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MK Bezalel Smotrich on the need to tell the world about Israel's right to its land

MK Bezalel Smotrich: I won’t be too long.


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MK Smotrich: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Minister, my friends the Members of the Knesset, I’d like to start – and I’ll respond to some of what you said here at the podium, Mr. Chairman. There are probably things which are so clear and so trivial, and yet we still must spell them out.

We must say them clearly for the simple reason that the world is attracted to the narrative and arguments of justice, morality, and values.

The world, rightfully so, is not prepared to hear excuses.

And the Israeli position the world has been hearing, unfortunately, in recent years, is a position rife with excuses – I said it here only yesterday – why we should [do certain things], but not now.

We say yes to a Palestinian State. The State of Israel is telling the world: it’s the desired solution, it’s the righteous and moral solution. This is how we should end the conflict that’s been going on here, on this plot of land for more than 100 years of Zionism.

The solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict will come through the partition of the land, only – not now, because there’s no partner; because the security situation doesn’t permit; because we haven’t yet finalized the security arrangements in the Jordan valley.

Which is why the world responds, rightfully so: if you’re saying that’s the direction to follow, then enough with the excuses.

To quote the famous adage: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

We should look at ourselves in the mirror and admit: we are fooling all the people all the time.

MK Smotrich: A long time, too long, Knesset Member [Yoav] Kisch. And the world isn’t buying it. Because security excuses – incidentally, as real as they may be; I don’t for one moment belittle the complex security situation of the State of Israel. But there are solutions to security problems. [To follow the 2-state solution] we can increase the aid package; we can supply Israel with a few more advanced F-35 planes, create air superiority for the air force, right?

MK Yoav Kisch, who is a pilot, is very familiar with this. We can be supplied with a few more “Arrow” systems, “Magic Wand,” “Iron Dome.” Solutions exist.

For years, years, and years the Arabs have been talking about justice, morality, history, and the Jews are talking about security. And it doesn’t hold up. That’s the main reason for the international political road to the slaughterhouse on which Israel finds itself.

We are the ones asking to be pressured – I’m telling you the truth – here in the Knesset. We can’t complain to the UN Security Council which adopted a resolution that any normal body would have adopted in light of the Israeli position that’s being heard for so many years in different international venues.

You say you want to establish a Palestinian state? So then why, for heaven’s sake, MK Ohana, are you building settlements and sticking your finger in the eye of the two-state vision?

Correct, logical, makes sense.

Which is why the time has come for Israel to return to a dialogue about rights, first and foremost, based on the Bible – which the world recognizes; on historic rights, my friends. International law – and I’ll get to legal rights in a minute – very much recognizes historic rights as legal rights. Let’s not forget that the vast majority of international law developed through customary rules; only later did the treaty rules and conventions come about.

MK Smotrich: Customary rules are based on history. No – anyone who views Judea and Samaria as territory under belligerent occupation, which is a legal term rooted in international law, denies the historic facts, certainly going back two thousand years.

And, as I said, international law recognizes these historical premises, and history affords legal rights, according to the rules of international law.

But why go back two thousand years? Let’s go back barely 100 years.

We talked about the Bible. We talked about the fact that a nation cannot be an occupier of its own land. But legally, the view that sees Judea and Samaria as territory under belligerent occupation, is structurally faulty. The most basic elements of the term Occupied Territory in international law do not exist in Judea and Samaria.

We did not obtain sovereignty over them from any entity that had held them legally. The Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria which lasted only 19 years had not been recognized, save for two countries.

In fact, the Arab League almost revoked Jordan’s membership because of the illegal occupation of the territories of Judea and Samaria by the King of Jordan.

We did not obtain sovereignty over them from any sovereign who had been recognized according the rules of international law, which is why the territory cannot be occupied.

Moreover, the most recent valid international documents awarded this entire area to a Jewish state, started with the British Mandate and the San Remo conference.

The UN partition plan that came later, which attempted to divide this territory, did not receive international legal confirmation because the other side rejected it.

Minister Bennett who spoke here only yesterday compared it to contract law, Offer and Acceptance: there was an offer, there was no acceptance, so there was no signed deal.

Therefore the legally binding international documents, which have received international legal effect, and which remain in effect to this day, designate the entire territory of the Land of Israel [to the Jews], at least the western part – you know that the Mandate for Palestine included the eastern part as well, which was later excised to benefit the Jordanian kingdom.

So, in terms of international law, Judea and Samaria are part of the territory that was intended for the Jewish nation–once again – according to international law – among other things because of our Biblical and historic reasons which are recognized by international law. What’s the meaning of “indigenous”? Native? These are historic rights legitimized and recognized by international law. Therefore, we are the native population of this country, which endows us with legal effect. And this country was awarded us according to international law in those decisions which are still in effect, and were never cancelled by the partition plan – which never took effect. And, of course, as I’ve said, it is impossible to conquer territory from an entity whose sovereignty there over it was never recognized by international law, and Jordan’s sovereignty never was.

