JERUSALEM – A new movement is set to be presented next week by residents of Judea and Samaria calling for Jews there to secede from Israel and create their own autonomous Jewish entity in part to head off the possibility of further unilateral Israeli withdrawals from the area, WND has learned.
The Judea Initiative, led by northern Samaria resident Yekutel Ben Yaacov, is seeking to gather signatures from Judea and Samaria’s nearly 200,000 Jews for a manifesto declaring the creation of a sovereign Jewish authority that would govern itself independently according to Jewish law and would provide its own security.
Judea and Samaria are referred to by some as the West Bank, the name coined for the area after Jordan annexed it in 1948.
The initiative aims to create the new Jewish authority in any part of Judea and Samaria, even a small settlement, in hopes of eventually ruling the entire territory, Ben Yaacov said, explaining his initiative was prompted by talks of possible Israeli withdrawals from the area.
“We can’t sit around and wait until Israel sends the bulldozers to take down Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria before attempting to counter the next Israeli withdrawal. We are acting now so we can retain our rightful biblical heritage,” Ben Yaacov told WND.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew Israel’s Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip last summer in spite of fierce opposition from members of his own Likud party. He recently announced he was leaving Likud to start his own “centrist” party, Kadima, prompting new elections currently scheduled for March. Since then, multiple Kadima members have told reporters the new party is looking to change Israel’s borders with possible withdrawals from Judea and Samaria. There have been talks of disengagements from parts of Jerusalem as well.
It’s unclear as yet how Sharon’s massive stroke this week and his inability to govern will affect the future politics of Israel.
Currently, Judea and Samaria is considered landlocked territory not officially recognized as part of any country. Israel calls the land “disputed.” The United Nations claims Judea and Samaria is “occupied” by Israel, which maintains overall control of most of the area while the Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction in about 40 percent. The Palestinians claim a population of roughly 2.4 million, but new demographic studies show the numbers are likely inflated. The actual Palestinian population could be up to 1 million less.
Judea and Samaria remained under Jordanian rule from 1948 until Israel captured the territory in 1967 after Jordan’s King Hussein ignored Israeli pleas for his country to stay out of the Six Day War. Most countries rejected Jordan’s initial claim on the area, which it formally renounced in 1988.
Ben Yaacov says his Judea Initiative takes advantage of Judea and Samaria’s murky legal status to argue for independent Jewish sovereignty.
“Legally it’s a no-man’s land. The Palestinians used that status to create their own authority, so there is absolutely no reason the Jews can’t do the same thing.”
Ben Yaacov’s group, Mishalot Israel, is holding a conference next week in Jerusalem’s Old City to present the Judea Initiative. It will then begin petitioning both private citizens and entire communities to join.
He says already he has garnered interest from local residents and some town leaders.
“The plan hasn’t even been announced or presented and already I am getting a lot of phone calls from people and at least one town that wants to sign on. They are hearing about it by word of mouth,” Ben Yaacov said. “The area is the site of a lot of the Bible and has had a Jewish population for centuries. We will not allow the Israeli government to kick us out.”
Many villages in the Judea and Samaria area, which Israelis commonly reefer to as the “biblical heartland,” are mentioned throughout the Old Testament.
The Book of Genesis says Abraham entered Israel at Shechem (Nablus) and received God’s promise of land for his offspring.
Jacob dreamed of angels on a stairway leading to heaven
The nearby town of Beit El, anciently called Bethel meaning “house of God,” is where Scripture says patriarch Jacob slept on a stone pillow and dreamed of angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven. In that dream, God spoke directly to Jacob and reaffirmed the promise of territory.
And in Exodus, the holy tabernacle rested in Shilo, which is believed to be the first area the ancient Israelites settled after fleeing Egypt.
Ben Yaacov said his new Jewish authority would be “governed by Jewish law. Non-Jews, including Palestinians, are more than welcome to live there as long as they accept Jewish sovereign and agree to abide by the Seven Noahide laws, the most basic of biblical dictates.”
He said the annexed territory would provide for its own security.
“A large contingent of Judea and Samaria residents served in the Israeli army. They currently defend their own settlements to a large extent. We would base ours on the same concept as Israeli security. Immediately after Israel was founded, it was attacked on all sides and it won every war because of the help of God and because of the same people we have with us.”
The initiative states there are three primary reasons to form a Jewish authority in Judea and Samaria:
* “The new Jewish authority will protect Israel from terror and enhance Israeli security. It is more advantageous to have Jewish autonomy in Judea and Samaria in place of complete Palestinian autonomy, which will give the Palestinian terrorist groups more land from which to fire Qassams and launch attacks. The Jews who remain in the area will be accepting a certain level of self-sacrifice by putting themselves in harm’s way.”
* “The creation of a Jewish authority will relieve tension and prevent bloodshed between Jew and fellow Jew by halting an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. There are hundreds of thousands of Jews in the area, some of whom may use violent resistance in the face of any withdrawal. It will also alleviate some of the tension and rifts that would be created in Israeli society by any withdrawal.”
* “The new Jewish authority will offer appropriate self-determination to fulfil the national aspirations of many religious Jews in Israel. The area will be ruled by Torah law as opposed to the current anti-religious government.”
Ben Yaacov’s Judea Initiative is not the first major push for Jews to secede from Israel. In 1989, the late author and Knesset member Rabbi Meir Kahane, a mentor of Ben Yaacov, attempted to found the State of Judea, a Jewish state in Judea and Samaria. That effort eventually fell through.
“Ours is different in that we are starting small,” explained Ben Yaacov. “We are not talking about our own state, just an entity or authority, however small or large it will be.”
Reacting to the news of calls for Jews to create their own authority, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told WorldNetDaily, “This is the chaos and lawlessness [the Palestinian Authority] has warned about. If the Israeli government does not get its act together concerning the settlers, who by the way are armed to the teeth and acting like a parallel authority, the price will be paid in Palestinian blood.”
Israeli government spokesmen Raanan Gissin and David Baker refused to comment on the issue.
Said Ben Yaacov, “There may be resistance at first, but eventually people will come to understand a lot of Jews in Judea and Samaria will not go along with any further withdrawals. Now those Jews will have a solution.”