In the Czech Republic, A Contretemps Over Israel

From the Jerusalem Post:

Politics in the Czech Republic have been roiled in the past few days by debate over how to respond to the possibility that Israel may apply its laws to parts of the West Bank.

The latest chapter in the ongoing political controversy came with an article by Czech Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Radek Vondráček on Monday calling for “opening up a new perspective” and saying “time is running out and the situation has changed” since two states became the paradigm for the peace process. The emphasis on international law “contributed to the block in the conflict…and did not help resolve the conflict,” he wrote in Právo Daily. “Many are determined to find a way to do so without being captive to old schemes and frustrations from the results.”

The “old schemes” – and they continue to be spun until today — were, in fact, based on a view of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a “problem” susceptible of a “solution,” rather than as a “situation” that needed to be “managed.” No matter how generous were the peace offers made by Israel, the Palestinians rejected all of them, in 1947, 1967, 1978, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2012 and 2015. Even when Ehud Barak offered Yassir Arafat 97% of the “West Bank” and the internationalization of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Israeli offer was rejected, as was a similar one made a few years later by Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas.

If we recognize that the Arab war on Israel is a classic Jihad against Infidels who now possess territory that was once, and therefore must always remain, Muslim, then the notion of a permanent “solution” based on Israeli territorial surrender can be recognized as folly. Any “peace” between Israel and the Palestinians will hold only if it is not based on treaties that will certainly be violated by the Palestinians, who take as their model of treaty-making the agreement Muhammad made with the Meccans in 628 A.D. That Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya was to have lasted ten years; Muhammad broke it within 18 months, just as soon as he felt his forces were stronger than those of the Meccans. The way to keep the peace between Jews and Arabs is through the same policy — deterrence – which worked during the Cold War, and will work to keep the peace for Israel, if the Jewish state Israel remains obviously, and overwhelmingly, stronger than its Muslim enemies.

Vondráček concluded that support for Israel should not be based on a two-state solution, and that it is “time to revive the idea of coexistence in one common state.”

Vondráček has in mind a single state, where Muslims and non-Muslims will “coexist” in happy harmony. The idea of “coexistence” between Muslims and non-Muslims living harmoniously in one state where the two groups are close in numbers is absurd. Where has such a state ever existed? If the 1.8 million Arabs in Gaza, and the 2 million Arabs in the West Bank, were to join the 2 million Arab citizens of Israel, this “one common state” would have seven million Jews and 5.8 million Arabs. The Arabs and Jews in such a state would be in constant conflict; look at the problems the Jews now have in Israel, with far fewer Arabs, and from terror threats both within the country, and from Gaza and the P.A.-run parts of the West Bank. How would this “coexistence” be maintained if hatred of the Jews is inculcated in several dozen Qu’ranic verses, and in many stories in the Hadith? Suppose the Arabs outside this state decided to invade, to finally do away with “the Jews.” How would those Jews, facing a gigantic Muslim fifth column within the country, one prepared to link up with Arab invaders, manage to survive? The problem is not theoretical. If we want Israel to survive, fantasies about “co-existence” only lead us astray. Just imagine, as a thought-experiment, if in the United States there was a sudden influx of 150 million Muslim migrants. What would be the consequences for the indigenous non-Muslims?

The debate in Czech politics began on Saturday, with Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček and two of his predecessors publishing an op-ed in Právo Daily slamming annexation plans, with the headline: “What will happened [sic] to the Palestinians and Israeli democracy?”

“Our political and civic responsibility…tells us that we cannot approach the planned Israeli annexation of parts of the Palestinian territories in any way other than explicitly critically,” the article states, saying Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank would violate international law.

Tomáš Petříček is flatly wrong. These are not “Palestinian territories.” Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria (a/k/a “the West Bank”) does not violate international law; it is based firmly on international law. That is, it is based on the League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine, which included all of the territory from Mt. Hermon in the north, to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the west to the Mediterranean Sea in the east. Just as the other mandates carved out of former Ottoman territories were created in order to bring about the establishment of several Arab states, which did indeed come into being — Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon – so was the Mandate for Palestine created to bring about the establishment of a Jewish state. Jordan was a special case, for the land east of the Jordan “out to the desert” was originally intended to form part (78%) of the Palestine Mandate’s territory, but the British unilaterally removed all of the land east of the Jordan River from the Palestine Mandate’s provisions, instead turning it into the Emirate of Transjordan, with the Hashemite Abdullah as its ruler.

Those who presume to demand that Israel “must do” thus and so according to a vague “international law” should first inform themselves about the Palestine Mandate, and what territories it included. Once they have clearly understood the Mandate’s provisions, including its encouragement of “close Jewish settlement on the land” that was delineated on the Mandate’s maps – maps that also demand to be studied — they may view things very differently.