When we return to that conversation, Mr. Chairman, we will, first of all, be in a completely different place; we’ll be in the practical stage of the discussion of what to do with the Hittites and the Jebusites – which I’ll touch on shortly; I won’t detain you for too long, God willing. But we’ll get to that conversation from an entirely different place, with moral justification, and with a legitimate stance. Today the debate is being conducted between two parties one of which is illegitimate: we are the robbers, the occupiers, the illegitimate entities, confronting a protected population made up of protected residents, entitled to recognition and protection by international law. It’s not a fair fight, and it’s a fight based mostly on a lie. Only when the State of Israel goes back to talking about its Biblical, historic and legal right, will we reach a place where no one can accuse us of being occupiers or war criminals – at most they could accuse us of being stupid. You are stupid. In a complex situation you, on the right, offer a binational solution. But stupidity is yet to become a criminal offense. It won’t being you to the Hague, and allegedly there will be no Security Council resolutions on stupidity.

Now I will also explain why this is the last thing that can be called stupid – and you’ve asked what we should do with the Arabs who live here. Look, [MK Yehiel ‘Hilik’ Bar], my dear friend: one of our problems, I think, is that we feel the need to reinvent the wheel every single time. We are clever, we are wise, we are opinionated. We’ve created here a renewed enterprise in 68 years by the grace of Heaven, with a whole lot of help from on high. But, as you know, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. We’re allowed to look back, to learn from history, to learn lessons, and occasionally to apply practices, or, rather, strategies that have worked well historically. To differ from the modern age, during which there was no one here before we showed up – you know as well as I do that [the claim about a significant Arab presence in Palestine in recent centuries] is a hoax. We’re celebrating Mark Twain’s 150th birthday, Mark Twain who wrote in his travel diary how he walked for three days in the Land of Israel, three days, without hearing a bird chirping. This land was desolate.

By the way, it says so in the Torah, in the portion about the blessing and the curse, the portion of Behukotai, in the curse segment, where the Torah describes what would happen if, God forbid, the people of Israel would sin and be expelled to the diaspora. The Torah predicts there: “Your enemies on the land will be living in desolation.” (Lev. 26:32). No one will be able to set root in the land while we would be absent, and history teaches us the same lesson. So many have tried to settle in the Land of Israel in our two millennia in the diaspora: the [Romans, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the] Mamluks, the Turks – and no one succeeded. All you had here was sand and swamps and malaria. The entire revival of the Land of Israel which once again is bearing her fruits for her children who “are at hand to come” (Ezekiel 36:8) has begun with the process of the Return to Zion. All the Arabs who lived here in 1948 had arrived following the first Jewish waves of immigration. It began with the Aliyah of the students of the Vilna Gaon (1808), then the first Aliya (1882). Suddenly the Land began to bloom again, and there was livelihood – so the Al-Masri (Arabic for “the Egyptians”) started coming in from Egypt, and others. Their names reveal from where each one of them hailed, along with and following the return of the first Jews who revived the wilderness in this land.

But when Biblical Joshua entered the land for the first time, leading the children of Israel into the Land of Israel, we did face – unlike in our modern history – seven indigenous nations. What did Joshua do? According to our sages, Joshua sent the inhabitants of the land three letters; he offered them three options, opened three doors (Kisch has already heard this one from me today): “He who wishes to make peace will have peace; he who wishes to leave may leave; he who wishes to make war will have war.” (Based on Vayikra Raba 14:6).

Joshua’s strategy was rooted in his understanding that our being here was an irreversible fact. The people of Israel have come to the Land of Israel, it’s our land, we’ve come to inherit it. That part is not open to negotiations, it’s not on the table, it’s a fact. Now, based on this, there are only…

MK Smotrich: …the Iron Wall, correct. Over that iron wall there are three options. There is no fourth option. Incidentally, factually, those three options match three types of personalities: the first one is looking to make peace, let them make peace. That would be the individual who is able to give up his or her national aspirations and prefers to live as an individual in a Jewish State. They abandon their national aspirations. There is no room in the Lad of Israel for two national aspirations; there’s only one, belonging to the Jewish nation. They may live in peace. What, exactly, would be their status? If we have time we’ll discuss it shortly. It doesn’t mean they receive the right to vote, but they could receive many things which are not available to them in any of the countries in the region. Let’s be honest, at least with ourselves, on this matter: Israeli Arabs for sure, and the Arabs of Judea and Samaria today enjoy life that’s immeasurably better on many different levels in any category, including, by the way, democratic values. Freedom of expression – show me where, exactly, in the Arab countries around us you can find freedom of expression that compares to what the Palestinians enjoy in Judea and Samaria.

