So-called territories central to Israels history

One of the enduring myths surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict is that the "settlements" in Judea/Samaria (often called "the West Bank") are the source of the conflict between the Jews and the so-called "Palestinians." That, if that problem were solved — in other words, if Israel would turn Judea/Samaria over to the "Palestinians" — peace would prevail and the century-old conflict would be ended.

Various fallacies and erroneous assumptions underlie that belief, so often repeated that even those who are friendly to Israel, even many Jews in Israel and in the United States, have come to accept it. Our government, generally friendly to and supportive of Israel, has bought into the myth of the "settlements"; it has regularly and insistently requested that the "settlements" be abandoned and, one supposes, be turned over lock, stock and barrel to those who are sworn to destroy Israel.

The very designation of the Jewish inhabitants of Judea/Samaria as "settlers" is inappropriate because it connotes something foreign, intrusive and temporary, something that is purposefully and maliciously imposed. But that is nonsense of course. Why would the quarter-million Jews that live in Judea/Samaria be any more "intrusive" or any more "illegal" than the more than 1 million Arabs who live in peace in what is called "Israel proper" or west of the so-called "Green Line"? Nobody considers their presence as intrusive; nobody talks of them as an obstacle to peace. They live in Israel in full enjoyment of the same civil rights that Jews have.

Most of us, regrettably perhaps, are too worldly and too "sophisticated" to put much stock in the argument that the territory in question, Judea and Samaria, is indeed the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, that it was promised by God to Abraham and his seed in perpetuity. Jews have lived in that country without interruption since biblical times. There is no reason why they shouldn't live there now.

Yes, you will say, but how about the legal aspect of this matter? After all, the "West Bank" is "occupied territory" and therefore, according to various resolutions of world bodies, the Jews have no right to be in that territory.

But the historic reality is quite different. Very briefly: The Ottoman Empire was sovereign in the entire area. After World War I, the British were awarded the mandate over what was then called Palestine; it comprised present-day Israel (including Judea/Samaria) and present-day Jordan. Article 6 of the mandate "encouraged close settlement by the Jews on the land," including the lands of Judea/Samaria and Gaza (Yesha). That was later confirmed by the Balfour Declaration.

Britain, for its own imperial reasons, separated 76 percent of the land — that lying beyond the Jordan River — to create the kingdom of Trans-Jordan (now Jordan) and made it inaccessible to Jews. In 1947, tired of the constant bloodletting between Arabs and Jews, the British threw in the towel and abandoned the mandate. The United Nations took over. It devised a plan by which the land west of the Jordan River would be split between the Jews and the Arabs.

The Jews, though with heavy heart, accepted the plan. The Arabs vehemently rejected it and invaded the nascent Jewish state with the armies of five countries, so as to destroy it at its birth. Miraculously, the Jews prevailed and the state of Israel was born. When the smoke of battle cleared, Jordan was in possession of the West Bank. The Arabs were the "occupiers," and they proceeded to kill many Jews and to drive out the rest. They systematically destroyed all Jewish holy places and all vestiges of Jewish presence. The area was judenrein.

In the Six-Day War of 1967, the Jews re-conquered the territory, which was theirs — not just by God's will but by the plain language of the British Mandate. The concept that Jewish presence in Judea/Samaria is illegal and that the Jews are occupiers is bizarre. It just has been repeated so often and with such vigor that many people have come to accept it.

One more thing, however, which can only be treated very briefly in this context: It is about the "Palestinians," whose patrimony this territory supposedly is and about whose olive trees we hear endlessly. There is, of course, no such people. They are Arabs — the same people as in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and beyond. The concept of "Palestinians," as applied to Arabs and as a distinct nationality urgently in need of their own twenty-third Arab state, is a fairly new one; it was not invented until after 1948, when the state of Israel was founded.

The "occupation," the "settlements," are obstacles to peace? Please consider that the Palestinian Liberation Organization, dedicated in its never-rescinded charter to the destruction of Israel, was founded in 1964, long before "settlements" and long before "occupation." Peace would not come even if the "settlements" were demolished and if the quarter-million Jews now living there were expelled.

But here's a thought: How about a deal by which the "settlements" were indeed abandoned and all the Jews were to moved to "Israel proper." At the same time, all the Arabs living in Israel were transferred to Judea/Samaria or to wherever else they wanted to go. That would indeed make Judea/Samaria judenrein and what are now Arab lands in Israel would be arabrein. The Arabs could then live in a fully autonomous area in eastern Israel and peace, one would hope, would descend on the Holy Land.