JERUSALEM – “It is not just Israel’s right to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria,” said Eran Bar-Tal, economics reporter for Makor Rishon, “but its obligation.”
This was the feeling of virtually all the participants and speakers at last month’s “Applying Sovereignty to Judea and Samaria” conference in Hebron. The only dispute among some of the speakers was whether to immediately apply Israeli sovereignty to all of Judea and Samaria (Yesha), or only to parts.
Both the program and the hall – the Hebron Heritage Center next door to the Machpelah Cave – were packed. No fewer than fifteen speakers addressed the hundreds of participants, including four pre-taped video appearances, as well as the two organizers, Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover of Women in Green.
The bottom line, as far as the conference participants were concerned: It’s time for Israel to put an end to the dangerous and barren talk of a Palestinian state in Eretz Yisrael and instead take mastery over the ownerless areas now under its control. The various experts in their respective fields explained how this course of action is indicated from the standpoints of Torah, international law, demographics, Israeli security, the well-being of both the Jewish and Arab inhabitants, and more.
Many speakers mentioned the recently released Levy Report that details the legal basis for Jewish settlement throughout Judea and Samaria. Cabinet Minister Rabbi Dr. Daniel Herskovitz and Knesset Member Tzipi Hotovely both called for the report to be made into law, meaning that all Israeli building and construction laws would be applied to Yesha in place of the military regulations that currently apply. In addition, land disputes in Yesha would be adjudicated in regular courts, and not in the Supreme Court or by the defense minister.
Rabbi Uziyahu Sharbaf, head of a kollel in Hebron, detailed the Torah basis for the demand for sovereignty in the entire Land of Israel. Scripture, he pointed out, shows that God chose the Land of Israel just as He chose the nation of Israel, and the latter cannot exist in its entirety if the former is not complete.
“Let’s not fall into the trap of what’s considered ‘practical,'” he proclaimed. “The deep truth is eternal. We must continue to redeem and build the land as much as we can, until the government of Israel realizes that it is its responsibility to redeem the entire land.”
Yoram Ettinger, consultant to Israeli legislators on U.S. policy and U.S.-Israel bilateral projects, made the case that the demographic “scare” is a bluff. Introduced by Matar as an “indefatigable optimist,” Ettinger responded, “Not at all; I’m simply a realist. The famous Jewish demographer in Herzl’s time, Simon Dubnow, tried to scare Herzl in 1898 by telling him that within a century there would be no more than half a million Jews in what is now Israel. Fortunately, Herzl did not listen… Today, as well, despite what we are often told, the demographics are in our favor.”
Ettinger said the number of Arabs between the Mediterranean and the Jordan are exaggerated by up to a million, due to double counting and counting of absentees.
MK Uri Ariel and Emanuel Shilo, the editor of the weekly B’Sheva newspaper, were among the minority who proposed not rushing to apply sovereignty over Yesha in its entirety but rather working in stages. Shilo said sovereignty should begin in the Jordan Valley.
“I don’t agree with those who say we should begin with the areas that everyone agrees will remain ours, such as Maaleh Adumim,” he said. “These places are part of our struggle, so why should we lose them and all their advantages in our fight for all of Yesha?
“We should rather start with places that stand to be at the center of negotiations. Netanyahu has already hinted that the critical Jordan Valley – our border with Jordan – will remain under ‘IDF control’ for a ‘number of years.’ He is not talking about forever, and he is not talking about Jews living there. The Jordan Valley must be our first battleground.”
Event organizer Yehudit Katzover of Kiryat Arba said it is time Jews stopped having to put out individual fires lit by those who believe Jews do not belong in Judea and Samaria: “At present, Beit El has to deal with Givat HaUlpena, Kiryat Arba has to worry about Jewish buildings legally purchased in Hebron, Eli has to take care of its homes deemed illegal – every community is left to its own devices. There must be one, comprehensive Israeli law that governs all of Israel.”