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Biblical Heartland

editor - 6 August 2019

The Old City of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are often referred to by Jewish people as their ‘Biblical Heartland’. In the Bible, God refers to these areas (in Ezekiel 36) as ‘the mountains of Israel’. He said that these mountains would become ‘ruins and deserted towns’ and suffer ‘the scorn of the nations’, but that He would bring His ‘people Israel’ back to these mountains and settle them there again, never to be uprooted.

Since about 1950, these areas have been generally referred to as ‘East Jerusalem’ and the ‘West Bank’ – names which were deliberately chosen to avoid any suggestion of a connection with the Jewish people.

Yet these secular names cannot erase the fact that the mountains of Israel have a deep place in the hearts and souls of the Jewish people, and that they have always been at the heart of the Zionist dream of the return of the people to the land of their forefathers. When Theodor Herzl promoted the idea of the Jewish people returning to Zion, thereby formulating the tenets of political Zionism, it’s likely he was thinking of the territory including the Biblical Heartland.

The Biblical Heartland was part of the Mandate for Palestine (1922 – 1948), which was established after WWI to enable the reconstitution of the Jewish homeland ‘in Palestine’. No-one doubted then that territory known as ‘Palestine’ included the ‘Biblical Heartland’ and that the Jewish homeland would include the Biblical Heartland. But when the Mandate came to an end, and the State of Israel was established in May 1948, the Biblical Heartland was captured in an illegal attack on the new State by Jordan, who renamed this region their own ‘West Bank. It was only in the Six-Day War in June 1967 that Israel (miraculously) evicted the Jordanians and gained control over the Biblical Heartland (and a lot more territory as well).

Since the early 1970s, many nations in the UN and other multilateral organisations such as the EU have taken the position that the Biblical Heartland of Israel – the Old City of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria – does not, cannot and will not belong to Israel.

Today, the European Union and a majority of nations in the UN are determined to end Israel’s presence in these territories and ensure that these territories become part of an Islamic ‘State of Palestine’. The official EU position is expressed as follows:

“The European Union, in line with international law, does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, namely the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law. The Union has made it clear that it will not recognise any changes to pre-1967 borders, other than those agreed by the parties to the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).”

This is not only unfair and dishonest, and a fundamental breach of Israel’s right to be treated as a sovereign state and resolve its own border disputes without external interference. It is also a big mistake.

Note the words: ‘in line with international law’ which are critical. They suggest that international law is very clear on this point. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many divergent opinions among international law experts about this. Some say they belong to Israel, for various reasons such as (1) the 1920 San Remo resolution effectively conferred sovereignty on the Jewish people, or (2) the Mandate conferred rights on the Jewish people to settle the land, or (3) the international law principle of uti possidetis juris means that the administrative boundaries of the Mandate became the borders of the State of Israel upon its creation in 1948. Others say they belong to the ‘Palestinian people’, or that they are (or will become) part of the ‘State of Palestine’. Others have argued that sovereignty over these territories is ‘in abeyance’. Some say these territories cannot be a part of Israel because they are ‘occupied’ or because Israel took them through the use of force (the UN Charter forbids the acquisition of territory by force). But whatever the relative merits of these arguments, the point is that there is no clear consensus on the legal status of the Biblical Heartland, and there are no international tribunals who can make a definitive or binding decision on this. Not even the International Court of Justice can, without Israel’s consent, make a binding decision on the legal status of the Biblical Heartland.

It is important to understand that the EU and other nations are using references to international law to support what is, in essence, a political decision: they want the Biblical Heartland to be part of a State of Palestine. And in order to justify that view, they state that international law supports it. They are trying to enforce their own view on this issue, without regard for the views of Israel or of others who dispute their political perspective.

This is not only unfair and dishonest, and a fundamental breach of Israel’s right to be treated as a sovereign state and resolve its own border disputes without external interference. It is also a big mistake. The nations that continue with this policy of dividing the land will discover they are on a collision course with God, who is re-establishing His people Israel on the mountains of Israel – never to be uprooted.

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