God gave the land to the Jews, Israeli diplomat says of disputed West Bank

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Baz Ratner)Israelis carry flags during a march marking Jerusalem Day near Damascus Gate outside Jerusalem's Old City May 17, 2015. Israeli police on horseback confronted dozens of Palestinian protesters who threw stones at the forces protecting thousands of flag-waving Jewish nationalists marching on Sunday on the anniversary of Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in a 1967 war. Israel later annexed the area, making it a part of its capital in a move never recognised internationally.

TEL AVIV (Christian Examiner) – An Israeli diplomat and member of Prime Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party has said all of the Jewish state's land – including the disputed West Bank – belongs to Israel, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told new members of the foreign ministry staff in a speech that Israel should no longer speak in veiled terms about possessing the land because God gave it to the Jews.

In her speech, Hotovely – the country's second highest ranking diplomat – quoted a medieval Jewish rabbi, Rashi, who wrote about the creation of the world. In that account, the rabbi suggested:

"For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, 'You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],' they will reply, 'The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper when He wished. He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us."

According to Hotovely, Israel should be following the same policy today because it is time to "tell the world we're right – and smart."

For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, 'You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],' they will reply, 'The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper when He wished. He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.
-Rashi, 11th century Jewish rabbi

Hotovely was a surprise appointment to the new government formed by Netanyahu following his re-election as prime minister. She is an advocate of a one-state solution to the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis. Netanyahu has said a two-state solution is desirable, but currently not possible.

Under Hotovely's plan, Israel would annex the West Bank and apply Israeli law to Palestinians, an act that would make them eligible for increased educational opportunities and benefits while preserving a defensible national border. That border would be based not on the United Nations 1947 partition of the land, but on the original British mandate, which granted all of biblical Israel to the modern Jewish state.

It is a plan that has worked before. In the book The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, Jerusalem Post editor and author Caroline Glick argues Israel successfully annexed part of the Golan Heights and applied Israeli law there in 1981. To the Druze people living there, Israel offered the rights of citizenship. The area is now largely peaceful.

Under the plan advocated by Hotovely, Jerusalem would also remain the nation's undivided capital, a pledge also made by Netanyahu.

According to Haaretz, some diplomats were shocked as her comments seem to dislodge Israel from the prime minister's prior statements about an Israeli and Palestinian state, side-by-side, with security assurances for Israel.

But Hotovely may have been seeking to shift the discussion away from borders to the issue of justice and human rights. In her view, and the view of those who advocate a single state, the Palestinians would fare better under Israeli law than under a corrupt Palestinian regime.

"Of course the world understands Israel's security needs, but arguments of ethics and justice will trump security arguments," she said, the Times of Israel reported.

How Hotovely's comments will affect Netanyahu's work abroad remains to be seen. But clearly, the foreign ministry is divided on how to proceed.

Earlier this week, sources close to Netanyahu hinted he was ready to resume negotiations based on the two-state solution and discuss the boundaries of "settlement blocs" in Judea and Samaria (which the Palestinians refer to as their state).