prepare for any possible contingency, including the possibility that an Israeli government will agree to retreat and uproot settlements. One of the most horrifying mistakes in 2005 was people’s denial of the inevitable until the very last moment, saying: “It will never happen.” This delusional approach prevented real preparation to stop the deportation.
We must assume that the Israeli government will, indeed, pursue the dismantling of settlements at some point. We must embrace the Jewish approach that “One should not rely on a miracle.” Ariel Sharon uprooted settlements only because he could. Therefore, any plan to prevent another expulsion must make any such attempt impossible to carry out.
In 2005, we discovered that democratic protests and political schemes have no effect on the Israeli establishment. Articles in the press and appeals to the courts met with a solid wall of hostility and alienation. Even supposing that the approach of “Unity and Love” would change a little bit the popular view in favor of the settlements, the Israeli authorities will still not hesitate to act directly and openly against the will of the people. These facts have been proven countless times.
It’s time to learn from the errors of the past and think outside the box.
It’s simple: every resident of Judea and Samaria must decide now, today, whether he or she are willing to lose their property come the expulsion, or protect it wisely.
Our recommendation to those who are afraid of staying in their homes after Israel retreats: sell your home quickly, as long as you can still get some value for it. See what happened to the residents deported from Katif and northern Samaria only to remain impoverished refugees in their own country. Don’t wait for the last moment: take whatever you can now and run!
But those who are unafraid, and believe in their rights according to the Torah, the laws of the land and international law, must declare now: “We’re staying.”
At which point anyone in their right mind would ask: how can we stay? They’ll bring over soldiers and policemen to evacuate the settlements! Are you recommending violent resistance?
Our answer is: absolutely not! In our view, the melodramatic scenes of “settlement evacuations” were nothing more than a spectacle for the media. The IDF leadership was willing to send soldiers to Katif and northern Samaria because they knew the settlers would put on a little show, yell out a few extremist slogans, and be dragged by cops and soldiers, until, at last, they would go quietly where they were told.
If the IDF were to know that the settlers are serious this time around, it’s reasonable to expect that it would not accept this traumatic mission. But even if the IDF sends armed soldiers, they won’t be able to overcome determined residents barricaded inside their settlements. And even if the military commanders managed to convince some soldiers to use violence against civilians, we must then abandon each settlement and hide in the hills.
Now, as long as the IDF is camped out inside a settlement, they won’t be able to hand it over to foreign hands. And as soon as the army leaves, we will return to our settlement, even if it is in ruins. This has been done successfully in recent years at the outposts.
LET’S GET PRACTICAL
When a similar plan was offered at the time to certain leaders in Gush Katif, it faced two types of objection. The tougher one was ideological: the belief that the state is a sacred instrument on the way to our redemption.
We must answer simply: this very argument proves our point. If the state indeed carries out its redemptive role – it should be viewed as a sacred instrument; but when an Israeli administration acts against the values and the interests of the nation – it must be viewed as a stumbling block which carries the name Israel in vain.
The more honest concern was voiced near the end: how would we survive by ourselves, surrounded by the Arabs? These were more than just the obvious misgivings about security, but also practical, mundane concerns: where do we get water, electricity, food, fuel, jobs, budgets?
That is precisely the area we must deal with today, well ahead of the envisioned crisis – we must strive for practical independence.
Because, truth be told, the Israeli government doesn’t need to send any soldiers or police to evacuate anyone from his legally owned home. All it has to do is disconnect the water and the electricity, stop the budgets, fire all the municipal employees and take back the soldiers guarding the settlements. Most Israelis would give up and flee in response. But every single settlement that would start today to prepare for a time of emergency would be able to sustain a prolonged siege when the time of harsh decrees and expulsions arrives.
