Haram el Sherif or Haram esh Shereef - 19th Century

Noam Sheizaf of Promised Land blog has responded. I wrote about his criticism of my east Jerusalem Shabbat post where I discussed some of the history of east Jerusalem as well as the reconstruction of the Hurva Synagogue. He has now written a rebuttal.

This is a long post because I incorporate his post. Of course, it’s an enjoyable, leisurely read. 😉

Oh, and UPDATE: more pictures after the break!!


Noam is right to say that I support “construction of new neighborhoods for Jews on the eastern (occupied) parts of the city.” I view this construction as morally and legally justified. Legally, because UNSCR 242 permits it as does Israel’s annexation of this area. Morally, because the connection of the Jewish people to this land was cut off in 1948 creating an artificial situation wherein an historically Jewish area was suddenly emptied of Jews while their religious buildings, cemeteries and other historical connections were destroyed so as to eliminate their memory. I stress that this happened in Jerusalem – Zion – and the heart of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel.

What did this mean? First and foremost, this is Exhibit A that the 1948 war was indeed a war of ethnic cleansing. The Arabs were attempting to erase the Jews from the Land of Israel. We have gotten so used to hearing the Shlaim/Pappe version of this history (based of course on Benny Morris’s books about 1948), who point at Israel as the ethnic cleanser, that what has been ignored is that in fact it were the Arabs who launched and attempted to conduct a war of ethnic cleansing. They succeeded in the areas they conquered – Gaza and the West Bank.

Contrast the conclusion of the war where Israel kept a population of over 100,000 Arabs within its borders at a time there were only 600,000 Jews in Israel. The new state even offered the UN to take in another 100,000 Arabs in order to address international pressure regarding the sudden emergence of numerous Arab refugees.

There was no such openness on the part of the Arabs. During and following their victory, the Jordanians cleansed the part of Jerusalem under their control from Jews and ensured that not a single Jew was permitted to live in the territory THEY named the “West Bank.” So confident were they that it was theirs, that they renamed their state Jordan in lieu of TransJordan. They also refused to lock in the armistice borders as permanent borders. Their laws were changed to prevent a Jew from acquiring Jordanian citizenship.

Part of this cleansing process was the attempt to eradicate the physical and historical Jewish links to the ancient part of Jerusalem by destruction or disfigurement.

No Jews + no Jewish buildings or cemeteries = no Jewish past or present in this place.

That is how east Jerusalem became “Arab East Jerusalem” and that is why today Noam refers to Jews who move into this as “colonizers.” Actually, he uses the term because Israel won this territory from Jordan in a defensive war and for some reason he believes that Jordan was permitted to act as it did, but if Israel makes changes to the city, then it is somehow violating the Geneva Convention.

While Israel, a tiny state beset with heavy immigration of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Europe, agreed to having Arabs comprise 15% of its population (with an offer in the following two years to the UN to increase that number to about 32% – an offer rejected by the Arab states which wanted ALL the Palestinians to return to Israel and refused compromise without any shame at having caused the problem in the first place) the Arabs, with their vast countries and no immigration issues, were busy ensuring that no Jews or their memory would survive among them in “East Jerusalem” and the “West Bank.”

Surely, Israel razed villages and enabled its towns and cities to grow into them, but it also created a legal mechanism to address ownership of those lands. The Arabs did nothing of the sort – not nearby Israel and not in those Arab lands from which half of Israel’s eventual population would come over the next several years. In recent years, Israel’s peace offers have included substantial offers of compensation to the Palestinians ($30 billion) to which Israel would be a party in repayment.

The exclusion of Jews from the heart of Jerusalem, the Old City, is the historic injustice that Israel had a right to begin addressing in 1967. I notice that Noam does not comment about the propriety of Israel evacuating the Palestinians of the Mughrabi neighborhood in 1967 to create the plaza for the Western Wall. Perhaps he’s concerned that expressing this would place him so far beyond the pale that readers would reject his premise. However, if he opposes the reconstruction of a building with the provenance of the Hurva Synagogue inside the historical Jewish Quarter of the Old City – a place that held a Jewish majority from the early 1800s to the early 1900s – then how does he justify Israeli control and reconstruction of the Western Wall?

1875 Dome of the Rock by Tancrede Dumas

Now to Noam’s specific points. He writes:

I’d like to use this post to argue that Jerusalem is not a unified city, that its Arab residents are discriminated both de-facto and de-jure, that Israel is doing almost everything in its power to colonize the city and to push Palestinians out of it, and that from a legal perspective, there is not such a big difference between building in the Old City of Jerusalem to having Jews enter houses in Sheikh Jerrah (which TM opposes). The international community is right in not recognizing Israeli control over the so-called unified city.

If one wants to understand the nature of Israeli occupation, its pseudo-legal system and all its absurdities, all you have to do is look closely at what’s going on in Jerusalem.

1. Israel annexed in East Jerusalem an area more than 10 times bigger than the original Jordanian city – 71,000 dunams (71 sq. km.) as opposed to 6,000 dunams of Jordanian Jerusalem (see map above). This area includes 28 Palestinian towns and villages which were never part of historic Jerusalem. Since than, more than one third of the annexed land was confiscated by the state and used for the construction of Jewish neighborhoods. They house now around 250,000 Jews. Israel also confiscated land to build its government offices in the east side of town, including in the controversial Sheikh Jerrah neighborhood.

2. When Israel annexed East Jerusalem and the towns and villages surrounding it, it gave Palestinians living there a status of “residents” and not citizens. This is a major point. Residents cannot vote in the general elections, they are not issued Israeli Passports; they cannot buy apartments or houses on state land (which makes most of the land in Israel and almost all the land in Jerusalem). If they leave Jerusalem for more than 7 years they lose their residency permit, and are left without any civil status; and because of the new citizenship order, they cannot live in East Jerusalem with partners who are not residents as well. If a Jerusalem Palestinian marries a woman from nearby Ramallah or Bethlehem, he can’t bring his wife to live at his home.

In short, Israel took the land but not the people. Palestinian residents can apply for Israeli citizenship, but it’s not an easy process, and they have to give up their Jordanian passports, something which is not required from Jews applying for citizenship. Furthermore, this is considered as acknowledging Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, something Palestinians won’t do as long as the city’s future remains unclear.

Thankfully, Noam admits at the end that Israel has offered the Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem the option of becoming citizens of the state. That undercuts his entire argument. Period. They are “second class citizens” he complains, but they are so by their own choosing. They could become citizens of Israel if they chose.

Does he see the irony of this situation? The entire Palestinian movement is built on the premise of a “right to return” and yet here we have Palestinians who are granted that right but reject it. And why do they reject it? Noam is right on target when he explains that this would be “acknowledging Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.” He is absolutely wrong to say that this will change when the city’s future becomes clear. The issue isn’t one of clarity, it’s one of rejection of the Jewish nature of any part of Israel, including and especially Jerusalem. It is the same philosophy that had the Jordanians exclude Jews in their laws and desecrate Jewish graves.

He also throws into his pot of injustices faced by the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem rules and regulations that have evolved over decades such as the rules about 7 years of residency and the refusal to allow new spouses the right to move into Israel. Those rules tend to have a reason behind them. For example, in a state which is at war or odds with its many neighbors, why should it further undermine its precarious position by allowing immigration of those who might oppose it? Why would it openly change the demographic balance in favor of those who reject its right to exist? And please don’t say that saying that the Palestinians seek destruction of Israel’s Jewish nature is a discriminatory or racist statement, because it is proven by the reluctance of Jerusalem’s Palestinians to take on Israeli citizenship or vote in Jerusalem’s elections.

End the war and then make demands such as these (by the way, I am opposed to the marriage law).

As to Noam’s complaint about the size of Jerusalem under the Israelis, I am not sure what the complaint is. The Jordanians attempted to annex the entire “West Bank.” Why would they care what the size of Jerusalem was? To them, it wasn’t as central a place as Amman. Or Mecca. Or Medina. Noam does understand, doesn’t he, that Jerusalem’s meaning to the Jewish people is at the core of 2000 years of diaspora. Well, actually, 2600 years:

“By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.”

