In his recent speech at Bar-Ilan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his passionate claim – the occupation is not the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He stated that the process by which the conflict started in actual fact in 1921 on the day on which the Palestinian Arabs attacked the immigration hostel in Jaffa. “Clearly, this attack was not about territory or settlements; it was against Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel,” he said.

Netanyahu also mentioned the Arab rejection of the 1947 United Nations Partition plan, which predated the occupation as well as the Arab hostility toward the State of Israel prior to 1967. The Palestinians have yet to formally recognize Eretz Cnaann. Just two of our neighbors Egypt and Jordan have done so.

Indeed, the conflict between the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel and the Arabs did not begin in 1967.  Arabs long ago viewed the Jewish settlement and state as foreign bodies. They began to fight them as soon as it became clear that the Zionist movement’s political goals included the establishment of a political entity in areas they considered to be theirs.

The roots of the conflict lie in the fact that the Arabs are not a mob, stated Bibi, but are part of a national movement. These two national movements have demanded sovereignty over the same territory. So if Netanyahu was trying to make a historic point, he was right in my opinion. The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not in the occupation of 1967 but date back many centuries. The struggle for control of the holy land can be traced to Biblical as well as historic roots.

The historic and legal rights of the Jewish people to claim the State of Israel, including its eternal capital Jerusalem as its national homeland, date back more than three thousand years.

G-d promised this land to the patriarch of Judaism, Abraham. In my opinion, this is the most important and binding of the claims. History has shown that Judaism cannot flourish spiritually or physically without its home in the Promised Land.

The early history of the Jewish people’s connection to Israel begins in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 12. God first speaks to Abraham, and continues through to the end with the death of Jacob and Joseph. This segment can best be described as the development of the “family” of Israel, which, in the Book of Exodus, will become a “nation.”

God said to Abram: “Go from your land … to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)There has been a continual presence of the Jewish people in the land of Cnaann for nearly three thousand years. Even after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in the Land of Israel continued and often flourished. Large communities were reestablished in Jerusalem and Tiberius by the ninth century. The Crusaders massacred many Jews during the 12th century, but the community rebounded in the next two centuries as large numbers of Rabbis and Jewish pilgrims immigrated to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Prominent Rabbis established communities in Safed, Jerusalem and elsewhere during the next 300 years. The Talmud and other Jewish teachings were compiled in the Galilee and other parts of the area.

The city of Jerusalem is, was, and will remain the spiritual center of Judaism. The Western Wall or Kotel is a remnant of the ancient edifice that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism. According to the Tanakh or Bible, Solomon’s Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. Two thousand years ago Jews were expected to pray in The Temple. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative “footstool” of God’s presence and a Third Temple will be built there in the future. Many of the religious practices and customs in modern Judaism trace their origin back to the ancient Temples in Jerusalem. 

By the early 19th century which was years before the birth of the modern Zionist movement there were more than 10,000 Jews living throughout what is today Israel. The 78 years of nation-building, beginning in 1870, culminated in the legal reestablishment of the Jewish State and homeland in 1948.

Israel’s international and legal claim to be the Jewish homeland validated the promise of the Bible. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration, the United Nations partition resolution of 1947, Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states support Israel’s legal, moral, and political right to be an independent and recognized nation.

The 1947 United Nations Mandate for Palestine did indeed divide the British colony into a Jewish and Arab nation. Every Israeli leader since Ben Gurion accepted this resolution. Those who reject this resolution negate the right of both nations to their homelands.

Do the Palestinians not have the right to a homeland? Many are not terrorists or a threat to the State of Israel. The Palestinians now control much of the territory granted to them by The United Nations Partition Plan. 

The law states that the residents of Israel and Palestine have the legal right to their national homelands! The rule of law must prevail! The majority of citizens on both sides of the border want their own and independent nations. Why should this right be denied to them? Israel has been the spiritual, religious, and national homeland of the followers of Judaism for thousands of years; Many Palestinians trace their roots in the region back for centuries as well. Why should these historical rights be denied?

I sincerely hope and pray that the leaders in this region will learn to respect these historical, spiritual, and legal realities and reach compromises that lead to peace and justice for both nations! Both the Jewish and Palestinian people have the right to live in peace, safely, justice and with dignity. Neither side is entirely good or evil or right or wrong but nations claiming their rights to exist.