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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

May 18, 2003

Reasserting Israeli Sovereignty

By way of background, France seems to have decided that they cannot confront their Moslem citizens, but must accommodate them in every direction they decide to push France. They amount to 12% of France and they are willing to riot and suffer casualties without limit, and to inflict similar casualties, of course. If 12% of the population riot, the police are helpless to control it. The army would have to be called in and civil war would result. That is not acceptable to French leadership.

The Arabs constitute about 17% of Israel and have been very much radicalized since the release of 1,150 prisoners in 1985 in exchange for three Israeli POWs and by the endless Israeli capitulations in the last ten years. The Israeli government has now decided to arrest and prosecute Arab leaders of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement for fomenting and abetting terrorism. I hope the government will have the fortitude to persevere. The alternative is for Israel to become the Jewish Autonomy in Palestine, for the time being.

To get straight to the point, the State of Israel is no longer really sovereign in its territory. The PLO is. The definition of sovereignty involves matters like control of territory and population, occasionally stated quite elegantly. What it all comes down to is the exclusive right to resort to force or to define when others are permitted to resort to force, such as cases of self-defense. If the sovereign does not have that exclusive right, then the sovereign is no sovereign.

Unauthorized violence is an insult to the sovereign. It diminishes the authority of the sovereign and respect for the sovereign. If the "king" cannot prevent crimes, the people might begin to think why they have need of a king. That is why criminal cases are called “King v. Doe” or “State v. Doe” or, in some American states, “People v. Doe,” based on the notion that, ultimately, the people are sovereign. Violence against the state itself is particularly an insult to sovereignty and cannot be tolerated by the sovereign.

Even more damaging to the sovereign is mass violence against the state. When Israel declines to enforce the law against its Arab citizens for fear that they will riot, it allows its sovereignty to be diminished. If the state permits illegal construction because the Arabs would riot if the structures were demolished, then it gives the rioters the power to rewrite the planning and zoning law. When the Minister of Internal Security declines to search Arab villages for illegal weapons because of fear that the Arabs will riot, then he has relinquished sovereignty over those villages. When the Supreme Court affirms the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, but gives the police power to prevent it because the Moslems would riot, then it gives criminal mobs the power to nullify both the law and the authority of the sovereign.

If the violence against the state is organized and directed by an organization, it is tantamount to insurrection, a claim of the right to replace the sovereign and take over the state. A state that permits organized violence against it by an organized structure, or is unable to prevent it, has relinquished a degree of sovereignty to that organization.

It is even more damaging to the sovereign when the rioting is organized by an organization like the PLO, which claims the right to supplant the State of Israel and rule over the territory in its stead. If Israel shrinks from enforcement of the law, it relinquishes sovereignty in that area to the PLO. When the UN, the State Department or the EU demand that Israel not defend itself against attack by the Palestinian Authority, they are demanding that Israel relinquish sovereignty to the Palestinian Authority. Nothing less.

The surrender of sovereignty to the PA is already very extensive. Palestinian “police” operate within Israel and within Jerusalem with the knowledge and acquiescence of successive Israeli governments. Parts of Jerusalem are de facto under PLO rule. People in several neighborhoods know that they have to obey the PA’s security personnel, not Israel’s. The constituent organizations of the Palestinian Authority recruit in Arab towns in Israel and have representatives elected to the Israeli Knesset. If the PLO can take over the Temple Mount and systematically destroy all evidence of Jewish presence there, in blatant disregard of the law, and the Israeli government is unable to respond effectually, then the PLO can take anything it wants whenever it is ready. Where will the Israeli government draw the line? At Sheinkin Street?

The measure taken by the government may very well be too little, too late. On the other hand, it may lead the government to the kind of commitment necessary to restore the country's sovereignty, dignity and self-respect.