A mosaic from the ancient Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue in the Jordan Valley (Wikipedia)
The letter, released earlier this week, was written by a group of retired Canadian diplomats who objected to hypothetical Israeli government plans to extend its legal jurisdiction to areas of the West Bank.
The West Bank, historically known as Judea and Samaria, is a territory that has long been disputed between Israel and the Palestinians. The region is home to many important ancient Jewish sites, but is also home to a large Palestinian population today.
The San Remo conference of 1920 included the territory in what became the British Mandate for Palestine – land designated for a future Jewish state. In 1948, the territory was conquered by Jordan – which unilaterally annexed it.
In 1967, it came under Israel’s legitimate control during a defensive war. Its final status has remained undecided ever since, as attempts at negotiation have continuously failed.
The specifics of this future plan remain unknown. Nevertheless, the letter calls on Canada’s government to strongly oppose it.
The letter is rampant with double standards, one-sidedness, and apparent historical ignorance.
The authors of the letter assert that Israel, in considering unilateral action, is ascribing a final status to parts of the West Bank.
At the same time, the authors of the letter assert that the territory in question is entirely “occupied Palestinian territory” – including, absurdly, Judaism’s holiest sites such as the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This makes the authors of the letter guilty of the very thing to which they are objecting – a unilateral conclusion that one side has the true right to the disputed territories rather than allowing their final status to be determined through negotiations.
For decades, Israel has repeatedly shown a willingness to compromise and offer territorial concessions, yet Palestinian leaders have repeatedly obstructed the peace process. Israel offered the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank both in 2000 and 2008. These offers were rejected by the Palestinian leadership.
At the same time, the Palestinian leadership has continued to demonize Israel, incite hatred against Israelis, fund the families of terrorists, and support NGOs with links to terrorism. Where is the condemnation of these actions by the authors of the letter?
“We are disgusted with the blatant hypocrisy and double standards of the international community constantly directed against Israel. This letter is just the latest example of it,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “The status of the territories in question is a subject of major debate in international law, and Israel’s claims are no less legitimate than anyone else’s.
“Reasonable Canadian diplomats, retired or otherwise, should have the patience and common sense to await the details of the coming Israeli plan before prematurely attacking and condemning it. This letter has revealed their prejudice and bias – both of which should be remembered when weighing their opinions in the future.”
The internationally accepted bedrock of all Middle East peacemaking has long been UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for negotiations to achieve a just and durable peace. The letter does not mention either of these resolutions.
Israel has followed the terms of these resolutions throughout its history, and has made difficult territorial concessions in exchange for peace on multiple occasions – such as giving up the Sinai Desert to Egypt, and unilaterally withdrawing from Southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Furthermore, Israel has been willing to renegotiate the final status of the Golan Heights with Syria on multiple occasions – even after having applied its legal jurisdiction to that territory in 1981. Thus, application of Israeli law, whether by 'annexation' or any other name, does not signal the end of attempts to negotiate with the Palestinians.
B’nai Brith insists that fairness and historical accuracy be the basis of any policy discussions about the Middle East peace process.