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.”

Western Wall - Late 1800s

Part of Noam’s ideas stem from his misunderstanding of the TRAUMA Israel experienced in those 19 years of Jordanian control because of their complete exclusion from the Holy Basin. I would venture that this is at the heart of Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem beginning in 1967. Of course they took more land for Jerusalem than what the Jordanians called Jerusalem, this is because the Israelis had every intention of making Jerusalem the capital of their state. They are Zionists, for heaven’s sake! Jordan had Amman and Mecca.

Israel was fulfilling not only the Zionist dream, but the millenia-old dream of a return to Zion. Noam, however, wants Israel to defer to another population that had been a part of the war that led to the Jewish loss of Jerusalem and subsequent destruction of its Jewish memory.

Well, actually Israel DID defer. Israel gave the Waqf the keys to the Temple Mount, didn’t it? It permitted the status quo of Arab control of this critical site to remain unchanged. They offered the Jerusalem Palestinians citizenship, didn’t they? If that’s not deferring, what is? The Israelis undertook to ensure that all faiths would have free and open access to their holy sites, even if they themselves had been excluded for 19 years and before that were treated as second class citizens.

Bonfils photo - Dome of the Rock 1875

As for the project of building Jerusalem into a large capital city, I will repeat again that Israel has usually taken care to build between Arab villages, not on them. Ramat Shlomo is a good example of this. Israel has also turned a blind eye to most of the illegal construction of Palestinian housing. Contrary to Noam’s claim that Israel is doing all it can to remove the Palestinians from Jerusalem, the city’s Arab population has only grown since 1967.

Either the Israelis are really lousy at ethnic cleansing, or that isn’t what they’ve been trying to do.

Noam continues:

TM’s main point, I think, is that the entire West Bank is not “occupied territory” but rather “disputed territory”. It goes for Jerusalem as well, so he sees no problem in Israel confiscating the land and having its Jewish citizens move there.

Right. Except they are not always “confiscating” the land, are they? The Palestinians did not control all of Palestine. They controlled about 20 million dunams while the Jews controlled about 7 million dunams. There was lots of land that wasn’t spoken for and it’s simply incorrect to state that any time Israel builds a community or a building, it is “confiscating” land. In fact, as Noam well knows, the High Court has ruled that Israel MAY NOT build on private or public Palestinian land and in those instances where communities have been built on such land – and that has shamefully happened – they are in violation of the law.

If Noam means that any land Israel “confiscates” is being confiscated from a future Palestinian state, then I would challenge that as well since we all know that any peace deal will reflect, more or less, the Clinton Parameters.

Allow me to add that I am one of those who believe that Jews should be permitted to live in a future Palestinian state and that means they would be permitted to remain in their homes and communities under Palestinian rule if a Palestinian state should emerge. I believe the removal of every single Jew from wherever Palestinians have control is unreasonable and features the same ugly ethnic discrimination that pro-Palestinian advocates are always blaming on Israel.


I don’t agree with this view of the legal status of the West bank (I explained why here), but in the case of Jerusalem, this debate is unnecessary: Israel annexed the land, so clearly it views it as its own and not as “disputed” (mayor Barkat declares so in the above video). Israel also acts as if the entire city is under its full sovereignty, hence the refusal to freeze construction in East Jerusalem. The question remains: why weren’t the people living there given full rights? Why have two legal systems based on ethnicity?

As I said, we are also talking de-facto discrimination: there are hardly any municipal services given to the Palestinians of East Jerusalem (and there are none for more than 50 thousands of them who were left on the eastern side of the wall. Currently it’s not clear who is supposed to take care of them). Though Palestinians make one third of the city residents, in more than 40 years since the city has been united, less than 10 percent of the municipal budget was used for services to the Palestinian population.

