To jazz soundtrack, Israeli official insists settlements are legal
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon offers a whimsical take on the Arab-Israeli conflict in a slick new video. His conclusion? Israeli West Bank settlements are legal and there is no occupation.
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Ayalon appears to suggest that the international community originally envisioned an Israeli state 75 percent larger that its current size. He asserts, referring back to interwar League of Nations documents, that the Jewish homeland was meant to occupy the East Bank of the Jordan River, which is now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.Skip to next paragraph
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It's true that Britain's Lord Balfour in 1917 expressed his country's support for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." But he didn't specify how big it would be.
After World War I, Britain administered Palestine as a single unit from 1920-22. In 1922, it received permission from the League of Nations to split off the area east of the Jordan river as Transjordan, giving partial autonomy to Hashemite Emir Abdullah I to run a territory that would become the fully independent country of Jordan in 1946.
"I guess you cannot say the Jewish people have accepted some painful compromises already," he says in reasoned tones, about the creation of Jordan. "Anyway, the League of Nations' recognition of a Jewish homeland – which includes the West Bank – was reaffirmed by the United Nations after the second World War," Ayalon says, as a cartoonish UN "seal of approval" is stamped on a map of the West Bank behind him.
But it's not entirely clear what point Ayalon is making here.
The 1947 UN partition plan for historic Palestine envisaged two states, one Jewish, one Arab, with Jerusalem and some of the holy sites nearby administered internationally in recognition of their importance to Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The map for the Jewish and Arab states drawn up then (a copy of which is posted on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website), shows an internationally administered Jerusalem and most of the West Bank in Palestinian hands.
Ayalon's own presentation ends up showing the same map moments later, and he appears to acknowledge that the UN envisioned an Arab state encompassing the West Bank – a larger Arab state than the Palestinians are negotiating for today. As he continues, a cartoon representation of an Israeli negotiator ready to shake hands on a deal for the two states in 1947 is greeted by a Palestinian in a kefaya who points a rifle at him – setting the stage for the first Arab-Israeli war after Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan. The armistice lines drawn at the end of that war, ended up with a bigger Israel than the UN originally envisioned and set the borders generally referred to today as the 1967 borders (since Israel's territorial control expanded again after that year's war with the Arabs).
Goldberg dismisses Ayalon's line of reasoning as missing the key issue. He argues that "the salient point about the West Bank might not be who the "legal sovereign" was 44 years ago, but that actual people of another ethnic group live on the West Bank and don't want to be ruled – "occupied" would be another word for "ruled" – by a foreign power. To most of the world, at least (and to many, many Israelis and a clear majority of American Jews) this is what matters."