The shift towards Biblical language among the heads of Israel’s government was visible this week at a Washington event held at the annual AIPAC conference, with one politician proclaiming that the land of Israel was given to the Jews “not by Google and Wikipedia, but by the Bible.”
The gathering, marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War and the bringing of Judea and Samaria under Israeli control, was hosted by the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria (Yesha Council) and titled “Celebrate 50 Years of Rejuvenation in Judea and Samaria.”
It was held as part of the national conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israel lobby. In attendance were four Israeli ministers, two consul generals, leaders from Judea and Samaria, and approximately 350 AIPAC participants.
The event began with a speech by Yishai Fleisher, the International Spokesman for the Jewish Community in Hebron, who suggested a new approach to coping with challenges to Israel’s right to exist.
“They say ‘you stole our land’,” Fleisher said to the crowd. “And we say ‘but we created the cell phone’”.
Fleisher urged Jews to unapologetically tell the world that Judea and Samaria belongs to Israel. He stated that the Israel intends to retain these areas, to develop them, settle them, and even annex them.
The settler leaders, who are often painted as extreme fringe right-wingers, were joined by mainstream and secular Israeli politicians who did not hesitate to point directly to the Bible for proof of Israel’s right to the land.
“Defense is important and security is important, but the most important thing is the moral claim of Israel,” said Minister of Communications Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), who is not openly religious.
“We are committed to go forward with living in our ancient land, land that was given us not by Google and Wikipedia, but by the Bible; King David, King Saul, King David, King Solomon, Abraham . . . we are going to demand our right forever and ever.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who is religiously observant, emphasized that Israel has the right to defend itself at all times, as it did in the Six Day War. This right is also Biblical, extending to the claim on the land conquered in that war.
“It was a just war,” Hotovely said. “It is a just defense. But the most important one, it was based on a just claim. A just claim of the Jewish people on [the Biblical areas of] Beit El, Shechem, Jerusalem and Hebron.”
Hotovely addressed the widely-held view that central Israel is legally Israel’s territory while Judea and Samaria are illegal, or ‘occupied territories’.
“Let me tell you something, if those places are not Jewish, who can tell me that [the modern cities of] Herzliya, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv are Jewish,” Hotovely said. “I always say that the occupation is a myth, because we never occupied other people’s land. [Judea and Samaria] is Jewish land. This should forever be a Jewish land under Israeli law.”
Hotovely expressed her hopes for what the new White House Administration would mean for Israel’s future.
“We need to get to a million settlers in Judea and Samaria – with a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. We need to think of new ways of thinking that will include Judea and Samaria under Israeli sovereignty forever.”
As the former commander of the IDF Southern Command, Minister of Construction Yoav Galant (Kulanu) saw the matter in strategic terms.
“There is no way that Israel can exist [without the Jordan Valley and the mountains of Samaria],” he said, naming some of the largest communities over the Green Line. “Of course, it is difficult to have a strong Jerusalem without Givat Ze’ev, Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion and all these places.”
The change in the political atmosphere was noted by Oded Revivi, Mayor of Efrat and Yesha Council Chief Foreign Envoy. His organization hosted the event.
“This is the first time that the Yesha Council has harnessed the deep support for Judea and Samaria that exists within the robust pro-Israel community that AIPAC’s delegates exemplify,” Revivi noted. “it was a perfect representation of the motto of the 2017 AIPAC policy conference: ‘Many Voices, One Mission.’”