Now, now, now. This is where the debate gets a little hairy and Noam is going to have to forgive me because I’m going to call the “ethnic discrimination” argument nonsense. Not only have the Palestinians of Jerusalem refused to take on Israeli citizenship, they have also refused to participate in local politics. They do not run for office in Jerusalem, they vote (although they have full municipal voting rights) in very small numbers (8-10%), they harass and attack the few brave Palestinians (I only know of two, but maybe there have been others) who have actually tried to run for office in Jerusalem, and they often don’t pay their taxes or certainly don’t pay them in full. Additionally, this “discrimination” which Noam sees so clearly as being done on an ethnic basis, ignores the fact that he it is NOT discrimination for a city to have difficulty providing services to illegal homes and buildings.

The Jerusalem municipality has had to address the fact that a huge number of Arab homes have been built illegally. Every city has limited resources, but here Jerusalem is asked to provide, say, water and electricity, to a home that was built without a permit, without the requisite taxes, without city oversight and as part of some unplanned growth that does not align itself with the city’s plans.

Furthermore, the city of Jerusalem is expected by Noam to do this for people who reject the government as well as the state entirely.

This is not ethnic bias, this is simply a fair allotment of resources. If the Palestinians of Jerusalem wanted to have better city services, they would vote, pay a fair share of taxes, and participate in the city’s political life in ways other than ignoring it or unfairly attacking it.

Silwan, by the way, and Barkat’s plan for it is a perfect example. Barkat would have IMPROVED the neighborhood and grandfathered three quarters of the illegal homes there so they would become legal. In turn, the city would develop the area attractively with a commercial center that would throw off taxes and provide employment to nearby residents. Barkat and the city were attacked for this. Instead of accepting integration as a favorable thing, Silwan became yet another exercise in demonizing Israel along the lines of discrimination.

The Palestinians need to participate in the city’s political life, obey the law, pay taxes and seek to integrate. Otherwise, why would Noam, or anybody, be surprised that they don’t receive the same level of support that other groups do? The Orthodox get city services and it’s not because they’re Jewish, it’s because THEY VOTE.

The same applies to Noam’s complaints that the city hasn’t built a single new Arab neighborhood in the city. No voting, no political clout. Besides, he knows there is an abundance of illegal construction by the Palestinians that Israel ignores. Rather than viewing this as a negative rejection of Israel’s sovereignty or at least Jerusalem’s right to function as a city, this becomes yet another attack on supposed “discrimination.” Jerusalem’s Arab population is growing, Noam, and so are their buildings and villages.

Noam attacks the “right-wing groups, financed mostly by US Jews and Evangelist Christians” that are trying to buy Arab homes. He is angry that the city provides services to those homes and neighborhoods. He is especially angry at the “most radical organizations” digging in the “controversial excavations” under the Temple Mount.

Is he unaware that the PA is also manipulating construction in Jerusalem? Why should one side unilaterally disarm?

TM claims that it’s OK for Jews to buy houses in the old city and colonize them. Even if we forget the socio-economical reality, and the role official Israeli agencies play in this effort, we are still left with the fact that this is also a one-way law: Irvin Moskovich can buy any place he likes in Jerusalem and settle it with religious fanatics, but a rich none Israeli Arab can’t buy a Jerusalem home even if he finds a Jew who would sell it to him, since most of the land in Jerusalem is declared as “state land” which can be sold only to Jews or Israelis.

Colonize? The Old City?

From 1830-1915 or so, there was a Jewish majority there. Then there was a Jewish presence there which was cut off in an act of ethnic cleansing in 1948. Today’s re-population of the Jewish Quarter is a colony?

Meanwhile, the Palestinians who moved there in 1948 because the Jordanians found empty Jewish homes for them are not colonizers? They had the place for an entire 19 years and therefore the Israelis are the colonizers?

No, this is not a joke. Noam is serious.

If the Lebanese Palestinians move into Jaffa tomorrow, will Noam call it a colony? After all, virtually none of them were born in Palestine.

