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Traveling two hours from Haifa to Ramat Gan, Liza Kouniavsky, 16, arrived at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan for the second “Youth Sovereignty Conference” to date on June 13, telling JNS that “I’m here because I love my country. I love the nation of Israel.”

She added that “once the world understands and accepts that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish nation, we will quell those who issue threats against us.”

Kouniavsky was joined at the conference by nearly 800 like-minded youth from different parts of the country who believe that it’s in the interests of Jews and Arabs alike for Israel to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.

Days before Israel’s April elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that he was prepared to annex all of the Jewish communities in the West Bank. Skeptics say that Netanyahu was trying to garner right-wing votes, but with the collapse of the Knesset and Israelis already heading back to the polls in September, it remains to be seen if that policy will come to light.

Nevertheless, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman recently told The New York Times that “under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

The youth event was run by Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover, co-directors of the Israel Sovereignty Movement, founded by the Women in Green organization established in 1993 and known for the color of the hats they wore to mark the possible shrinking of the 1967 Green Line during the period of the Oslo Accords.

Matar praised Friedman “for his important remarks on the application of sovereignty—a policy that will bring stability, genuine peace and security.”

Sovereignty Movement (founded by Women in Green) co-founders and conference organizers Yehudit Katzover and Nadia Matar. Credit: David Weil.

During the conference, she told JNS that “we are here to deepen the consciousness of the sovereignty plan, here at Bar-Ilan, since from here was the unfortunate call for a two-state solution” by Netanyahu in his 2009 speech. “We are coming to correct it with the next generation and to say ‘the land of Israel is ours; it belongs to the Jewish people.’ If we want genuine real peace and security for Jews and Arabs alike, the only plan is the sovereignty plan.”

That correlates into sovereignty over all currently disputed areas.

She added that “it has already been proved that the two-state solution only brought havoc and destruction and terror. And the time has come to give an alternative plan.”

‘A wide gap between the leadership and the people’

Backing up Matar’s claim that Israeli sovereignty is in the interests of Jews and Arabs alike, Bassem Eid—a Palestinian human-rights activist and political analyst from Jericho, a city under Palestinian Authority control—expressed similar sentiments. One of the featured speakers at the event, he believes that the P.A. is a major obstacle towards peace and prosperity.

He told JNS, “In my opinion, the majority of the Palestinians in the West Bank believes that no Palestinian state will be founded in the West Bank. And I think that for economic prosperity, the majority of Palestinians are supporting Israeli sovereignty on the West Bank. I think that the major problem right now is the Palestinian Authority leadership because there is a huge deep and wide gap between the leadership and the people, and I don’t think that the Palestinian leadership these days are really representing the Palestinians. In the meantime, I believe that there is a lack of trust between the Palestinians and their own leadership—not only in the West Bank, but in the Gaza Strip.

Eid says that the Trump administration and its support via the upcoming Mideast peace plan—the first part of which will focus on economics and future prosperity—“will pave the way towards peace in the near future.”

Palestinian human rights activist and political analyst Bassem Eid Credit: David Weil

Eighteen-year-old Asaf Jayson from Gush Etzion, one of the youth organizers of the conference, thinks that the Sovereignty Movement provides a contingent of young people in Israel with a platform to put their ideology into action.

In regards to the concept of sovereignty itself, he told JNS that the establishment of a Palestinian state “will be the end of the State of Israel because when you have a Palestinian state that’s 15 meters from Highway 6 [the Trans-Israel Highway], like what we had in Gush Katif [in Gaza].” He said that will only bring Israelis closer in proximity to more rockets and more terror.

Jayson made it a point to note that the current conflict didn’t start with Israel’s policy of building Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria; the Arabs started their hostilities against the Jews long before the establishment of modern-day Israel.

“The only way we have to solve it is to say that Judea and Samaria is part of the State of Israel,” he said, “so they don’t have the thought that they can start a Palestinian state here in order to fight us.”

Jayson and others at the conference, including Matar, said proposals have been circulating that focus on “the day after” in terms of what will happen with the status of Arabs in Judea and Samaria should Israel choose to go through with annexation, though the focus of the movement is on first declaring sovereignty and afterwards choosing the most suitable plan.

‘Sovereignty used to be a dirty word’

Sam Solomon,chairman of the board of the Sovereignty Movement, told JNS that the conference was important to youth activists in attendance because ultimately, “they become the next generation of constituents in terms of voting for the right politicians that will drive sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.”

He adds that “sovereignty is all about who are the rightful owners of the land—that being the Jewish people. You can look at it from a number of dimensions,as to whether it’s biblical, strategic, in terms of defense or economics.”

Mirroring Eid’s comments, he says “the majority of Arabs living in Judea and Samaria would probably rather live under Israeli sovereignty than the [mafia-like rule] of the Palestinian Authority who are cheating them, not giving them their rights, are torturing them in prisons, so at every level—business, income, civil rights, human rights—they know they are better off with Jews in control.”

“I would rather worry about what the status of Arabs would be under a one-state solution than worry about missiles raining down on Ben-Gurion Airport under two-states,” said Solomon.

Jewish Home Party leader Idit Silman, who arrived at the event to  show support for Matar and Katzover, explained that sovereignty isn’t just about Judea and Samaria, but that Israel needs to exercise its control over all parts of the country, including in places like the Galilee, where she had just visited.

The Knesset member told JNS that “sovereignty used to be a dirty word, but today it’s a sign of strength to use that word. … There is a new youth today—a youth that saw what happens when you don’t safeguard the land,” referencing previous Israeli land concessions like the Gush Katif pullout from the Gaza Strip under former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2005. Like others, she stressed that this plan would benefit the Arabs as well.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely told the young audience that what is needed now is unity between the right-wing parties on Israel’s political spectrum heading towards elections, so that the government can work to implementing sovereignty. She said that “a Palestinian state is not the answer; what we need is creativity, and your presence here proves that there is another way: sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.”

Following the speeches, it was the youth who took over the conference, participating in a panel led by Silman as they addressed their peers on the movement itself and provided information on how they could become more active.

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