President Obama went to Cairo University today to pay homage to Muslim “history” and “tradition,” and to stake his support for a Palestinian state. In his zeal to appease his Muslim audience, he deftly disregarded, and thus disparaged, the deeply rooted Jewish legacy in the Holy Land.
There is no nation with firmer roots in a land than the Jewish people in the greater land of Israel. Obama-administration officials would undoubtedly recoil in disdain were any Israeli official to refer to the West Bank as the territories of “Judea” and “Samaria,” dismissing that as propaganda invented by extremist “settlers” for political ends. Yet, those names, reflecting the Jewish roots in the land, long predated any Palestinian Arab presence. Maps, photographs, travel guides, and other books have throughout history described these territories by those time-honored names. Indeed, the Obama faithful might be disturbed to know, even United Nations resolutions — including, notably, the 1947 Partition resolution — utilized those terms.
Thus, Jewish settlements are clearly not a act of Israeli colonial aspirations, as Obama adroitly suggests. Most represent the return of the Jewish people to the cities of their ancestors. Jews have lived in these territories since time immemorial, and a drive through these territories highlights the Jewish history — cities, tombs, and other landmarks — rooted in this land.
While negotiations about sharing this land may be necessary for the sake of peace, they cannot proceed from a premise that these are “Palestinian lands” or occupied “Palestinian territory.” They are, at most, “disputed territories.”
Nor do settlements “undermine efforts to achieve peace,” as Obama and his supporters simplistically suggest. Polished Palestinian propaganda machines have for years purveyed this myth of Israeli settlements choking Palestinian communities the way commerce and residential developments have rolled back the cornfields and encroached upon rural America. Yet, in reality, nothing like this exists in the largely unsettled expanses of the West Bank. One can look out from any number of Jewish settlements, and not a village, building, or even a herd of sheep can be seen.
Even the pro-Palestinian organization Peace Now concedes that Israeli settlements — most of them bedroom communities of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv — occupy less than 3 percent of the West Bank. Meanwhile, more than 98 percent of Palestinians already live under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and there is no shortage of land there for Palestinian expansion.
Israeli professionals living a suburban life with their children in the vast expanse of these territories do not threaten or harm Palestinians. Israeli checkpoints and security necessities have been implemented only because Palestinians have been more interested in destroying Israel and killing Jews than in establishing an independent Palestinian state. When Palestinian terrorists stop trying to kill Israelis driving to work and school, those checkpoints can be removed so that Palestinians will have the freedom that they require.
The Oslo Accords recognized the issue of “settlements” as one of the “final status” issues to be addressed by negotiation. It is therefore wrong for the Obama administration to now seek to prejudice that delicate issue with misguided pronouncements adopting the Palestinian narrative and actions designed to preclude the building of additions to homes and new units necessary to accommodate Jews seeking only to live in their true homeland.
— Aron Raskas currently resides in Jerusalem.