According to a recent JTA report, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been conveying the message to members of the U.S. Congress that they are “free to criticize Israel’s looming annexation plans.”
The message is in reference to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated intention to begin applying Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria on July 1, as is stipulated in U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan. Though the plan calls for a “realistic two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the JTA report indicates that “annexation”—as the application of Israeli law to the Jordan Valley and Jewish communities in the West Bank is falsely called by its detractors—would “inhibit” such a solution.
The report is causing a stir, because AIPAC’s self-described mission is “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel,” and the bipartisan lobby group traditionally has explained, not criticized, Israeli government policy.
As a retired general in the Israel Defense Forces–and the founder and CEO of “Habithonistim,” the “Protectors of Israel” organization—which has gained traction among more than 1,000 high-ranking IDF soldiers, officers and commanders in the four months since its establishment—I feel the need to clarify the rampant misconceptions, by AIPAC and others, surrounding the sovereignty issue.
What many opponents of sovereignty seem to forget, or purposely obfuscate, is that it is not a unilateral Israeli move, but rather an American plan–one that was presented to all leading Arab nations, some of whose representatives attended its unveiling at the White House on Jan. 28, while Trump and Netanyahu stood side by side at the podium.
It might come as a surprise to its naysayers, but Trump’s plan is almost identical to the Oslo Accords, signed by the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993 and 1995. When describing the principles of the Oslo agreement that he himself initiated, Rabin declared that Jerusalem would remain forever the undivided capital of the state Israel; that the Jordan Valley would remain Israel’s eastern border; and that the Palestinians would have political autonomy in Judea and Samaria, where Israel would maintain security control.
The only difference between the Oslo Accords and Trump’s plan is that according to the latter, the Palestinians are required actually to demonstrate–in both word and deed—that they want peace with Israel, and that failing to do so will prevent them from achieving statehood. In the meantime, there is no reason for Israel not to implement its own side of the plan.
Contrary to critical opinion, this approach actually enhances the chances for peace—and benefits the Palestinian people–since it deprives the Palestinian leaders of their true interest: perpetuating the status quo that has enabled them to escape accountability, fill their bank accounts with an endless supply of cash and continue inciting to violence against Israel. No Palestinian leader can tell his people that he relinquished Jerusalem, so blaming the U.S. for its having recognized the city as the capital of Israel is a convenient excuse for refusing all peace overtures.
When examining Trump’s plan, one needs to ask what alternative exists, and whether it is viable. The alternative promoted by the Israeli left—including the organization Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS)–is “separation.”
The bottom line of this idea is a full Israeli retreat to the 1949 Armistice Line, along what is known commonly as the “security border.”
This means an Israeli secession to the Palestinians of the entire Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria, in a 10-15-year process, which translates into the eviction of hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes and the enabling of millions of jihadists and weapons to flow into the Israeli heartland, thereby setting the physical conditions for Israel’s destruction.
Israel cannot thrive without the Jordan Valley and large areas of Judea and Samaria. Therefore, Israel must seize the opportunity to apply sovereignty there while it has the chance. The 4,000-year-old people of Israel need leaders who look ahead and prepare for any scenario, not left-wing fantasists—such as CIS members—who are willing to compromise the future of Israeli generations by placing them at the mercy of their most bitter enemies.
As is the case with other aspects of the U.S.-Israel alliance, American military assistance to Israel—which AIPAC reportedly requested of U.S. lawmakers not to threaten even if they oppose Netanyahu’s sovereignty move—is just as important an interest of the United States as it is of Israel. It is a mutually beneficial investment, both in U.S. military industries and in top Israeli technology. It is a form of cooperation that extends to other fields, as well, ensuring that America maintain its technological edge.
One final myth that needs to be dispelled involves the financial cost of applying sovereignty. In a position paper written long before Trump’s plan was revealed, the CIS claimed that Israeli “annexation of the Palestinian Authority”—which itself is a false depiction of Israeli intentions—would cost $7.6 billion.
In fact, applying Israeli sovereignty will cost nothing and benefit both Israelis and Palestinians economically, through the construction of new roads, towns and industry.
Applying sovereignty is crucial for Israel’s national security. With the stars aligned, Israel needs to seize the moment. Though any move entails a degree of uncertainty as to the precise outcome on the “day after,” the long-term gain is worth any short-term risk. AIPAC should support it without hesitation, and encourage American lawmakers to do the same.
Brigadier-General Amir Avivi (Ret.) is the founder and CEO of “Protectors of Israel.” He concluded his military service as head of the Auditing and Consulting Department of the Israeli defense establishment. Prior to that, he served in various command positions in the Engineering Corps, leading thousands of soldiers in a dynamic combat environment. He served as brigade commander, deputy division commander and head of the Military School of Engineers. He also served as the aide-de-camp for the IDF chief of staff, and was at the heart of the policy-making process in the Israeli government and defense establishment during that term. He regularly briefs legislators from the U.S. and the U.K., as well as outbound and inbound elite delegations.