I can’t understand how some people have concluded that what happened in 1948 was final. Was the Jordanian conquest supposed to change history permanently? Jews? What Jews? If we destroy your synagogues and put latrines at your “Wailing Wall,” then when you capture it from us after we attack you again, we will continue to claim that it is actually ours and always has been. Don’t worry, there will be some Israelis and Jews who advocate this position for us, even as we deny their history. No, they’re not insane, they’re just good-hearted and guilt-ridden because the winner of a war tends to be in a superior position to those who lost, and supporting the underdog feels good.

I view what happened in 1948 as part of a very fluid century that saw the evolution of a conflict between Arabs and Jews, Europeans and Middle-Easterners, and two world wars. The Jordanian conquest of Judea and Samaria in 1948 was not a final event. They thought this more than anybody, which is why they demanded that the armistice agreement avoid a final delineation of borders. The 19 years they were there are nothing more than a blip.

Let’s reverse history. Let us say that tomorrow a war breaks out and Israel loses. Jordan conquers Jerusalem again. In Noam’s world, it will be legitimate to evict the “colonizing” Jews who moved into these old Jewish areas, and to import Arabs into there. This is farcical. It is wholesale butchery of history to facilitate a political agenda that seeks to REMOVE Jews from Jerusalem and Israel.

As for the digging under the Temple Mount, it is interesting that Noam entirely ignored my comments about how the Waqf destroyed potentially critically important archaeological areas while building their new mosque but complains about a careful dig that is done in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority. I personally don’t like private organizations having any hand in digging up any site, but digging there is perfectly legitimate. Israel should take it over from any private bodies and do it entirely through state-run bodies. And they should dig, and dig and dig.This is the heart of Zion!


We finally reach the heart of the matter – the holy basin, sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims. TM is very suspicious of the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem, arguing that “they got it into their heads” that this is a holy city (article 2 in his post). I’m not one of these Israelis who suddenly became experts on Islam and Arab history and can now explain why Muslims should forget about Jerusalem and how come there is no such thing as a Palestinian people – Just as I don’t question the fact that Jews consider themselves both a nation and a religion. This blog deals with political reality, not myths. There is a Palestinian nation now, and it views Jerusalem as its capitol. That’s all that matters.

I also don’t think that the fact that Jerusalem is so unique authorizes Israel to do whatever it pleases there, as TM implies. If anything, it should make Israel extra careful in handling the situation in the city and not make unilateral moves just because it can.

19th Century Haram esh Shereef

If you’ve seen images of Jerusalem and especially the Haram esh Shereef from the 1800s and early 1900s, you would have a tough time justifying the importance of that dilapidated building and impoverished city with that of an important Muslim holy city or site.

At no point did I deny that there is a Palestinian nation now or that it views Jerusalem as its capital. On the contrary, that is precisely my view.

Our basic disagreement is whether the specialness of Jerusalem confers some special status which permits Israel to make unilateral moves. Not only does the special status allow for this, but considering the intentional destruction caused by the Arabs and the importance of uncovering our history through archaeology, it is critical that Israel take these special steps.

I believe Noam’s logic fails here. Take a special city with fundamentally important holy sites, destroy it and remove all of its inhabitants of a certain faith and then scream about colonization and impropriety when that nation, after winning this area in a DEFENSIVE war, seeks to reclaim PARTS of that heritage while PRESERVING the rights of worship or habitation of those who evicted that nation in the first place.

Israel’s actions are far from perfect, but they are morally justified.

Now for the legal side:

I read his post several times, and I still don’t see what legal principle he applies in the city, let alone in the Holy Basin. If Jews have the right to “rebuild ancient destroyed synagogues that carry serious emotional and historical weight” because of UN resolution 181 (article 6 on TM’s post) than this right should apply anywhere and to everyone in the city, including Palestinians. This is clearly not the case, and no Israeli would have the Palestinians enjoy their rights under UNGAR 181 today.

I didn’t quite say that. What I said was:

It is also legitimate to rebuild ancient destroyed synagogues that carry serious emotional and historical weight.

