JERUSALEM – A group led by residents of Judea and Samaria officially presented a plan yesterday calling for Jews in the area 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 territory.
“Jews under any and all circumstances must remain in Judea and Samaria and take things into our own hands and not surrender,” declared northern Samaria resident Yekutel Ben Yaacov, leader of the Judean Initiative.
The new movement seeks to create a sovereign Jewish authority that would govern itself independently according to Jewish law and provide its own security.
Judea and Samaria are referred to by some as the West Bank, the name coined for the area by Jordan after it annexed the territories in 1948
Ben Yaacov was speaking at a conference his group held yesterday at Jerusalem’s Diplomat Hotel in which he laid out plans for the proposed Jewish authority. Several hundred Israelis were present in spite of strong rainstorms throughout the area.
The initiative aims to create the authority in any part of Judea and Samaria, even a small settlement, in hope of eventually ruling the entire territory, Ben Yaacov announced, explaining those who remain would provide for their own security.
“The fact that we are here speaking openly about this plan is a huge breakthrough,” Ben Yaacov said. “We have crushed the psychological barriers and trampled on all the things the government tried to do so stop this conference.”
At the order of the Israeli Defense Forces, a joint taskforce consisting of 200 to 300 officers from the Israeli Police Authority and Shin Bet security services this past Sunday swooped down on Ben Yaacov’s hometown Samarian community of Kfar Tapuach, raiding the Initiative’s offices and confiscating documents and computers.
The raid immediately followed publication of a WorldNetDaily article breaking the story of the Judean Initiative. Security officials involved in Sunday’s raid said the police action was planned weeks in advance but the WND article was “read very closely.”
“The government is scared and hysterical by our plans. But we cannot allow them to carry out any withdrawals from Judea and Samaria,” Ben Yaacov told the crowd.
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 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 said 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. 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.
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, 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 sovereignty 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,” Ben Yaacov said. “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 fulfill 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.”
Now that his plan has been publicly presented, Ben Yaacov said his group next aims to sign up at least 50,000 Judea and Samaria residents.
“Already we have had interest from entire communities. This resonates with a lot of people.”
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.