Daniel Pipes, the president of the Middle East Forum, has for decades been considered a strong, consistent and cogent advocate of the right-of-center policies of several Israeli governments. No wonder a recent op-ed published in The New York Times, in which he claimed that “annexing the West Bank would hurt Israel,” caused great dismay among his admirers and supporters of the extension of Israeli law to Judea and Samaria, especially in the aftermath of the partial greenlight provided by the Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” Middle East peace plan.
Pipes’s six main reasons for his “strong opposition to Israel annexing any of the West Bank” have been convincingly refuted by the leadership of the Zionist Organization of America, the international spokesman of the Jewish community of Hebron and the editor in chief of the Jewish News Syndicate. Up until now, it had been most unusual for Pipes’s arguments to be so easily brushed aside.
What is more disappointing, however, is where he chose to express his new and surprising position. Had he published his article in an Israeli newspaper, it would have been perceived as an unselfish cautionary advice from a friend. The fact that he opted for the patently anti-Israel pages of The New York Times, even taking into account his “never-Trumper” bias, raises the possibility that his real intention may have been to attempt to curry favor with the left-of-center intelligentsia. Predictably, he received a favorable commentary from the editorial-page editor of The New York Times.
Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and soon-to-be appointed Defense Minister (and, in 18 months, prime minister) Benny Gantz have publicly supported U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which includes, in principle, the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian State in about 70 percent of Judea and Samaria, as well as the extension of Israeli sovereignty to the remaining 30 percent. Having pressured Trump administration officials for the concessions outlined in the “deal of the century” and having promised his supporters (who constituted 55 percent of the Jewish voters in the most recent election) that he would extend the sovereignty, it is practically inconceivable that Netanyahu would now fail to do so—regardless of the threats of retaliatory measures made by the European Union, the Palestinian Authority and others.
The most pertinent question, therefore, is whether Netanyahu will implement Israeli law at once in all parts of the disputed territories (the Jordan Valley, the so-called “settlement blocs” and the Jewish communities outside the blocs), to only one of them, or to each one in sequence, should the Palestinians repeatedly refuse to come to the negotiating table. After all, Trump’s plan was designed to convey to the Palestinians that the train is leaving the station: Either negotiate seriously, or time will bring diminishing returns—a 180-degree shift from the previous paradigm that time was on their side.
A discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches could be the subject of another article, which, if meant as sincere advice by a right-of-center supporter of Israel, ought to be translated into Hebrew and published in an Israeli newspaper—something that Pipes could have done but, regrettably, chose not to.
Julio Messer is a former president of American Friends of Likud.
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