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The Day In Israel: Wednesday Dec 30th, 2009

According to Hamas, Israel is refusing to release the “heaviest” prisoners as part of a possible terrorists-for-Gilad Shalit exchange deal, including Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat, Ibrahim Hamed and Abdullah Barghouti.


Meanwhile, Hamas has rejected suggestions that they have rejected Israel’s latest offer. But they haven’t denied threatening to kidnap more soldiers.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

11:10PM: Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon gets right to the facts.

The recent statements by the European Union’s new foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton criticizing Israel have once again brought international attention to Jerusalem and the settlements. However, little appears to be truly understood about Israel’s rights to what are generally called the “occupied territories” but what really are “disputed territories.”

That’s because the land now known as the West Bank cannot be considered “occupied” in the legal sense of the word as it had not attained recognized sovereignty before Israel’s conquest. Contrary to some beliefs there has never been a Palestinian state, and no other nation has ever established Jerusalem as its capital despite it being under Islamic control for hundreds of years.

The name “West Bank” was first used in 1950 by the Jordanians when they annexed the land to differentiate it from the rest of the country, which is on the east bank of the river Jordan. The boundaries of this territory were set only one year before during the armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan that ended the war that began in 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish State. It was at Jordan’s insistence that the 1949 armistice line became not a recognized international border but only a line separating armies. The Armistice Agreement specifically stated: “No provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of either Party hereto in the peaceful settlement of the Palestine questions, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.” (Italics added.) This boundary became the famous “Green Line,” so named because the military officials during the armistice talks used a green pen to draw the line on the map.

After the Six Day War, when once again Arab armies sought to destroy Israel and the Jewish state subsequently captured the West Bank and other territory, the United Nations sought to create an enduring solution to the conflict. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 is probably one of the most misunderstood documents in the international arena. While many, especially the Palestinians, push the idea that the document demands that Israel return everything captured over the Green Line, nothing could be further from the truth. The resolution calls for “peace within secure and recognized boundaries,” but nowhere does it mention where those boundaries should be.

It is best to understand the intentions of the drafters of the resolution before considering other interpretations. Eugene V. Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in 1967 and a drafter of the resolution, stated in 1990: “Security Council Resolution 242 and (subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution) 338… rest on two principles, Israel may administer the territory until its Arab neighbors make peace; and when peace is made, Israel should withdraw to “secure and recognized borders,” which need not be the same as the Armistice Demarcation Lines of 194.”

Lord Caradon, the British U.N. Ambassador at the time and the resolution’s main drafter who introduced it to the Council, said in 1974 unequivocally that, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.”

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, made the issue even clearer when he stated in 1973 that, “the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” This would encompass “less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory, inasmuch as Israel’s prior frontiers had proven to be notably insecure.”

Even the Soviet delegate to the U.N., Vasily Kuznetsov, who fought against the final text, conceded that the resolution gave Israel the right to “withdraw its forces only to those lines it considers appropriate.”

After the war in 1967, when Jews started returning to their historic heartland in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as the territory had been known around the world for 2,000 years until the Jordanians renamed it, the issue of settlements arose. However, Rostow found no legal impediment to Jewish settlement in these territories. He maintained that the original British Mandate of Palestine still applies to the West Bank. He said “the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors.” There is no internationally binding document pertaining to this territory that has nullified this right of Jewish settlement since.

And yet, there is this perception that Israel is occupying stolen land and that the Palestinians are the only party with national, legal and historic rights to it. Not only is this morally and factually incorrect, but the more this narrative is being accepted, the less likely the Palestinians feel the need to come to the negotiating table. Statements like those of Lady Ashton’s are not only incorrect; they push a negotiated solution further away.

10:18PM: Hamas has claimed it uncovered a plot by Israel to gather information about the location of Gilad Shalit, imvolving former security officers belonging to Fatah.

A senior Hamas official said that Israel had recruited a number of officers who used to serve in the Fatah-dominated security forces before the Islamist movement seized control of the entire Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

Abu Abdullah, who serves with Hamas’s Internal Security Service, said that the officers had been entrusted with the mission of locating the place where Schalit was being held by his captors.

