Thursday, February 13, 2020

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

There is something practical that can be done to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that is to grant limited autonomy to a limited Palestinian entity in Judea and Samaria.

In other words, to adopt something like the Trump plan.

It is not a “solution” in the sense that it guarantees a complete end to terrorism. It does not produce the warm feeling that would come from the knowledge that the entire Land of Israel, from the river to the sea, was in Jewish hands. Nor does it satisfy “Palestinian aspirations.” But it’s something we can do today, or at least in a few months. And although I can’t say for certain how much better it will make things for Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, I  am relatively sure it will not make them worse. And it does not preclude additional positive developments in the future.

I said “something like” the Trump plan. Trump’s map needs adjustments, and the “secure route” between the Palestinian entity in the east and Gaza is a non-starter. Indeed, Gaza requires an entirely different approach. But in outline, it is a plan that will improve Israel’s security and can provide a better life for the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria, if they can repress their desire to kill us long enough to take advantage of what they will be given. And we don’t need their agreement to begin.

The status quo is unacceptable. It is expensive, it prevents the development of Judea and Samaria – despite what the Left says, there is almost no actual Jewish construction across the Green Line – and it leaves us vulnerable to terrorism. And no other proposed “solution” is practical.

I have favored incentivized emigration as proposed by Martin Sherman, and I still think that in the case of Gaza, it must be at least part of the solution – along with regime change there. But is hard to imagine that we can afford to pay all the Arab residents of the land to leave, that there are enough countries that would both be attractive to them and would want to take them, and that the reaction from the rest of the world would be positive.

The Obama-style sovereign “Palestine” in almost all of Judea and Samaria is also unacceptable. I don’t have to discuss the reasons in detail; most of my readers are aware of them. Promises of demilitarization are ludicrous; we would have mortar fire on Ben-Gurion airport, short-range rockets striking Tel Aviv, and Iranian-controlled militias in the Jordan Valley. International security guarantees are worth as much as the UNEF that fled from the Sinai in 1967, or the UNIFIL that was charged with preventing Hezbollah from rearming in 2006. Only Israeli security control of the entire area – as proposed in the Trump plan – can guarantee our security.

On the other hand, wholesale annexation of Judea and Samaria and absorption of the entire Arab population into Israel would be dangerous in another way. Although we would still have a Jewish majority (barely), and even supposing we could find a way to keep from granting citizenship to all of those Arabs who wanted it, we would most likely be facing a continuing insurgency. Either we would move in the direction of a binational state – and such a state would make Lebanon look relatively stable and peaceful – or we would have to take draconian measures to suppress the Arab population, which would be in a permanent state of unrest and conflict.

Various Jordan-is-Palestine plans have been suggested. But surely Palestinians would not accept the  Hashemite dynasty, and a change in regime would be massively destabilizing for the entire region. Israel’s security would not permit contiguity between a “West Bank” and the rest of Jordan. A movement of a large part of the Arab population of Judea and Samaria to Jordan is also impractical and unlikely. Perhaps this could have been accomplished in 1967, perhaps not. But not today.

The Trump plan has been rejected by the Palestinian leadership, both the PLO and Hamas. And that is not surprising, since it fails to accommodate their true aspiration, which is to replace the Jewish state with an Arab one. It acknowledges that the only way to ensure that the Jewish state will continue to exist is for it to have security control of all of the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. It takes into account that the state that (at least the PLO) say they want, when they speak in English, is not what they really want. It recognizes that they have rejected all previous offers, including offers of sovereignty over almost all the territories, because they thought that holding out long enough would ultimately get them a package that included the tools for the destruction of Israel.

If the Trump plan is implemented, probably the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas will both have to disappear. The PA was established by the Oslo Accords as a temporary government for the Palestinian Arabs. It is essentially identical with the PLO, with whom Oslo was negotiated. The PLO was admittedly a terrorist organization until the Oslo Accords, in which they pledged to abandon terrorism. They didn’t, but most of the world – including the government of Israel – pretends that they did. The PLO is an umbrella organization, made up of various factions of the Palestinian movement. The largest, which dominates the PLO, is Fatah, the movement formerly led by Yasser Arafat and now by Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah is and has always been committed to the violent destruction of Israel. It has vehemently rejected the Trump plan.

I suspect that nobody would be happier to see the PA/PLO and Hamas ride into the sunset than every Palestinian not on their payroll. Both regimes are corrupt, stealing huge amounts of aid and tax money from their citizens; both are oppressive, violently crushing dissidents and not allowing a free press; both engage in torture of their citizens. As long as they are in power, it’s doubtful that the promise of the Trump plan to provide a better life for Arab residents of the territories can be fulfilled. However, it will still be possible for Israel to obtain the security benefits from the plan. At the end of the day, it will be up to the Arabs take advantage of the financial and other incentives provided by the plan.

The European Union and apparently most of the Democratic candidates for the US presidency oppose the plan. The objections from the candidates seem to boil down to “the Palestinians don’t agree” and “anything Trump does is bad.” I suppose the second objection was unavoidable, but in regard to the first, we should note that so far the Palestinians have never agreed to anything. This implies that the candidates think that more concessions from Israel are necessary to get them to agree; but even previous plans (e.g., Clinton, Olmert, Obama/Kerry) would have presented unacceptable security concerns had they been implemented. So now they want to go even farther? Either they are ignorant of the true objectives of the PLO/Hamas, or they don’t care about Israel’s security, or they just wanted talking points.

The European Union is, I think, another kettle of fish. In a recent document describing the EU’s positions and activities in the territories, it was made clear that the EU position is that any Israeli presence in the areas controlled by Egypt and Jordan from 1949-1967 is illegal under international law, and all Israeli communities there should be dismantled and their residents expelled. The entire 133-page document makes only two references to terrorism, one in connection with Israel’s cutting off revenue transfer in response to the PA’s “pay for slay” system, and another saying “The EU firmly condemns the terror attacks and violence from all sides and in any circumstances, including the death of children.” I should hope so.

It’s clear that if the EU’s recommendations were carried out, the Jewish state would cease to exist. I am convinced that this is the desired outcome for policymakers in the EU and several European countries, and that they would prefer that the Jewish state had never been created. But there is no reason that the Jewish people – which learned about the imperative of self-defense from its history in Europe during the last century – should respect, or indeed pay any attention at all, to the views of these successors to the Nazis.

The Trump  program represents a break with the conventional wisdom of the last decades which held that a reversal of the results of the 1967 war would bring peace. It should be clear that what has prevented peace has been the struggle by the losers of that war (as well as the war of 1948) to try to ignore its clear outcome. UNSC resolution 242 correctly asserted that secure borders for Israel were required for peace. For the first time since then, a serious proposal that recognizes this has been put on the table, backed by the greatest world power.

Everyone should put aside their issues, whether they come from simple partisanship or more complicated psychological problems, and grasp this historical moment to work to implement Trump’s plan – before it’s too late.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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