Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel for meetings with leaders of the newly formed government of Israel including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gen. Benny Gantz.
In addition to discussions related to Iran and China, the main topic on the table was President Trump’s Peace to Prosperity Plan.
On April 22, Secretary Pompeo had announced that, ultimately, it will be Israel’s decision whether to apply sovereignty to the entirety of Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria as well as the Jordan Valley, often incorrectly referred to as "the West Bank."
While reports are still unclear as to whether the secretary asked Israel’s leaders to take more time before making any formal declarations, one thing is very clear — for the first time since Israel won these areas in a defensive war in 1967, Israel is being told by the world’s largest superpower, that this decision is entirely up to its own government and people to make.
That is how it should be as any sovereign nation should be allowed to decide what is best for itself and its people.
For over a quarter-century, One Israel Fund has and continues to be the leading American philanthropy supporting the safety and well-being of these very same Jewish communities.
As executive vice president of this organization I know firsthand the struggles that these communities confront. One Israel Fund steps in to fill in the gaps in services and security these communities face, oftentimes due to their political state of flux.
Many in the United States might not realize this but over 460,000 Jews live and work in Judea and Samaria. When added to the suburb communities of Jerusalem, nearly 10% of all Israeli Jews are considered "settlers" by the "enlightened" global community.
There are strong Jewish historical ties to this land dating back to Biblical times and a continuous Jewish presence existed here throughout the millennia. The majority of stories from the Bible, which took place in the Land of Israel, were in the areas of Judea and Samaria.
Ergo, it is known as the Cradle of the Jewish People and the Biblical Heartland of Israel. Later in history, the famous Maccabees that are part of the famed story of Chanukah lived and fought in this area.
Moreover, this month is the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference that dealt with the disposition of territories which, until 1920, were part of the Ottoman Empire.
At San Remo, Jewish historic rights became Jewish legal rights, and this was applied to the entire land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as well as the land subsequently gifted to the Hashemite family in what is now known as Jordan.
The land west of the Jordan River has never been rescinded by any legal bodies and, as such, is legally part of the Jewish State of Israel including the Jordan Valley, Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and even Gaza.
Presently, the areas where all Jews live, which was designated in the Oslo II Accords as Area C, is under military law. In essence, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) serve as the civilian legal authority in these areas and that leads to numerous problems for everyone living here — Jew and Arab alike.
Rather than a civilian police force patrolling the roads and highways, the IDF is in charge and a military cannot properly and should not enforce speed limits and other traffic infractions.
The roads are treacherous and not always due to the ever-prevalent terror.
A few months ago, a family was destroyed when a teenage Arab driver plowed through a red light at nearly 95 MPH and killed a mother and infant child, leaving another child and the husband permanently injured.
Sadly, this is common and is true for Jew and Arab alike.
They are both guilty of reckless driving and would both benefit from improved patrol and safety.
The roads aren’t the only arena lacking proper oversight. Environmental issues arise often due to constant Palestinian Authority sanitation strikes. Arabs resort to burning their garbage releasing toxins into the land, water and air.
Illegal or questionable building structures and permits, whether Arab or Israeli, should be handled by a civilian court system, similar to that which exists for the rest of the country and not a military administrative court.
Moreover, there should be one set of laws whereas currently the areas of Judea and Samaria are often governed by laws ranging from the times of the Ottoman Empire, British rule and even Jordanian occupation.
The application of Israeli law in these areas will improve all lives - not only for the 460,000 plus Israeli Jews living in these areas but also for the 250,000-300,000 Palestinian Arabs as well. Economic development would increase for everyone.
Healthcare options would improve across the board. Safety and improved access roads would be built to the benefit of everyone. Environmental issues would be monitored and laws enforced. And, contrary to the doomsday predictions, nothing would change regarding the nature of Israel’s standing as a Democratic state nor its Jewish identity.
For just these reasons mentioned above it just makes sense that Judea and Samaria be recognized as part of Israel and the application of Israeli law be applied to these areas.
As we celebrated Israel’s Independence Day last week on the Hebrew Calendar, I thought of the Jewish pioneers who reclaimed the Jewish land at the turn of the last century, ultimately leading to the founding of the modern state in 1948.
There was always a Jewish presence in Israel, but May 14, 1948 marked the day when the Jewish people were able to control their land and destiny after more than 2,000 years of wandering from country to country, ultimately being persecuted and then expelled each time.
The Jews were a people never totally welcome in their host countries and always prayed toward Jerusalem which they saw as the capital of their homeland while constantly yearning to return.
Over the past few years Jews across the world have, once again, faced an incredible increase in the numbers and severity of anti-Semitic acts.
Moreover, there has even been a surge in acts of prejudice against Jews here in the United States. As someone who has lived here my entire life, I always viewed the United States as a safe haven for Jews.
As I see Jews attacked in their places of worship, in their homes and on the street in my beloved America, I am both saddened by these events but also comforted by the fact that we do have a place which will accept us should the need ever become too extreme.
Our history has shown us that, even after hundreds of years, our host countries will eventually turn on us. I pray I don’t see that day here in the U.S. but I am not naïve either. This is the essence of why One Israel Fund exists — to make Israel as strong and safe as possible.
To further this cause, Judea and Samaria must be recognized as part of the modern national Jewish homeland. It is, after all, our heartland and no entity can exist without its heart.
Scott M. Feltman is the executive vice president of One Israel Fund.Scott M. Feltman is the executive vice president of One Israel Fund, an American philanthropy that provides security and humanitarian aid for those living in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the communities impacted by the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005. He has worked in the nonprofit world since 1990, and previously worked as One Israel Fund’s director of development. He was drawn to One Israel Fund by its mission to improve and protect the lives of those living on the frontlines. He has appeared on Newsmax TV, Fox Nation and i24News and his work has been published in Townhall.com and The Daily Wire. Read Scott Feltman's Reports — More Here.
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