For 50 years now, Israel has endured censure from global bodies and foreign countries for its construction and development of Jewish communities in the ancient Israelite tribal territories of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and western Menasheh, a.k.a. Judea & Samaria, referred to by the international community as the “West Bank”.
These Jewish communities are routinely condemned as illegal and illegitimate under international law and wielded as a political tool with which to tarnish Israel’s reputation. However, this position glaringly fails to take into account elementary history, Jewish indigeneity to the Land of Israel, and the applicability of international law.
Judea & Samaria form the heartland of the homeland of the Jewish People—the Land of Israel—which Jews have inhabited for 4,000 years.
- Since the era circa 2000 BCE when the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs first settled and constructed in Shechem, Beth-El, Ai, and Hebron (a.k.a. Mamre/Kiryat Arba), Jews have been an autochthonous people throughout the area.
- Judea & Samaria consist of the ancient Israelite tribal territories of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and west Menasheh.
- Jewish predominance in the area ended as a result of the Jews being besieged and starved, slaughtered, sold into slavery, exiled, and expelled by their imperial Roman conquerors and occupiers following The Great Revolt (66-73 CE) and The Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE).
- Arabs only became a major presence in the area following the Islamic conquests of 634-636 CE under Caliph Umar’s imperial Muslim armies led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, Amr ibn al-A’as, and Shurahbeel ibn Hasana.
Judea & Samaria never constituted an independent Arab state under sovereign authority.
- After being conquered by Sultan Selim I, these areas were controlled by the Ottoman Empire from 1516-1917, ruled as sub-districts of the province of Damascus from the imperial Ottoman capital at Istanbul.
- Following the War of Independence of 1948, Jordan illegally occupied Judea & Samaria from 1948-1967 and prohibited Jews from living in these areas, contravening the Mandate for Palestine adopted by the League of Nations in 1922.
Jews finally reclaimed Judea & Samaria in the defensive Six Day War of 1967.
- In June 1967, with belligerent Arab armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq poised to exterminate Israel, Israel launched pre-emptive strikes and within a week had achieved stunning victories which included regaining its historic heartland.
- As the aboriginal people of the Land of Israel, Israeli settlers are repatriating and repopulating the historic land of their forebears.
The Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV), an international treaty adopted in August 1949 in the wake of Nazi atrocities and signed by Israel in 1951, was designed to protect civilians and regulate the rules of war, not to adjudicate or arbitrate disputed territories.
- From the normative Jewish/Israeli perspective, Judea & Samaria were areas liberated, not occupied, in 1967 and therefore Section III of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not pertain.
- Jews possess the legal right to settle in Judea & Samaria.
- Section III, Article 49 (1) of the GCIV states: “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.” ( Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949. https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/ART/380-600056?OpenDocument) Since Israel regained control over Judea & Samaria in 1967, locals Arabs have not been forcibly displaced and today they number approx. 2.78 million alongside approx. 371,000 Jews.
- Section III, Article 49 (6) of the GCIV states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” (Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949. https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/ART/380-600056?OpenDocument) Jewish inhabitants of Judea & Samaria are not forcibly implanted therein by Israeli governments, but reside there voluntarily.
- “The provisions of Article 49 (6) regarding forced population transfer to occupied foreign territory should not be seen as prohibiting the voluntary return of individuals to the towns and villages from which they, or their ancestors, had been forcibly ousted. Nor does it prohibit the movement of individuals to land which was not under the legitimate sovereignty of any state and which is not subject to private ownership. In this regard, it should be noted that Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been established only after an exhaustive investigation process, under the supervision of the Supreme Court of Israel, and subject to appeal, which is designed to ensure that no communities are established illegally on private land.” (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Israeli Settlements and International Law.” (Nov 30, 2015. http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/israeli%20settlements%20and%20international%20law.aspx)
- While Israel does not accept that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies de jure, it has stated that on humanitarian issues it will govern itself de facto by certain GCIV provisions.
Jewish communities in Judea & Samaria are explicitly recognized as subject to exclusive Israeli jurisdiction within bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.
- These agreements affirm that settlements remain under Israel’s remit “pending the outcome of peace negotiations, and do not prohibit settlement activity.” (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Israeli Settlements and International Law.” Nov 30, 2015. http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/israeli%20settlements%20and%20international%20law.aspx)
Numerous Israeli settlements have been re-established on sites formerly home to native Jewish populations, in an expression of the Jewish People’s profound historical and ongoing connection to its homeland, the cradle of Jewish civilization.
- A significant number of settlements are situated in loci where previous Jewish communities were forcibly expelled by Arab armies or militia, or slaughtered, as was the case with the ancient Jewish community of Hebron in 1929.
The only illegal or unauthorized (under Israeli law) settlements in Judea & Samaria are those Jewish outposts established without Israeli building permits.
- Outposts are small settlements usually consisting of less than 1,000 residents, some of which were established on state lands and others on private Arab land. Estimates of the number of outposts range from around 50 to over 100, depending on the classification of an outpost as a standalone entity or a settlement neighborhood.
- In recent years the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has determined to retroactively legalize at least some outposts on state lands and to dismantle those on privately-owned Arab property.