Analysis: US Rejection of Term ‘Occupied Territories’ Brings Peace Closer

The State Department’s omission of the word ‘occupied’ when referring to the territory of Judea and Samaria may ultimately facilitate a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

By: Daniel Krygier, World Israel News

A US State Department report recently dropped the word ”occupied” in reference to Judea and Samaria for the first time since 1979. In isolation, this move may seem insignificant, but it may also indicate a new US Middle East policy in the making that could facilitate a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Ever since the Arab countries failed to destroy Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967, the international community has increasingly framed the conflict as an “Israeli occupation of Palestine.” However, the international term “Occupied Palestinian Territories” is political and not rooted in international law or documented history. “Palestine” is the Roman name for occupied Judea, and no “Palestinian” Arab state has ever existed in the Land of Israel.

In his monumental work “The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law,” late scholar Howard Grief argued that the legal title of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel was recognized by the international community at the San Remo Peace Conference in 1920.

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Judea is not French Algeria

The implications of this recognition are that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are legal under international law even if regularly condemned by the politicized United Nations and the European Union. Unlike formerly French-occupied Algeria, Judea and Samaria constitute the ancestral heartland of Israel. Israel won the territories in a defensive war after being attacked by Arab forces. Since “Palestine” is fiction, Judea and Samaria should legally be defined as disputed rather than “occupied” territories. This means that Israel has legal rights in Judea and Samaria that the French colonialists in Algeria or Vietnam did not have.

This does not mean that Israel will annex the entire disputed territories anytime soon. It is not in the Jewish state’s interest to add another 2 million Arabs to its population. However, parts of Jewish-populated areas of Judea and Samaria could eventually be annexed by Israel in a future Arab-Israeli peace deal. This is consistent with the spirit of the key UN resolution 242, which envisions that Israel will retain some of the disputed territories.

Core of the Arab-Israel conflict

This brings us back to the State Department report’s omission of the word “occupied” when referring to Judea and Samaria. This is important because the core of the Arab-Israel conflict was never about “occupation,” but a deeply entrenched Muslim Arab opposition to a reborn Jewish state within any borders. It is the Arabs, not the Jews, who have systematically rejected a two-state solution since it was first suggested by the British Peel Commission in 1937.

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Israel is not an “occupier.” Nor was it established as a “haven for refugees from the Holocaust,” as recently claimed by Hollywood actress Natalie Portman. Israel’s final borders are yet to be defined. However, what is beyond any doubt is the fact that modern Israel is the historical and legal realization of the Jewish people’s return to its ancestral homeland. The path to genuine peace requires a recognition of this fundamental truth.