(October 25, 2018 / JNS)
In his speech to open the Knesset’s winter session, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the wonderful relationship he has forged with the American administration, the ideological partnership between the two countries and the historical steps Trump has spearheaded, such as relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and cutting funding for UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees.
Netanyahu is right. We are standing before a rare diplomatic window of opportunity, and we must take advantage of it to finally sever the Oslo vision of two states for two peoples, and apply Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
Over the past decade, social and political elements, both local and regional, joined forces to lead the majority of Israelis and senior American officials to the conclusion that the two-state idea is the “solution” to the conflict. The demand of the Palestinians to concede their ethos and agree to a final border, the end of the conflict and the end to their demands are the main catalysts for the violence and terror against us. This is a demand they cannot meet, and they will do everything in their power to avoid it.
The architects of the Oslo Accords and their partners repeatedly argue a distinction must be made between Hamas and Fatah. The 25 years that have since passed, however, teach us that this distinction is artificial. The difference between the organizations is merely tactical. Hamas openly voices its desire to annihilate the Zionist state and is going for broke: the return of Palestinians to their lands and homes in Jaffa, Ramla, Haifa and Tzfat, and resistance to any territorial compromise.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, on the other hand, is adhering to the doctrine of stages set forth by his mentor, Yasser Arafat: willingness to accept a state within 1967 borders, but only as a first stage. His goal is identical to that of Hamas: the destruction of the State of Israel. He is unwilling, therefore, to cede the right of return for Palestinian refugees, sign an agreement to “end the conflict and cease additional demands”—and recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. Thus, the Palestinians still don’t have their own state. Because of them, not us.
Assuming there is agreement between the left and right that being proactive is preferable, we have two alternatives: disengage or annex. Leftist elements, for example, individuals from the Institute for National Security Studies, recommend initiating a unilateral disengagement from Judea and Samaria; in other words, giving the Palestinians a state on our ancient homeland—a forward base of operations for the elimination of Israel—without asking for anything in return.
The right, meanwhile, wants to divert the diplomatic train from the blood-soaked Oslo track and change course. Instead of the “nowism” of Oslo, which seeks to impose ideas from the top-down and force the peoples to “end the conflict,” the time has come to create a reality of co-existence from the ground-up, which would naturally lead to the end of the conflict, organically, gradually. Based on the current reality, the idea is to establish two separate living spaces, Israeli and Palestinian, in a manner that will ensure the Jewish majority, abolish military rule in Judea and Samaria and normalize life there.
In Areas A and B, where 95 percent of Palestinians live, there will be an autonomous government and the residents there will have full control over all domestic matters (education, culture, tourism, economy, welfare and the like). In Area C, Israel will apply Israeli civil law. At the same time, Israel will work to minimize friction points with the Palestinians, increase their freedom of movement, develop infrastructure and cultivate the conditions for economic growth and improving the quality of life. It will do this through a series of steps meant to supplant walls with bridges.
In contrast to the left’s plans, which generate endless tension and anxieties, this plan will engender calm. The moment we stop insisting on hammering nails into a final-status agreement, neither the Arabs nor the Jews will be asked to forego their dreams, erase their identities, blur their narrative or decide the most contentious issues “now.” This is the only climate conducive to lowering the levels of animosity and fear and fostering stability and prosperity for both peoples.
The Americans have already said they are open to new ideas. All that’s needed is for Netanyahu to throw down the gauntlet, exploit the window of opportunity that’s been opened and spearhead a historic initiative that the entire nationalist camp anticipates: the return of Israeli sovereignty to its ancient lands.
Dr. Anat Roth is a research fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum and the Israel Democracy Institute.