This is not just my idea, this was the conclusion of the UN committee sent out to investigate and propose to the General Assembly how Mandatory Palestine should be divided among Arabs and Jews. The conclusion, as described in UNGAR 181, which Israel accepted and the Arabs rejected, was that after dividing the land into two, Jerusalem would not be divided but instead would be an international zone without sovereign.

I was indicating that my logic was not only my logic but that of the UN committee sent out in 1947 to evaluate the situation in Mandatory Palestine, which arrived at conclusions that are similar to my conclusions. I was certainly not using 181 as a legal basis for anything, although, oddly enough it does get a mention in Israel’s Declaration of Independence as a point in favor of Israel’s legitimacy as a state. Once the war begins and especially after, Israel puts the UN on notice that 181 no longer holds because of the Arab war on Israel.

In fact, Noam and I agree that moving Jews into Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah is a move that opens the floodgates to Palestinian demands of “return.” However, we disagree strongly that building on land that isn’t Palestinian, or rebuilding the Jewish Quarter or buildings within it that were destroyed by the Arabs, is somehow wrong. I, in fact, perceive it as correcting an egregious abuse of an ancient Jewish link to Jerusalem.

If Jews have the right to the Old Quarter or Sheikh Jerrah, because it was Jewish territory before 1948, than Palestinians should have the right to the places they lost before the war as well. Nobody is even considering this.

Again, the fundamental difference between Noam and I relates to the fact that the Old City and the Holy Basin are not the same as Sheikh Jarrah or Jaffa. Sorry, the Old City is not just another neighborhood.

Noam continues to suggest that if my view that all of this is temporary until peace arrives along the lines of 242 and

“the city’s final status is decided…no one should do anything for now, let alone introduce unilateral moves in the heart of the disputed territory.”

That’s absurd. Not only are the two populations growing dramatically, but millions of tourists pass through there as well. Jerusalem is a growing, functioning city. It is a capital of a state; it is of central religious importance to three faiths; and it went through a period where every Jew who lived there was expelled and all Jewish remnants were destroyed. Of course the governments – local and national – will seek to develop it.

Besides, while we may all wish for peace, it has been a while since the Palestinians felt like negotiating, and they have never been willing to relinquish any rights over Jerusalem. Should Israel and the Jewish people wait until they decide they feel like talking or compromising? That could be decades.

And now to the dramatic conclusion by Noam:

The fact is there is no coherent legal policy. It’s just cherry picking of arguments and regulations that could serve our purpose in pushing Palestinians out and colonizing the entire city. When it suits us, we quote resolution 181; when it helps we use the situation before 1948 and to British and Ottomans documents, but when the Palestinians present the same documents, we say only Israeli ownership laws apply here. We use the Green line as a starting point, but than we call the area east of it “disputed” (so why not dispute the western part as well?). And when everything else fails, we go back to the bible, declare that this is a special place for Jews for 2,000 years, and do whatever the hell we feel like.

Well, once again, I did not “quote” 181, merely pointed out that the committee which fashioned that resolution also understood the importance of this area to a degree where they recommended leaving it as an international protectorate even while the rest of the land was divided.

As for the confused legal situation, it’s well and good to blame Israel (again) and claim that everything is illogical. However, that’s a function of a very confusing situation.

Dome of the Rock - late 1800s

Palestine was an Ottoman province which was conquered by the British. The League of Nations created a mandate in 1922, given to the British, to create a Jewish home in Palestine. This mandate took care to leave the question of the territory east of the Jordan River in British hands, but this only strengthens the Jewish claim to anything west of the territory. This international document has the force of law and was confirmed in the Anglo-American Convention signed in 1924. It was further confirmed in 1945 in the new UN Charter (Article 80 in the twelfth chapter). By contrast, UNGAR 181 and 194 do not carry the same legal weight since the General Assembly can only act in an advisory capacity.

When the British Mandate ended, there was no sovereign over any part of Mandatory Palestine and this is when Israel declared its statehood, as had Jordan a couple of years earlier on the east side of the Jordan. While Israel declared statehood relying on the provisions of UNGAR 181, the war launched by the Arabs immediately thereafter left Israel with much more territory in its possession by war’s end. Jordan, of course, won eastern Jerusalem and the area they named the West Bank. Egypt emerged with Gaza.