Water reservoirs, facilities to generate electricity, storage of food, clothing, medicine and any other essential supplies will endow the more determined communities with a longer breathing time. Incidentally, emergency storage could be helpful in other times of crisis, such as natural disasters, wars, and economic or technological collapse. To the best of our knowledge, organizing one’s community in preparation for an emergency is not against the law in Israel.
THAT’S IT? WE’RE SECEDING FROM ISRAEL?
Yes and no. Jews who remain in their homes in Eretz Israel are not seceding from the State of Israel. It’s more accurate to say that the state is leaving them, abandoning them in the hands of their enemies.
But those who remain on their land don’t have any requirement to give up their Israeli citizenship, nor their patriotic allegiance to Israel. Nevertheless, the moment the State of Israel were to officially give up its sovereignty over any portion of the Land of Israel, the local residents will immediately gain their natural right to self determination.
According to international law, the Jewish residents may declare themselves a sovereign state provided they meet the four conditions determined by the 1933 “Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States”: The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
Furthermore, the first sentence of article 3 states that “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.”
Examining these conditions, we can see that the first one is certainly fulfilled: the Jewish settlers are a permanent population. The second condition will be met as soon as the State of Israel announces officially that it gives up its claim of sovereignty in the area where a given settlement is located.
Of course, some will claim that Israel is transferring its sovereignty to the Palestinians, to which we should respond:
1. At the moment of Israel’s forfeiting of its sovereignty, there is no Palestinian state yet. At that moment, there is a political vacuum in the territory, and no existing state is a legal sovereign there.
2. Israel never annexed Judea and Samaria, so that, in reality, it does not possess a sovereignty which it may transfer.
The third requirement is crucial: those settlements that will declare their independence at the moment of withdrawal must be self governed. This self government may be almost identical to the existing local authorities in Judea and Samaria today, but they must disengage from the Israeli government ministries and their budgets and manage their municipalities independently.
At the same time, this could be an opportunity for localities to shape their self government according to Jewish law and not according to the foreign legal systems that prevail in the State of Israel.
Practically speaking, the self governing settlements would have to finance themselves from collecting taxes. In other words, as soon as the disengagement takes hold, the Israeli government will have no authority to collect taxes from the abandoned residents, so that they could transfer the unclaimed funds directly to their self governing body at home.
The fourth condition may be easier to deal with, because it describes a “capacity” to enter into relations with other states, rather than actually entering such relations. Nevertheless, it might be possible to seek out in advance states willing to sign an economic contract regarding a specific issue with a community planning to declare its independence, and that may suffice to show the capacity to forge relations.
Naturally, this entire analysis must be reviewed by legal experts. But it does appear that there’s the possibility of establishing a legal demand for Jewish sovereignty in the abandoned territories in Judea and Samaria, based on the Montevideo Convention, the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the 1920 San Remo Conference. (The latter favored the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, thus recognizing the right of the Jewish people to self determination in Eretz Israel.) Our claim is that no decision of the State of Israel to retreat changes the internationally recognized right of Jews to their homeland.
SO WE NEED A GOVERNMENT
As mentioned earlier, it’s possible that this negative political scenario will create a historic opportunity to shape the Jewish self rule according to Jewish law instead of the foreign legal norms used in Israel today.
From a Zionist point of view, there’s no doubt that the return of our nation to its homeland is not enough; rather a revival of our language and culture are required to wholly fulfill the vision of the prophets. Our national heritage is not merely a religion, but also comprises a complete value system that governs every facet of our national life, socially, economically, judicially and politically. In other words, our tradition is a full way of life with everything that this term implies.
Whoever examines our historic sources earnestly, will discover that ours is a highly enlightened and progressive system of government. Unfortunately, only few understand this, which is why there hasn’t so far been enough progress toward an Israeli constitution based on Jewish law. This topic is too long and detailed, but let us note a few principles:
1. The Jewish constitution is federal. Our nation was forged originally as the union of twelve tribes, each with its autonomous institutions of justice and government, a unique flag and even a separate military unit. On those periods in history when the nation of Israel was united, it also had central national institutions: King, Temple, Sanhedrin. But these did not replace the tribal autonomies, and the powers delegated to the central government (the king) were limited by law. Therefore, the cornerstone of the modern Jewish system of government must be the autonomous communities of Israeli citizens, united in a federation around a central national government whose authority will be limited to national and international affairs.
