We want an Israel that is both Jewish and democratic—the national home of the Jewish people and a democracy for all of its citizens. We want the Israel of the Declaration of Independence, an Israel that fulfills the Zionist vision. When prominent voices within the ruling coalition call for partial or complete political annexation of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, we worry. We know that annexation would carry with it a heavy price, one that would drag our nation down economically, socially, and politically.
These extremists are leading Israel down a path completely at odds with the vision of Israel’s founding fathers and mothers. We cannot afford to ignore their extremism. We must act now to preserve our home.
We must stand united and demand our leadership make the decision to move Israel towards a future of hope. Separation into two states is the only way to safeguard Israel’s interests.
Points to consider:
● Many surveys have been completed, including comprehensive polling carried out by Darkenu, and they consistently show that the majority of Israelis favor separation. But because extremists raise their voices so loud, supporters of separation mistakenly think of themselves as a minority.
● When we fail to make a decision, we allow others to decide for us—we leave room for the international community, for other countries, to decide our fate. If we don’t take control of the process of separation, we lose our ability to negotiate to our advantage.
● The war between radical Islamists and moderate forces in the Middle East have disrupted the old order and opened up an unprecedented opportunity for cooperation between moderate Arab states and the West.
● More than ever before, those moderate Arab states see Israel as a natural and necessary partner in the fight against radical Islamists. The playing field has been changed, and that means there is a rare opportunity for Israel to partner with the Arab world and achieve far-ranging economic, security, and diplomatic gains. But none of that is possible without progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
● American President Donald Trump, a senior partner in the fight against radical Islam, understands this. He wants to see the region united in this fight—Israel, and the moderate Arab states.
We are faced with a historic opportunity: large and powerful players with a stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are willing to heap on added incentives for the resumption of negotiations. It is time to dispel the clouds of despair and take advantage of this moment of common interest, of regional and international support, and move ahead with separation.
If we want to see our aims realized, we must, as a public, with one voice, demand that our government return to the negotiating tables. Our leaders and those professionals who have dedicated themselves to understanding the conflict must be the ones to address the finer details, but we as a collective must demand that a strategic vision be adopted that takes into account the necessary principles of a final settlement.
The key principles that have already been agreed upon are:
Major settlement blocs will be transferred to Israel, while isolated settlements and outposts will be evacuated. Security is an overriding condition for any diplomatic solution. A key principle is that the West Bank will be a demilitarized area, without an army or heavy armament. There will also be provisions reserving Israel’s right to act in its own defense without reliance on others. Unlike what would happen under unilateral annexation, these security conditions would go hand-in-hand with the political dimensions of the settlement, thereby ensuring its long-lasting endurance. A political settlement will ensure non-aggression from neighboring Arab states, and provide support for their war against extremist forces within the region—their overriding concern at the moment. Not only would we finally have established and permanent borders, but we would also see Arab recognition of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.
In terms of refugees, there was talk of the acceptance of a symbolic number of refugees into Israel, and the easing of movement for refugees into what will be the Palestinian state. There will also be the option for monetary compensation and permanent settlement and citizenship within the countries they currently reside.
Jerusalem, with its Jewish neighborhood, will remain the capital of Israel. Jerusalem will officially be recognized internationally as our capital, which it is not today. An arrangement will be made within the Old City to guarantee the freedom of religion and the right of Jews to our holy sites.
It is important that we understand these issues, and that we make sure they are maintained as we strive for separation into two states within the framework of a diplomatic agreement. Once the political leadership sees that these provisions have the public’s support, we can be assured that the very best negotiators will preserve our interests.
Polls consistently show that most Palestinians support a two-state solution. But the figures are dropping, and it is reasonable to expect that, with time, extremists will make the idea of a one-state solution more and more popular.
It is true that we have been disappointed by the Palestinian leadership in the past, who have rejected proposed solutions. But the current Palestinian government in the West Bank is considered to be the most moderate that Israel has ever faced, and the security cooperation has proven very successful in recent years. And importantly, the Palestinian Authority understands that separation is in their interest as well. Separation and continued security cooperation is something that our governments can agree on. We do not think that the Palestinians will all of a sudden become lovers of Israel, but after a comprehensive political settlement and separation we can begin building better relations.
Any solution must be reached through negotiations and consensus, but at the same time, pressure must be leveled against terrorism aimed at thwarting progress. Hamas is currently in a state of crisis, with its funding from the Arab world drying up. Regional and international support for negotiations will add more pressure on Hamas to become moderate.
There was a lot written about why Oslo failed to succeed, from the gradual process of implementation to the absence of a clear vision for the future and resistance on both sides. Today, the diplomatic, strategic, and political context is different, and both sides have learned the lessons of the past. Things simply cannot continue as they are. We must choose a different path.
There is no such thing as a partial solution. Proposals such like that from Minister Bennett would place added pressure on the Palestinians living in the West Bank, and it would mean that a minority of extremists would be dictating the fate of us all. In the end, the choice will always be between one state and two.
● Bennett proposes annexing Area C and giving autonomy to the Palestinians in areas A and B. That would leave the Palestinians more than 100 unconnected cities and towns. That would mean an additional 1,800 kilometers of border to monitor and defend. A new separation fence would have to be constructed—three times the length of the current one—and bridges and tunnels would have to be constructed to connect the various Palestinian islands. Conservative estimates place the cost in the hundreds of billions of shekels.
● Such an extended border would require sweeping military mobilizations, the establishment of new brigades and the increased calling up of reservists. Who would serve in these new battalions? Where would the money come to fund this unending and heightened state of alertness.
● When we begin down the slippery slope of annexation, we will very quickly cease to be a Jewish state. If we annex all of the West Bank, a proposal supported by extremists like MK Oren Hazan, and the 2.7 million Palestinians there (this is ignoring the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza), Israel would lose its Jewish majority. That would mean the death of the Zionist dream.
● There would be one way to maintain Israel’s Jewish identity, and that would be to strip the nation of its celebrated democracy. Extremists like MK Smotrich have proposed not extending civil and political rights to the annexed Palestinian population so as to prevent the Arab majority from exerting political influence. In other words, Israel would become an apartheid state, and we would be hit with crippling international sanctions. Again, it would mean the destruction of Israel, and the death of Zionism.
● The annexation of millions of Palestinians would also spark economic upheaval and lead to a collapse of our economy, as the state would have to address the disparity in living standards, alleviating the poverty that is more prevalent in Palestinian areas of the West Bank. As an example, the average Palestinian makes NIS 5,467 a month, compared to NIS 9,805 a month for Israeli citizens.
It is important to remember that, in all previous negotiations, Israel’s right and ability to defend itself has been assured through:
* Demilitarization of the Palestinian state * Israeli military access to Palestinian airspace * The deployment of international forces * Restrictions on Palestinian military alliances *