This morning’s joint press conference between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump was packed with a mix of salient foreign policy revelations and awkward jokes about Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank. It marked a clear departure from the often turbulent, yet hardly obstructing and exceedingly financially generous Obama-era relationship with Israel’s hard right head of state. Although Trump has recently moved to moderate his earlier statements supporting Jewish settlement construction, the already well-formed personal friendship between the two leaders and their alignment on various political issues—including national security strategy, Iran, the “unfair” UN, as well as a fondness for walls—suggests the bond between the US and Israel may be stronger than ever.
This is good news for Netanyahu’s far-right friends within the Jewish settler movement, a growing group of largely Israeli and Israeli-Americans living on illegal towns and rogue outposts in the West Bank, an area captured by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967 and which has remained under military occupation for almost 50 years. Today it is home to approximately 3 million Palestinians, 550,000 Jewish settlers, and an unknown number of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers stationed at military checkpoints and watchtowers sprinkled throughout the territory, including within settlement blocks, where they serve as guards.
The language one uses to describe this disputed area is highly informative of their political, even religious leanings. For instance, for many Palestinians residing in the cities and villages west of the Jordan River (and in the Gaza Strip), this land is “Palestine,” their promised share of the larger historic Palestine that will one day be part of a two-state solution. For moderates respecting the neutral definition of the area as a still-to-be-determined not-yet-quite-a-county, the term “West Bank” is considered most PC, although its etymological objectivity is debated. Some instead prefer “Occupied West Bank” or “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” However, for hardcore Zionists holding to the belief that all of Israel—including the area west of the “Green Line”—is the God-given gift to the Jews, this land is “Judea and Samaria,” reclaiming its biblical name and hoping for its ultimate official annexation by the state of Israel. This term is also used in an official capacity by the government of Israel.
Pertinent to a discussion of Netanyahu’s remarks during his first press conference with our Dear Leader is some background information on the settlers’ biblically-based claim to “Judea and Samaria.” After all, Mr. Netanyahu evoked this notion while responding to a question on whether or not there was room for the two-state solution in a Trump-brokered peace process, stating,
“Jews are called Jews because they are from Judea. This is our ancestral homeland. Jews are not foreign colonists in Judea.”
It’s clear from the start that fact-checking this claim will not provide a definitive “yes” or “no” answer to its validity; that just isn’t possible with such deeply-rooted religious convictions that are based on ancient historical evidence. I hope that this post will instead draw attention to some of the divisive rhetoric employed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump, informed through the context of the religious ideological foundation of Israel’s settler movement, a dominating force placing enormous pressure on the leadership bodies of both the Israel and the US.
Continue reading “Fact-Checking the Netanyahu/Trump Press Conference and an Explanation of the Jewish Settler Movement’s claim to ‘Judea and Samaria’”