2. Valid Jewish governance is based on popular, dynamic representation. The Torah describes a system of public representation: “Leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties and leaders of tens.” Our sources show that the system of “Sarim” (Leaders) existed throughout our history, including during the empire of David and Shlomo. These leaders ran the life of the nation from the level of a small community (“The seven good men of the city”), through the tribal level (tribal princes), to the appointment of a national administration (King, Great Sanhedrin). Therefore, the modern Jewish government must include a fair representation of the members of autonomous communities at every level of government.
3. Today’s autonomous communities don’t have to be territorially based. In today’s reality, there’s no reason to predicate autonomous communities based on geographic areas, since we no longer have tribes residing on their allotted land. In fact, representation based strictly on geographic location could cause a migration of population groups into separate ethnic, cultural, religious or ideological ghettos, which will surely not strengthen our nation. Today’s autonomous communities should be voluntary and represent faithfully all the different sectors of Israeli society. The basis for this idea, however, does exist in our Torah: there was one tribe which was not entitled to a land of its own, and yet remained autonomous in every way – the tribe of Levy. Our halachic literature discusses additional forms of communities not based on geographic location. We have no doubt that this is the best model for today’s society.
According to the above three principles, the State of Israel should adopt an enlightened federal constitution providing complete freedom to individuals, families and communities. Indeed, we may view the very establishment of autonomous communities the next phase on the path to redemption: the realization of the Jewish vision of living freely in our land, both as individuals and as a national collective.
OUT OF HARSHNESS WILL COME FORTH SWEETNESS?
The settlers in Judea and Samaria today face an unprecedented challenge. On the one hand, they live under a tangible existential threat; on the other, they are best positioned, ideologically and spiritually, to lead the nation to the next phase of redemption. If they grasp the true meaning of the Jewish and Zionist vision, they can implement a Jewish constitution immediately, without delays or compromises. And so we must begin preparations at once.
Our first step is not a declaration of political independence in the areas of Judea and Samaria; rather it is the preparation of a material and political basis for a future declaration. Should, God forbid, the moment of expulsion arrive, we must be well prepared for swift action.
You might ask, how can we set an independent government before the state declares its retreat from the territory? The answer is that we should distinguish between autonomy and full sovereignty.
As long as the government of Israel is not ceding its sovereignty over some territories in Eretz Israel, we view ourselves as loyal citizens of the state. Yet, we have the right to organize as voluntary communities. This is a crucial principle of the liberal-democratic state: freedom of association. Just as no government may dictate to us how to conduct our community of synagogue members, so it has no right to intervene in the life of other communities we may choose to establish. And just as our synagogue does not constitute a threat to the sovereign rule of the state over the lot where said synagogue stands, so does our autonomous community not invalidate the sovereignty of the State of Israel there.
But a well organized community will send the Israeli government the message that it has neither the legal and moral authority, nor the practical capacity to hand over our settlements to the hands of foreigners.
And should the government, God forbid, ignore this message – we will declare a sovereign state in every area ceded by Israel, with a federal constitution based on Jewish law: UCI – The United Communities of Israel.
This federal union will also accept communities and citizens who do not live under the danger of expulsion, from the “blocks” of settlements in Judea and Samaria, as well as from communities established “inside the green line.”
This in turn may serve as the initial foundation of a new, widespread constitutional reform in Israel, and establish a broad base of popular support for action against the deportations.
This is a great challenge and a great opportunity to come closer to the redemption of Israel in our time.
About the Author: Ehud Tokatly and Yori Yanover have been collaborating on various artistic and journalistic projects since 1971.
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