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Israel at the Crossroads: Eretz Yisrael, Medinat Yisrael, Sovereignty, Normalization

The two major national issues Israel is currently dealing with—besides coronavirus and its sequels—are the proclamation of Israeli sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley and the process of regional normalization and peace with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and other Gulf states.

These are central issues of the unfinished agenda of the Jewish people in our time and era, and will define our future and are independent of each other.

Medinat Yisrael and Eretz Israel

The declaration of Israeli sovereignty over areas of Judea and Samaria has been on the national agenda for a long time, and constituted a major part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s platform before each of the last elections.

Securing our rights to all of our ancestral home in our biblical homeland, Eretz Israel, is and remains the historic central mission of the present Jewish generation and of Medinat Yisrael.

Biblically, we are commanded to “inherit the land and to settle it” (Bamidbar 33, 53). In this context we are also warned “… and if you will not inherit the inhabitants of the Land, it shall come to pass that those who remain shall be as thorns in your eyes and stings in your sides and shall vex you in the land wherein you dwell” (Bamidbar 33, 55).

Clearly and obviously, “inheritance” entails sovereign possession.

The State of Israel, Medinat Yisrael was declared on May 14, 1948 (excerpt below), at the end of the British Mandate based on the U.N. General Assembly declaration of November 29, 1947, and the termination of the British Mandate as of
May 15, 1948.

“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped…. the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country… was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November 1917, and reaffirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations, which gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home…. Accordingly, we… hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”

It is quite clear that even in the minds of the framers of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, Eretz Israel and Medinat Yisrael are separate—albeit interrelated—entities.

Historic Eretz Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, the biblical Promised Land. The State of Israel—Medinat Yisrael as proclaimed on Yom Haatzmaut May 14, 1948—was the beginning of the redemption, Atchalta DiGeula, of the Jewish people in its historic, promised homeland. Medinat Yisrael, however, does not include all of Eretz Israel, only the part that was available at the time.

Jewish history has changed after the Six Day War. After the liberation of the Land of Israel, close to half a million Israelis are living in Judea and Samaria, throughout the Land of Israel in over 180 settlements, outposts, towns and cities. Our presence in all or most of Judea and Samaria establishes our hold over our ancestral homeland and adds security to the State of Israel.

Renewed Jewish sovereignty over the historic Land of Israel will shape the future of Jewish history, formalize and reestablish Jewish sovereign rule over all or most of our historic homeland for generations to come, and prevent the establishment of a foreign entity in our biblical homeland. It will fulfill the Zionist dream of Shivat Tzion and will also realize the dreams of countless Jewish generation during the long exile.

The Deal of the Century, The Normalization and The Peace Process

The declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria has been undermined and delayed by two main processes.

The original “Trump’s Deal of the Century” removed a major element of the land-for-peace formula by restating the Jewish rights to Eretz Israel and declaring that the settlements are not illegal under international law and not an impediment to peace. But it undermined the sovereignty process by maintaining the principle of land for peace by limiting the extent of Israeli sovereignty to 30% of Judea and Samaria and linking it to a future formation of a Palestinian state.

More recently, in July-August 2020, the implementation of the sovereignty process has been interrupted and suspended at the beginning of the normalization process with the Gulf states UAE and Bahrain.

The Abraham Accords agreement is not exactly the kind of “peace-for-peace” process, as it was proudly proclaimed by Netanyahu. It comes at a high price. It is still a variation of the land-for-peace formula in that it was based on the understanding by the contracting parties—including Israel—to suspend the sovereignty process in Judea and Samaria.

There is a fairly wide gap between Netanyahu and the leaders of Bahrain and the UAE when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel holds that it can retain all the settlements, while both Gulf countries have been clear they expect a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

Some positive changes have occurred lately.

The Trump administration appears now ready to override the limitations of the Deal of the Century and affirm Israel’s sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.

According to the statement of an Emirati official in September 2020, a declaration of sovereignty by Israel would not stop the peace process between Israel and the Emirates.

New Obstacles, Priorities and Vision

Depending on the final outcome of the U.S. presidential election, a number of major diplomatic and political factors may change.

For starters, a new U.S. administration may consider the Deal of the Century obsolete; Yesha settlements may again be considered an “obstacle to peace”; the issue of a Palestinian state may again become a major diplomatic issue and obstacle; and the normalization with the Arab states may slow down or lose its positive effects.

As the present the U.S. administration appears ready to affirm Israel’s sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and no new administration is in charge, the Israeli government has to fully utilize the time left in its window of opportunity to avoid any future limitations.

The present Israeli government has to proclaim Israeli sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, disregarding any limitations included in the Deal of the Century.

Israel has to legislate laws to normalize the life of half a million Israelis living in Judea and Samaria, end the current building limitations in Yesha, stop treating half a million Israelis living in Yesha as second-rank citizens, and encourage and support the expansion of the hityashvut. Another important measure is to legalize all pending settlements and apply the appropriate legislation.

Special attention and support should be given to the most recent hityashvut, which includes 70 new communities with 20,000 people.

A government of Israel not willing to, nor capable of promoting and achieving real progress on sovereignty over our historic homeland; nor of promoting and supporting the hityashvut, will in all likelihood go down in Jewish history as the failed leadership of the desert generation of our time. Like the desert generation of the Exodus, it would cause the Jewish people to wander in a desert, waiting for the next opportunity to fulfill Jewish history and destiny.

Only acts on the ground will state to the world—and to ourselves—that we are serious about making the whole Land of Israel our homeland again.

The return of the Jewish people to its ancient promised homeland will not be complete until full Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Israel will be proclaimed and no sovereign foreign entity will be established between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.


Dr. Chanania Gang is a vice president of the RZA and a recent oleh. He is visiting family in NJ over the next few weeks.

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