And After So Much Discussion in Israel as to "Who is a Jew",
US President Bill Clinton and many Jewish organizations have asked Israel to restrain "settlement activity" as a gesture to advance the peace process.
This leads to a question - What is the definition of "settlement activity" ?
Let us examine three widely accepted definitions of Israeli "settlement activity":
1. The "Geneva Convention" definition: Areas that Israel has taken by force"
Most recently, a coalition of international human rights organizations took out ads in all of the major Israeli newspapers, in which these groups quoted the Geneva Conventions that forbid any nation from settling their citizens in areas that were taken by force of military action.
That would mean that the areas that the Israel Defence Forces conquered in the 1948 war of liberation beyond what the UN in 1947 had allocated for the new Jewish state would be considered to be illegal "settlement activity". That would mean that Israel conducts illegal settlement activity in Ramle, BeerSheva, Nahariya, Tzfat and Lod, let alone Jerusalem, which the UN declared an international city.
In other words, the Geneva Conventions would view any plane that takes off or lands at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod in "settlement activity".
2. The US State Department/Canadian foreign ministry definition: "All areas taken by Israel in 1967"
The The United States State Department and all major foreign ministries around the globe, along with Israel's Arab political parties, define Israeli "settlement activity" as all areas taken by Israel as a result of the 1967 six day war, especially Jerusalem, which Israel annexed immediately following the war.
Israel has thus far settled 185,000 Jews in nine Jerusalem neighborhoods, after the 1949-1967 Jordanian restriction that forbid any Jewish residency or Jewish tourism in these areas, including the Old City of Jerusalem.
There are now more Jews than Arabs in the areas of Jerusalem that had been under Jordanian control.
No major country in the world recognizes Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem. That includes the United States.
Perhaps that is why new US legislation that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital carefully deletes any reference to Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
In addition, Israel has settled 145,000 Jews in the west bank districts of Judea and Samaria along with Katif near Gaza and another 14,000 of its citizens in the Golan Heights, that was conquered from Syria in 1967 and formally annexed in 1981.
3. The Israeli "Peace Now" definition
The Israeli "Peace Now" movement, nominally affiliated with the Israeli political parties of Meretz and Labor, distributes a map of settlements that it opposes, carefully excluding Jerusalem. However, "Peace Now", opposes further Jewish housing development that is contiguous to Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
Having finally defined the term, is there any question as to whether Israel will stop "settlement activity"?
A Dilemma and a Constructive Approach
At a time when polarization between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews is widely reported, there are ways that we may build fences between Jews, so as to integrate the Jewish spirituality of the non-Orthodox movements into Israeli society, in a way that both sides of the fence would be pleased.
The time has come, instead, to stress the positive, and that is that Reform and Conservative Jews are more than welcome to come to Israel to help Judaize a country that now copes with a tragic Israeli antisemitic fervor, that was expressed in the previous government, when Israel Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni virtually eliminated Jewish instruction from the public education school system, as a result of which we have a new generation of Israeli children who are growing up without any sense of Jewish or Zionist history, let alone exposure to Bible, Talmud or other Jewish sources, even from a secularist point of view.
A practical, positive and constructive suggestion, is to weave the best of Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews into informal educational facilities throughout the state of Israel. They would be more than welcome, by Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike.
To relate a short, personal and professional account: more than twenty years ago, I ran educational summer camping day programs for junior high school students from religious schools in Israeli development towns.
The idea was to enthuse these kids to stay in school and to stay with their Jewish identity.
We hired fifteen counselors with experience at Camp Ramah and UAHC, and they worked for two summers in the art of applying the best of their know-how from where they came from.
Watching Sephardi development town children wake up in the morning to Debbie Friedman songs of prayer and having children write their own poems to God were powerful lessons that these kids never forgot.
At the end of the first summer, I was called in by an elderly Yemenite superintendent of religious education at the main office of the Israel Ministry of Education in Jerusalem.
I did not know why he wanted to see me.
I remember to this day how I opened the door to his office, and how HE greeted me with a warm handshake, asking me if I could get some more counselors like this who worked from their hearts in education. He could have cared less that none of the counselors were Orthodox in practice.
The message is clear.
The non-Orthodox Jewish world can make a deep and serious contribution Israel. They will be loved, appreciated and not simply patronized if they do so.
That is what Klal Yisrael - the people of Israel- should be like. Forget about status. Deal with substance.
Analysis: Reconsidering American/Israeli Passion for PLO Statehood
The time has come to ask all those of us who had supported the concept of a Palestinian Arab state to recognize the error in our ways.
The concept of ceding a sliver of the land to another people may have been a good one.
After all, why should neighbors not find a way to make peace with one another?
However, the Arabs reject the idea, and continue to demand that three million of their refugees return to where they came from in 1948 and that the return of the Jews to our land cease and desist.
Contrary to Israel's and American expectations, at no time has the Palestinian Arab national movement ever proclaimed - "Give us Gaza and the West Bank and we will give you peace"
Those who have advocated sovereignty for Palestinian Arabs do not do so out of malice or hatred of the Jewish people.
People who advocate the idea of PLO statehood often do so out a commitment to justice and self-determination.
However, my own personal involvement of twelve years on the Israeli Left led me to meet with and dialog with many sympathizers to the PLO on the other side.
PLO activists would always ask me what they thought to be reasonable: We will give you peace if you relinquish up your obsession for Zionism.
>From Day One of the Oslo process, Arafat has been taking Truth Serum every day and proclaiming to his people that the purpose of the process to be the conquest of the entire land.
Three million residents of the UNRWA Arab refugee camps believe Arafat and they ready themselves to join forces with his trained and well motivated Palestine Liberation Army of 50,000 to liberate the rest of land of Israel.
An Arab guerilla army against the seemingly invincible Israel Defense Forces? Ask the FLN in Algeria and the NLF in Vietnam. They remain models for the PLO.
The leaders of Israel, anxious in their passion for peace after one hundred years of war, moved quickly to cede territory and to provide training, arms and cooperation with Arafat's military forces, while Arafat was arming and training the Hamas.
Yet the tragic mistake was in the speed of the Oslo process.
The late Israeli Intelligence Chief, General Aharon Yariv, who conceptualized the very concept of "territory for peace", told me as follows: "People misunderstood us. We never said territory before peace. We said territory for peace".
Israel's ideal peace treaty was forged with Jordan, over a period of twenty four years. Israel made a deal with the Hashemite kingdom in 1970 and consummated it as a formal peace treaty with King Hussein only in 1994.
The Jewish state first wanted tosee how Hussein would behave. And Israel tested him, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Lebanon invasion, the 1987-93 Intifada and the 1991 Gulf war. Only then did Israel sign a formal peace treaty with King Hussein.
That is not what happened with Arafat, the PLO and the new Palestine Authority. Tragically, Israel's Palestinian Arab protagonists view the Oslo process as a stage of war with the state of Israel, and they see Israel ceding territory as a sign of weakness and surrender, not as a step towards peace.
When Arafat says Jihad, "holy war", he means it.
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