Such people as Tomáš Petříček need to stop parroting “what the international community” says about Israel “violating international law,” and instead study and thoroughly assimilate the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine, and memorize the Mandate maps that clearly show the territory covered by those provisions. Then they can then move on to U.N. Resolution 242, which provides an independent justification for Israel to hold onto those territories, won in the Six-Day War, that it believes are necessary for its security. That would certainly include the Jordan Valley, control of which is essential to slow down potential invaders from the east, buying time for Israel’s reservists to mobilize. The cities and towns (“settlements”) in which a half-million Israeli Jews now live in the West Bank also provide Israel with strategic depth and, of course, their existence does not violate but fulfills the express provisions – Articles 4 and 6 – of the Mandate for Palestine.

The chief drafter of Resolution 242 was Lord Caradon (Hugh M. Foot), the permanent representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations from 1964 to 1970. At the time of the Resolution’s discussion and subsequent unanimous passage, and on many occasions since, Lord Caradon always insisted that the phrase “from the territories” quite deliberately did not mean “all the territories,” but merely some of the territories:

Lord Caradon later recalled:

Much play has been made of the fact that we didn’t say “the” territories or “all the” territories. But that was deliberate. I myself knew very well the 1967 boundaries and if we had put in the “the” or “all the” that could only have meant that we wished to see the 1967 boundaries perpetuated in the form of a permanent frontier. This I was certainly not prepared to recommend.

On another occasion, to an interviewer from the Journal of Palestine Studies (Spring-Summer 1976), Lord Caradon again insisted on the deliberateness of the wording. He was asked:

The basis for any settlement will be United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, of which you were the architect. Would you say there is a contradiction between the part of the resolution that stresses the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and that which calls for Israeli withdrawal from “occupied territories,” but not from “the occupied territories”?

Nota bene: “from territories occupied” is not the same thing as “from occupied territories” – the first is neutral, the second a loaded description.

Lord Caradon answered:

I defend the resolution as it stands. What it states, as you know, is first the general principle of inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. That means that you can’t justify holding onto territory merely because you conquered it. We could have said: well, you go back to the 1967 line. But I know the 1967 line, and it’s a rotten line. You couldn’t have a worse line for a permanent international boundary. It’s where the troops happened to be on a certain night in 1948. It’s got no relation to the needs of the situation.

Had we said that you must go back to the 1967 line, which would have resulted if we had specified a retreat from all the occupied territories, we would have been wrong.

Also note how Lord Caradon says that “you can’t justify holding onto territory merely because you conquered it,” with that “merely” applying to Jordan, but not to Israel, because of the Mandate’s explicit provisions allocating the territory known now as the “West Bank” to the Jewish state. Note, too, the firmness of his dismissal of the 1967 line as a ”rotten line,” nothing more than “where the troops happened to be on a certain night in 1948,” that is, nothing more than armistice lines and not internationally recognized borders. “You couldn’t have a worse line for a permanent international boundary.”

Yet here is Foreign Minister Petříček, who appears unaware of both the Mandate for Palestine’s provisions and of U.N. Resolution 242’s clear intent, dressing down Israel for daring to assert its legal, historic, and moral claim to the Land of Israel. Had he read and thoroughly understood both the Palestine Mandate and Resolution 242, instead of criticizing the Jewish state, he might have praised Israel for demonstrating a willingness to give up some 70% of the West Bank, though under no legal obligation to do so, in order that the Palestinian Arabs might have a second state (the first being Jordan) of their own.

The Czech Republic has traditionally been one of the friendliest countries to Israel in Europe, and often votes against EU proposals to condemn Israel, or more recently threaten sanctions over annexation. Contrary to previous reports, the Czech Republic was one of the countries that opposed a recent, critical statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell on the matter. A diplomatic source pointed out that the Czech Foreign Ministry did not share Borrell’s statement on social media or release its own statement echoing his.

Petříček’s article, therefore, sparked significant controversy and pushback.

Later on Saturday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš expressed his disapproval of the article and the idea that a minister would express an opinion independent of government policy….

Petříček has for now been chastised: he does not speak for the government, as Prime Minister Andrej Babiš made clear. Still more telling, a great many other high officials, both present and past, entered the discussion to defend Israel and deplore Petříček’s ill-conceived article. They included not just President Zeman, and Prime Minister Babis, but also former Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek and three former foreign ministers.

There was also an outpouring of support for Israel from Czech people outraged by Petříček’s article. Riding this wave of support to good effect, President Zeman should take the occasion, with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s agreement, to move the Czech embassy to Jerusalem, a fitting answer to Foreign Minister Petříček and all those who presume to dictate to Israel what it can and cannot do. There will be no better time.

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