“The Shabak is very interested in obtaining any information about the whereabouts of Schalit through various methods,” Abu Abdullah said, referring to Israel’s Security Agency (Shin Bet). “One of these methods was the last war [Operation Cast Lead], whose goal was to break Hamas and obtain information about the location of Schalit to rescue him.”

The Hamas security official revealed that his men arrested “a number of collaborators” who had rented an apartment and vehicles in the eastern area of the Gaza Strip.

He claimed that the “collaborators” were planning to kidnap a senior member of Hamas’s armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, and hand him over to Israel for interrogation about the location of Schalit.

Abu Abdullah did not name the top operative who was supposed to be abducted. However, he told a Hamas-affiliated Web site that his men managed to foil the alleged scheme in the last minute.

He said that the alleged Israeli operation was similar to an earlier incident where undercover IDF soldiers are said to have detained another senior Hamas operative, Muhawesh al-Qadi, from the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip more than a year ago.

Abu Abdullah reiterated Hamas charges that former security officers belonging to Fatah were working with the IDF and other Israeli security branches to undermine the movement and free Schalit. He also claimed that these “collaborators” had also provided the Israelis with information about Hamas men who fired rockets into Israel.

4:52PM: Ma’an News reports:

The UN relief agency UNRWA said on Tuesday that Gaza had been “bombed back, not to the Stone Age, but to the mud age,” because the agency was reduced to building houses out of mud due to Israel’s ban on construction materials entering the Strip.

Little known historical fact: During the Mud Age, man was apparently able to produce and fire rockets.

6:55AM: Israeli magician Hezi Dayan is attempting to break David Blaine’s 58-hour world record for remaining inside an ice cell, by remaining inside for 64 hours.

6:05AM: Fatah Central Committee member Sultan Abul Enein stated the blast in Beirut that killed two Hamas members was an accident.

He said in an interview with Voice of Palestine radio that the explosion resulted from a “misuse of arms,” and had no security or political significance.

He did not say on what basis he made these assertions. Abul Enein served as one of Fatah’s senior leaders in Lebanon for years before moving to the West Bank in August.

The two Hamas members were buried on Tuesday. Hamas has not publicly accused anyone of carrying out the apparent bombing.

Speaking at the funeral on Monday, Hamas’ top leader in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan declined to speculate on who was responsible.

Also on Monday Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported that the blast had been caused by 15 kilograms of TNT.

My money’s still on premature explodation, although I’m now beginning to think Fatah may have had a hand in it.

6:00AM: Hassan Nasrallah speaks of his respect for the US and desire for peace once Israel withdraws from the northern part of the village of Ghajar.

5:55AM: Lebanese Druze leader Walid “Mr Burns” Jumblatt yesterday urged Israeli Druze not to serve in the IDF.

Speaking to Nazareth-based Radio A-Shams, Jumblatt said that all Druze are Arabs who follow the Druze religion, and thus ties between Druze in different countries and between Druze and other Arabs were only natural.

The Druze leader, who was visiting Cyprus, met recently with a delegation of Israeli Druze dignitaries led by MK Said Naffaa (Balad) and clergymen from Mount Carmel and the Galilee. He said his ties with Israeli Druze began in Amman in 2001 and have been developing ever since.

Jumblatt noted that there was an increasing awareness of such ties among young Druze in Israel and said that many of them were already refusing to join the military. “The fact that the number of Druze avoiding military service has risen from 5 percent to almost 60 percent is proof enough of the importance of this connection,” he said.

The percentage of Druze that join the military has long been contested by both sides of the ideological debate. At a conference in the Druze village of Julis attended by then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, Dr. Yussuf Hassan of Tel Aviv University presented a survey stating that 94 percent of Israeli Druze see Israeliness as an important part of their identity. IDF Col. Ramez a-Din told the conference that 83 percent of young Druze join the military, compared to only 72 percent of Jewish youths.

Jumblatt rejected criticism that he was intervening in another community’s internal affairs. “There were voices that I can only describe as primitive who attacked our initiative, but we’ve proven that maintaining this relationship strengthens the Arab Palestinian identity of community members in Israel, and especially the young,” he said. “The rising numbers of conscientious objectors show the Druze will no longer be border guards for the State of Israel.”

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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