If people want to use the phrase in UNSCR 242 which precludes acquisition of territory by force as a basis for claims against Israel’s presence in the areas which Jordan conquered in 1948, then they also have to negate any Jordanian conquest there or the artificially inflated Palestinian population of the area. Jordan itself refused to accept the borders of that war as final, which indicates, from a legal standpoint, that Israel did not conquer another country’s or nation’s territory in 1967. The Green Line was temporary because of Arab demands. If anything, the 1922, 1924 and 1945 international agreements strongly suggest that all the land from the Sea to the River is supposed to be the Jewish “home.”

Additionally, contrary to Noam’s claim, I am actually relying heavily on legalities in my assessment of what Israel should or shouldn’t do in Judea, Samaria and the part of Jerusalem in its eastern section. Perhaps the greatest legal injustice that has played out here, and it is

Wailing Wall by T Matson circa 1900-1920

because of indefatigable lobbying by Palestinians and their Muslim and leftist supporters in the UN and around the world, is that somehow they have gotten the Geneva Conventions to apply to what are now called “Occupied Palestinian Territories” over land that international consensus had stated was supposed to be Jewish land. This stands in direct contravention of legal commitments made by the international community to the Jewish people. Eugene Rostow, former Dean of Yale Law School, an international jurist of note and former Undersecretary of State, has written, famously, that Article 80 is most likely granting a blanket approval of the 1922 League of Nations decision regarding making the area into a “Jewish home.”

In other words, my opinions rely on legal mechanisms. When I agree to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, I am giving up a great deal and I do so not because of legalities or technicalities, but because I understand that the Palestinians also lost a great deal.

Furthermore, I base my claims on how the Israeli High Court has ruled over the past decades regarding issues of occupation and Israeli rights to build, including the Court’s respect for the government’s annexation of Jerusalem. Nothing I have written contradicts any High Court rulings.

Finally, I have taken great care to ensure that nothing in my views of what should happen here would either open the door to a Palestinian move into Israel as a consequence of Israeli moves and that the Israeli moves I support would not preclude a final, peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of the Clinton Parameters, even if we include an internationalized Holy Basin – which I support.

Come back to the Middle, Noam, some of your ideas are so far over to the left that they undermine not just our heritage and connection to the Land of Israel, but even the prospects for a proper resolution.

Destruction of Jewish Quarter taken on May 25, 1948

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  • Interesting exchange. If the Palestinians accepted Israel’s offer of citizenship, would the legal restrictions and disabilities Noam describes still apply?

    Middle wants Palestinians to integrate and become politically active. Surely, though, the emergence of a Palestinian (or Arab Israeli) version of Martin Luther King, Jr. would profoundly threaten the now-prevailing, governing version of Zionism. I’ve never understood Middle to favor an Israel conceived as a state of all its citizens. Be careful what you wish for.

    • Some of the restrictions and disabilities might apply, depending on the political role these new Israelis would take. We see this on the national level with Israeli Arabs. The issue of institutional discrimination is a real one, they simply don’t get the same resources spent on them as Jewish Israelis. However, the majority of Israeli Arabs vote for political leaders outside the mainstream, who continually vilify Israel, who seek the end of Zionism or the idea of a Jewish state, and even a couple of who have openly communicated with Israel’s enemies. As a result, they are always far outside the circles of those parties that might join a coalition. Without any leverage, resources don’t end up in their hands. I’ve always claimed that all Israeli Arabs would need to do to drastically change their fortunes, is elect leaders who are going to play ball nicely. They already squander 11 seats in the Knesset on their current representatives who aren’t in the major parties. Those 11 seats could make or break a coalition government, especially if they can get together with a couple of the remaining 6 or 7 representatives who receive the Arab Israeli vote. That would give them the leverage they need to demand resources – exactly like Shas and the other parties play the game.