“And you shall dwell in the Land…”: Asserting Our Right to the Land of Israel

23 Aug 2016

In Bamidbar 33:55, while the people of Israel prepared their entrance to Erets Yisrael, Hashem warned the people of Israel quite clearly what might happen:

“… If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live…”

A few days before we read the Parasha, the leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA), who also chairs the PLO, made a major statement. In the Arab League conference in Mauritania, Mahmud Abbas announced the PA will sue no other than the United Kingdom for making the Balfour Declaration 99 years ago. In a speech that was addressed by PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, Abbas complained that the Balfour Declaration “gave people who don’t belong there, something that wasn’t theirs.” This means that Lord Balfour, the UK foreign minister at the time, delivered a homeland to the Jewish people which does not belong to them.

Abbas’s statement may sound bizarre – after all, what’s the point of calling for a lawsuit about an event that took place a century ago? Undoubtedly, the PA move will fail, but it’s important to understand its meaning.

In 1917, the Balfour Declaration set the political basis and the legal justification for the establishment of the State of Israel. By announcing to the Zionist leadership that “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”, Great Britain recognized the national rights of the Jewish people to the holy land and promised implement them. In that spirit, three years later Balfour’s commitment was one factor which led the “League of Nations” (“the first UN”) to give a mandate for Palestine to Great Britain. When the mandate ended, on May 14 1948, it was replaced by the newborn State of Israel, that its foundation was decided by the UN on Non 29 1947.

There’s no exaggeration in saying that the Balfour Declaration is an essential rafter in Israel’s constitutional existence. And that’s what makes Abbas threat so momentous, since it clarifies once again the fundamental refusal of the Palestinian government to accept any national right of the Jewish people in the Jewish land. Challenging the Balfour Declaration demonstrates the PA’s core belief that no matter what the borders of the Jewish state are, the movement that represents Palestinians would never recognize them. No matter if it is 1947 borders (The UN “Partition Plan”), 1948 borders (after Israel’s Independence War), 1967 borders (after the Six Days War) or 1995 borders (the Oslo accords): They can’t be accepted by the PLO nor by the PA.

Although not spoken enough, the PLO doctrine sees Judaism exclusively as a religion and strongly rejects the idea that Jews are people. As a result, it cannot agree that Jews have national rights in the land of Israel. The following consequences are making all efforts, by physical terror aggression, by diplomatic offensive and by juridical attacks, to remove the Jews from their land. Next year, Israel will celebrate the centennial anniversary to the Balfour Declaration, 70 years to the UN “Partition Plan” and 50 years to the miracle of the Six Days War.

We should use this opportunity to thank G-d for the many miracles that have happened for us in this Land, for the ability to fulfill the commandment as written in Bamidbar: “…and you shall dwell [in the Land]; for unto you have I given the land to possess it.”

Ariel Kahana is the diplomatic correspondent of Makor Rishon weekly and www.nrg.co.il in Israel

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.