MK Smotrich: I will respond shortly. Of course, of course it is. There are examples, too. But, again, he who wishes to make peace – the basis for anyone who wishes to stay here is the complete elimination of their national aspirations, or their desire to express them here, because here there’s no room for a national definition other than that of the Jewish nation.

He who wishes to leave may leave. My friends, national aspirations are a natural thing. Nationalistic feelings, patriotism, define other people just as they do us, and there would certainly be many people who cannot give it up. You have twenty-some ISIS states around, choose which one you prefer: the Syrian ISIS, the Egyptian ISIS, Khomeini’s Iranian ISIS, the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Pick wherever you’ll have the most fun realizing your national aspirations.

The third option: he who wishes to make war will have war. If anyone is thinking they can remain here but would not accept the Jewish character and identity of the State of Israel, and believe they could constantly undermine its very existence or its Jewish identity – they will have a fight on their hands. We, thank God, have already proven that we can stare through crosshairs, fight and win.

There is no fourth option, unless, you know, a fourth option would be to continue to engage in a bloody conflict for another hundred years. We have here two contradictory national aspirations which have been fighting each other for a hundred years already. By the way, throughout our history we have been willing to compromise. We agreed to give in and somehow try to settle those two ambitions on the basis of a geographic partition. It didn’t work. They rejected the partition plan, they rejected Camp David, they rejected – [as former prime minister Ehud] Olmert revealed before going to jail, that he was willing to sell himself, sell his soul to the devil [for a settlement].

MK Smotrich: Of course, they never agreed. You know very well, Hilik, that the slogan which you managed to create – with fantastic strategic skills, by the way – you succeeded in creating a kind of axiom as if the left has this great plan – a two state solution, right? In English it sounds even more exulted – the two-state vision, the two-state solution, you know very well it’s an illusion. It was never realistic, because the maximum the most extremely leftwing Israeli leader is willing to give away is a lot less than the minimum the most moderate Arab leader is able to accept and still stay alive two more days, not more. Which is why it’s not an accident that these efforts have been failing.

MK Smotrich: It’s a very nice slogan up on top – you bring it down to eye level, and, let’s see, [right of return for Arab] refugees – we have no intention of flooding the place with six million refugees.

MK Smotrich: They are not willing to give up on the refugees; we are not prepared to divide Jerusalem, they are not prepared to give up Jerusalem. It didn’t work, it will not work, it doesn’t stand a chance. Which is why there are only two options: either continue to manage the conflict another one hundred years, or decide to end it. And the only way to reach peace and co-existence, which would also be the most moral outcome, would be to decide to end this conflict, quash their aspirations, produce that decisive iron wall that means this is our country and there will never be a Palestinian State.

At which point every one of them is confronted with three doors, and each will act according to their preference: those who wish to stay will stay. I promise you that they would be grateful for their good life. After all, we are the greatest hosts in the world, since the time of our forefather Abraham. Those who cannot accept this and feel compelled to express their national aspirations – they have plenty of other places to do it; and whomever wishes to fight – we will fight them, but it would be fast, very fast. There will be war and it will end. There is no other option, other than to continue managing the conflict another one hundred years.

And I close the circuit and bring this to an end, so as not to tire you out too much, with the matter of how would the world respond to such a thing, and I will conclude our debate today. I began by saying that we can’t complain when the world is simply asking us to do that which we, too, agree is true and righteous. The day we once again speak to the world – and first and foremost to ourselves, by the way – and to our Middle Eastern neighbors and the world; the day we go back to that old message, the narrative of justice, of values, of morality, we will discuss our rights on the Land of Israel.

MK Smotrich: We’ll explain this to the world. We met today with Mike Huckabee, for example. What’s there not to like? Evangelical Christians who support the State of Israel in the world. Incidentally, the world is mostly religious, and our attachment to these places can be found in their religious texts. They know all about it.

MK Smotrich: By the way, they are familiar with all the prophecies that predicted thousand years ago that the people of Israel are coming back; the prophecies we, thank God, have merited to see coming true in our lifetime before our eyes, thanks to enormous divine grace. It’s all written, they took it from us; these are the very prophecies they copied.

