The Best Deal Ever
Everyone is talking about deal-making these days. The new president of the United States has been described as a deal-maker, and in fact, he wrote a book entitled The Art of the Deal. There is a buzz about new possibilities for historic deals. But ultimately, a deal is not worth even the paper it is written on unless it is upheld.
This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and the liberation of Israel's biblical heartland, when the Jewish people finally secured access to the most sacred parts of their native land, a sovereign right the international community legally recognized nearly a century ago. We are still waiting for that same international community to honor and uphold the terms of that agreement.
Following World War I, world representatives came together in San Remo, Italy, empowered to fulfill the terms of peace, which included the breakup of the former Ottoman Empire. Not only Israel, but Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan were all established out of what had been sections of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1920, these international representatives passed the San Remo Resolution; they declared their goal of "reconstituting" the ancient Jewish State.
For the Jewish homeland, they allocated the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the land that currently comprises Jordan, the Golan Heights, and Gaza. They specified these particular regions because this is where Jews have lived since ancient times. This was recognized as the native land of the Jewish people.
The San Remo Resolution was signed into international law and was subsequently endorsed by the League of Nations, adding to international law the full weight of the international community. In addition, it became part of U.S. law when President Harding signed a Joint Resolution of the 67th Congress of the United States and when the U.S. signed the Anglo-American Convention of 1924.
In 1922, soon after the passing of the San Remo Resolution, Britain reneged on its obligation to ensure the "close settlement by Jews on the Land" by creating the country of Jordan, using 77% of the land mandated for Israel.
This abrogation of legal commitments made to the Jews regarding the State of Israel is part of a pattern seen throughout the past century – a pattern that continues even today.
We saw this continue in 1929, when England uprooted the ancient Jewish community of Hebron.
In August of 1929, men, women, and children from a Jewish community that had been in Hebron for over three thousand years were massacred by their Arab neighbors. The British reaction was not to defend the remaining Jews, nor to affirm the historic connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, nor even to allow the Jews to defend themselves. Rather, the British response was to evacuate the Jews whose roots had been in Hebron since the very beginning of Jewish history.
In 1937, we see another attempt to undermine Jewish rights to the land when the Peel Commission proposed a partition of the 23% of remaining Mandate land. The Arabs rejected this proposal, just as they would reject every proposal that included a Jewish state within any borders.
We see this pattern to renege on promises made to Israel yet again when the British issued the White Paper in 1939. Here, rather than uphold its obligations to facilitate Jewish immigration, Britain severely limited Jewish immigration and land acquisition, effectively stranding countless Jews in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe.
In 1945, the United Nations assumed the obligations of the League of Nations, according to Article 80 of the U.N. charter, making the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel one of the foundational obligations of the U.N.
Yet almost immediately thereafter, in 1947, the U.N. attempted to divide this land to make a fifth Arab country from the land guaranteed for the one Jewish country. General Assembly Resolution 181 was to shrink Israel to only 17% of the land promised at San Remo.
Ironically, this November 29, 1947 vote, which carried no legal weight, has often erroneously been viewed as the legal basis for the modern State of Israel. In fact, this was just another attempt to subdivide the Land of Israel to appease those who have repeatedly rejected the right to sovereignty and self-determination for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland.
The San Remo Conference and various treaties following World War I successfully established independent countries sought by Arab nationalists: Iraq in 1932, Lebanon in 1943, and Syria in 1946. However, when the modern State of Israel similarly exercised its sovereign right and formally declared statehood in 1948, the Arab armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan, Syria, and Iraq immediately attacked.
Jordan then occupied the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, as well as the eastern part of Jerusalem. During the nineteen years of this illegal occupation, the city of Jerusalem was divided in two for the first time in its history. The Jews who had been living as a majority in Jerusalem since the mid-1800s were expelled by the Jordanians and barred from the Old City, where the holiest Jewish sites are found.
Although this cradle of Jewish civilization was guaranteed to the Jewish people, not one of the international guarantors raised a finger to uphold that agreement when, in 1948, these Arab forces marched into this territory, occupied these holy places, desecrated cherished and sacred sites, and expelled the Jewish population.
In 1949, when the Armistice Demarcation Lines were drawn, commonly called "The Green Line," this line was rejected by Syria, Jordan, and Egypt as delineating any type of border. And yet today, there are those who misrepresent this line as a border – the so-called "'67 borders" – in a further attempt to create another Arab country within the land promised to the Jewish people.
It is revealing to note that during the nineteen years when Jordan illegally occupied Samaria, Judea, and the eastern part of Jerusalem, and Egypt illegally occupied Gaza, no move was made to create an additional Arab country in these areas. Only in 1967, when Israel recovered those areas, did the relentless pressure to create a fifth Arab country on the sliver of land left for the one Jewish State begin.
This year, Israel celebrates the 50th anniversary of the liberation of those lands that were guaranteed by the international community to be part of the Jewish homeland. This includes, in part, Judea, which bears the very name of the Jewish people; Samaria, which, with Judea, forms the Jewish biblical heartland; and the eastern part of Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest city, the home of the most sacred places in Jewish life.
In 1967, faced with a war of annihilation, the Jews were able to liberate these sacred places and recover these promised areas, only to then be perpetually bombarded with pressure to give up this land.
One tactic used is changing the names of places in order to obscure the Jewish history that took place there, as when Jordan tried to rename Samaria and Judea with the generic name "the West Bank." And yet, in 1925, the Muslim Waqf Temple Mount Guide (page 4) included the following description of Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount: "Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which 'David built there an altar unto the L-rd[.]'"
Another tactic is through the United Nations, where the international community, in abrogation of its own obligations, repeatedly votes and declares that the land of Israel and Jerusalem, the Jewish capital for 3,000 years, have no connection to the people of Israel or to Jewish history.
Everyone is talking about deal-making these days, wondering if there are new possibilities for historic deals.
Finding the leadership, the integrity, and the determination to finally uphold the ironclad deal that was made with the Jewish people regarding the State of Israel nearly one century ago – now, that would be historic.
Yonina Pritzker has served as the spiritual leader of Boston-area congregations, was a research analyst at CAMERA, and co-founded Rabbis and Ministers for Israel.