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Muddying the Waters of Official U.S. Israel-Palestine Policy over Occupied West Bank, Compliments of Florida Governor

posted on: Nov 23, 2022

Muddying the Waters of Official U.S. Israel-Palestine Policy over Occupied West Bank, Compliments of Florida Governor
Israeli military smoke bombs Palestinians attempting to secure their own land — Photo The Guardian

By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer

Florida Governor DeSantis recently addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition in the first major GOP 2024 presidential event. There, he waded into the issue of how the Right in Israel labels the military-occupied West Bank. He suggested that Biblically named areas of Judea and Samaria comprising the West Bank are “disputed” rather than “occupied.” DeSantis’ entry into this fraught issue is depicted as underscoring his desperation in pursuit of votes.

DeSantis addresses Republican Jewish Coalition in First Major GOP 2024 Presidential Cattle Call

Governor Ron DeSantis addressed Republican Jewish Coalition annual leadership in Las Vegas on Saturday. While claiming not to be running for the Presidency in 2024, he made his intention clear. He certainly appears to be challenging ex-president Trump for the nomination. DeSantis is competing directly with Trump in stressing his support for Israel and the Jewish community. In this way, he is trying to steal Trump’s most-favorable status for Israel and his disdain for the Palestinians.

In Las Vegas, Governor DeSantis underscored his landslide reelection victory in Florida. He also bragged, according to Fox News, about his “conservative crusade against what he calls ‘woke ideology’ in an energetic speech that brought a crowd of leading Republican activists and donors to their feet numerous times.” DeSantis also claimed that he had “won the highest share of the Jewish vote for any Republican candidate in Florida history.”

Muddying the Waters of Official U.S. Israel-Palestine Policy over Occupied West Bank, Compliments of Florida Governor
Map of Israel and the Golan Heights with the Judea and Samaria Area–which is coterminous with the occupied
West Bank excluding East Jerusalem — Photo Wikipedia

DeSantis emphasized his record in fighting antisemitism and his unwavering advocacy for the state of Israel. He even discussed the idea of “holding public events in Judea and Samaria.” This would make him the first American politician to try such a stunt. It was at that point that DeSantis declared, “I don’t care what the State Department says – it’s not occupied territory, it’s disputed territory.”

Earlier in the day, Trump had addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition remotely. But it was DeSantis who garnered the most attention and applause of all the Republican presidential hopefuls who spoke. His modesty induced him to suggest, “When you show people you’re willing to fight for them, they will walk over broken glass barefoot to come vote for you and that’s’ exactly what they did to me.” One wonders if they’ve checked the soles of their feet!

Florida’s DeSantis to GOP Jews: ‘Judea and Samaria Just Isn’t Occupied, However Disputed’

DeSantis said as much about the West Bank in addressing Jewish Republicans. He noted, the West Bank was “not occupied territory.” He suggested, according to the FloridaDailyHerald, “however moderately a disputed space that could be,” it was an historic homeland to Jews. DeSantis thus implied his Israel creds were better than those of his presumed major opponent, Donald Trump.

The Florida governor bragged about the commerce mission he’d led to Israel. He suggested it was the most important such mission Florida ever completed. The Herald reported “We have been the primary statewide elected officers to do public occasions in Judea and Samaria.” These are distinctly biblical names for the West Bank used by right-wing Israelis. DeSantis further noted, “I don’t care what the State Department says.” He repeated the right-wing Israeli perspective that this is not occupied territory. Rather, it is disputed.

Another draw DeSantis used to bring Republican Jews into his fold concerned antisemitism. He vowed to thwart campuses in Florida from becoming “hotbeds of antisemitism like they’ve all throughout the nation.” DeSantis also reiterated his recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem. These were, in fact, both Trump initiatives.

Muddying the Waters of Official U.S. Israel-Palestine Policy over Occupied West Bank, Compliments of Florida Governor
Israel expropriates more land to expand illegal settlement in occupied Palestinian territories — Photo Days of Palestinian

Untangling Israeli Military Occupation of West Bank and Biblical Names Judea and Samaria

Israeli occupied West Bank happens to coincide with the biblical kingdoms of Judah and Samaria. These areas comprise the West Bank, occupied by Israel in the 1967 six-day war. They should not be confused with the administrative area defined as part of a peace process embodied in the Oslo II Accord. The area, officially called Area C, comprises over 2,200 square miles.

The Oslo Accords are a two-part agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. They denoted the start of a peace process aimed at a treaty rooted in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. A subsequent resolution, 338, aimed at fulfilling the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” While its area is internationally recognized as a part of the Palestinian territories, Israeli officials often equate it with the historical areas of Judea and Samaria.

For statistical purposes, Israeli authorities count the inhabitants of Judea and Samaria as numbering about one-half million. This number refers only to the Jewish people who illegally created settlements in the West Bank following the 1967 occupation. This statistic ignores the three million Palestinians whose homes were there long before the settlements.

Muddying the Waters of Official U.S. Israel-Palestine Policy over Occupied West Bank, Compliments of Florida Governor
Map showing shrinkage of Palestine from 1946 to today — Samaria and Judea are being used as an excuse to swallow up Palestine — Photo —

Once the Palestinian West Bank was occupied, right-wing Israelis started calling that area by its Hebrew Biblical names. And they claimed that religion, nationhood, and security demanded use of those names. Here, political orientation shapes whether one uses “West Bank” or “Judea and Samaria.” West Bank is used by liberal Israelis and Palestinians to define the area that Israel should give back to the Palestinians under a peace agreement. Judea and Samaria are used by the Right to define the area, which they believe should come permanently under Israeli administration.

As we all know, issues of the Israeli war and occupation of Palestine are very complicated. 55 years have passed since the six-day war. Decades have been spent on attempted negotiations to resolve these issues. For an American presidential candidate in 2022 to enter the fray of such fraught issues only underscores his desperation in pursuit of votes.

“Ron DeSantis receives multiple standing ovations at first major GOP 2024 presidential cattle call,” Fox News, 11/20/2022
“DeSantis To GOP Jews: ‘Judea and Samaria Just Isn’t Occupied, However Disputed’ – The Instances Of Israel,” TheFloridaDailyHerald, 11/20/2022
“The Judea and Samaria Area,” Wikipedia

John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.

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