The world will recognize it, Hilik. It won’ be easy to persuade them, because after thirty, forty years, we ourselves have been convincing the world of the opposite, now we’ll have to persuade the world that, look at that, we’ve rethought it, we’ve come back to our truth, above anything else – to be ourselves, to recognize who we are and what we are. We will take up this dialogue, explain to them why it’s the only thing that can work, the only solution that can result in a good life for everyone involved. We’ve all been paying for this conflict, Hilik. To now take up yet another one hundred years of conflict – which is what you on the left are offering, because you continue to foster an illusion that has no possibility of ever being real – and the only outcome of the fantasies you’re trying to sell Israeli society as well as the Arabs is, once again, blown up buses. You eternalize their hope of some day defeating us. That hope is pushing the wheels of terror, producing their motivation to pick terrorism as their means of attaining their goals. You are forcing on us another one hundred years of conflict, on your and my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I’m seeking now a brave decision which is first and foremost true, and because words of truth are recognizable, the world would embrace it, in my opinion, and it would bring about a much better situation in a very short time. Incidentally, and with that I will conclude – I promised to end five times already – my proof of the fact that it can work is the comparison between 1948 and 1967. Which of the two do the Arabs call “Nakba (catastrophe)?” Which was the greater catastrophe as far as the Arabs are concerned – ’48 or ’67?

MK Smotrich: ’48 – and, by the way, rightfully so. Back then we destroyed and expelled and demolished and built our cities on top of the ruins of Arab villages which had been here before us – as I put it earlier, not technically before us. In comparison, there is not a single community in Judea and Samaria that was built on the ruins of an Arab village. Yet even though it was a great calamity for them, the Arabs of Israel had a great life under Jewish rule until the start of the 1990s. There was no Raed Salah, there was no nationalist extremism, there was no nationalist dialogue. By the way, this is simple logic: before the War of Independence they had high hopes of defeating us, of destroying the entire Zionist entity, to establish here one big Islamic state. And with God’s help, with great divine mercy, we cut off their hope with a swift blade. Whomever wished to leave left, those who stayed – including, incidentally under martial law and without normal civil rights – were deeply grateful; got up and bowed three times every morning before the State of Israel.

They know all too well that had they been the winners they would have slaughtered us, they would not have left even one of us alive. But we let them stay, let them enjoy all the plenty and the progress and the beauty and the technology – everything the Jewish people brought back with them to the Land of Israel. They lived wonderfully in those conditions.

When did their nationalist extremism begin? After we, in our stupidity imported the PLO from Tunisia, and cultivated the hope, or, more accurately, the illusion of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria of defeating us and establishing their own state. At which point any normal Israeli Arab said to himself, Am I a sucker? My cousin in Judea and Samaria is about to defeat the Jews any minute now, and get a state, why should I be sitting quietly? And that’s when, all of a sudden, the nationalist extremism starts, as does a nationalist dialogue about identity. Their ambition to realize their national aspirations awakened when we woke it up with our own hands, when we brought the terrorists here with the Oslo agreements.

Today we have to go back to what happened in the War of Independence. Just as the Arabs of Israel lived well under Jewish rule in 1948, so do we need to – it’s a little harsh – chop off the Palestinian Arab hope in Judea and Samaria of ever defeating the Jews and establishing a state.

And as I said before, you close one hope – which was never realistic, unless we go away from here; sure, it’s possible to realize the Arabs’ hope if we abandon our own. But assuming we don’t want to go back to Auschwitz, we have no intention of giving up our own hope. And so the only chance is that they will give up their own, at which point another hope can open to them, to those of them who wish for it. He who chooses otherwise will go seeking his national aspirations elsewhere. Those who wish to stay – will benefit; again, we still need to discuss what their status would be exactly. I know at least three options that maintain our democratic standards. Incidentally, we’ve been a democracy for fifty years [since 1967]. Anyone who threatens us that we won’t be a democracy – I’ll tell you, if we remain as democratic as we’ve been in the past 50 years, it’s good enough for me.

That’s our only chance, Hilik, to end this conflict and create here a comfortable, good and prosperous co-existence, to the benefit of all the inhabitants of this land – again, with the clear recognition that we are the owners and this land is our land. It should be stated, it should be talked about. It is absolutely not superfluous. The entire land, including Judea and Samaria. And no “occupied territories,” and no twisted and lying slogans that have been integrated as axioms in the international law. That is the only path to peaceful co-existence.

Which is why I’m calling, at the conclusion of this debate, on the Israeli government and its bureaucrats and official and less official emissaries, to go back to the discussion of the true rights of the Jewish people over the entire breadth of the Land of Israel; to tear the mask off the lie about our possessing occupied territories – it never happened – and to propose a different option for the Jewish-Arab conflict that’s been taking place here for over 100 years of Zionism; an option based on deciding this conflict, on a definition of one state for one people, with fantastic and democratic hospitality to anyone capable of living with these concepts. Those who can’t are welcome to seek their fortune in one of the Arab countries, or in Europe where they are very much wanted.

Thank you very much.

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