(March 1, 2018 / JNS) In the Feb. 20 article, “The Demand for Sovereignty Over Judea and Samaria Is a Waste of Zionist Energy,” Professor Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, argued this week against the annexation of Judea and Samaria.
I beg to differ. In fact, let’s walk through his argument:
Inbar: The state of Israel has a difficult time enforcing decisions within Israel’s sovereign territory, so extending sovereignty over Judea and Samaria won’t impact developments there relating to illegal Arab construction in Area C.
Response: The issue is Jewish construction more than illegal Arab construction. Today, Jews can’t build a shed on a plot of land that they own in Judea and Samaria unless Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and scores of military government functionaries (and courts) give their consent. Today, there are vast areas of land slated for Jewish construction near Jerusalem (for example, E-1) that Arabs are illegally building on because permits for Jewish construction have been frozen. Applying Israeli sovereignty would be a game changer. Yes, Netanyahu has taken measures to freeze Jewish construction in certain areas of Jerusalem, but the scope and efficacy of the freeze doesn’t come close to the freeze in Judea and Samaria. Add to that the impact of annexation on so-called “lawfare”: Today, a Jewish home can be demolished if a centimeter of a wall extends into a plot of questionable ownership. Inside sovereign Israel, such an occurrence is resolved by the courts via financial compensation.
Inbar: The Israeli military has several advantages over the country’s democratic regime when it comes to fighting terrorism.
Response: We face a profoundly dynamic and uncertain situation. The operative question for setting policy is not what the Israeli military can do inside Judea and Samaria in February 2018, but instead, what conditions and limitations the Israeli military may be subject to in the coming years in the absence of an Israeli initiative to annex.
Inbar: A Knesset declaration or legislation is devoid of meaning.
Response: The massive building boom that could follow annexation would be extremely meaningful, and benefit Jews and Arabs. Add to that the Arabs fortunate enough to be within the areas annexed, thus qualifying for Israeli citizenship may have a positive impact.
Inbar: It would still be wiser not to add difficulties to relations with other countries.
Response: The operative question for setting policy is not how annexation would add difficulties to relations with other countries, but how this compares to the conditions we may very well face in the future if we fail to annex now. Here’s a concrete scenario: The next U.S. president could be a Democrat determined to shove a sovereign Palestinian state down Israel’s throat in alliance with Russia, the Europeans and Arab “moderates” shamed into joining the initiative. This sovereign Palestinian state would serve as the means to inject many millions of Arabs into the area, and ultimately, lead to the destruction of Israel. To be clear: The fait accompli of annexation won’t prevent such an initiative, but it would almost certainly improve the likelihood that Israel can foil it.
Inbar: According to all surveys, the vast majority of Israelis are prepared to make territorial concessions in Judea and Samaria, but they do not believe that there is currently a serious partner to talk to on the Palestinian side.
Response: Polls asking Israelis if they are prepared to make territorial concessions in Judea and Samaria in return for “peace” are like asking “if pigs could fly.” Assuming that there is some magical deal out there that can truly deliver a stable and robust peace is a luxury that policy-makers can ill afford to base their decisions on.
Inbar: A government that would declare Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria would lose its ability to mobilize the people to go to war and to bear this price when the time comes.
Response: Israel does not go to war by choice; it is a last means of defense. For a generation, the left has predicted that reservists won’t show up to fight out of frustration with what they see as the failure of Likud governments to make “peace.” These predictions proved to be 100 percent wrong.
Annexation will most certainly cost the Jewish state. But the question is not annexation versus continuing a snapshot of today in perpetuity. And when you compare where we will be in a decade if we annex now to our situation in the absence of such a dramatic move, annexation is clearly the best bet for our future.
Dr. Aaron Lerner is the director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis).