A brouhaha erupted recently in Israel over a completely theoretical question: could Israelis now living in the West Bank* be allowed to live under Palestinian rule? This debate usefully focused attention on one of the trickiest and deepest issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and so it bears pondering.
Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu started things off on Jan. 24: “I do not intend to remove a single [Jewish] settlement [on the West Bank]. I do not intend to displace a single [Jewish] Israeli.” Glossing this statement, an unnamed official in the prime minister’s office (PMO) explained that, “Just as Israel has an Arab minority, the prime minister doesn’t see why Palestine can’t have a Jewish minority. The Jews living on their side should have a choice whether they want to stay or not.” That aide characterized this as Netanyahu’s “long-standing” position.
Some in the nationalist camp became enraged. Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, a minister in the current government, blasted the prime minister for reflecting “an irrationality of values” and “ethical insanity.” In his view, Zionists “did not return to the land of Israel after two thousand years of longing to live under the government of Mahmoud Abbas. Whoever advocates for the idea of Jewish life in Israel under Palestinian rule is undermining our ability to sit in Tel Aviv.”
Others agreed: “We will not abandon settlers behind enemy lines,” said Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon. Such ideas “contravene the Zionist ethos” observed Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin. “Ludicrous” was the choice adjective of Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ofir Akunis.
When another unidentified PMO official suggested that members of the government can leave the government if they disagree with the prime minister, Bennett ratcheted up, recalling murders of Jews by Palestinians and concluding that “The essence of Zionism is sovereignty. If there is no sovereignty there is no Zionism.”
The PMO then retorted with a demand that Bennett apologize or resign, to which he replied that “if the prime minister was offended, this was not my intention” while claiming the right to “criticize him when the situation calls for it. This is my duty.” The incident ended with the surfacing of old interviews showing that Netanyahu and Bennett’s party had each previously articulated the other’s view, leaving things a complete muddle.
What to make of this week-long debate? Who’s right, who’s wrong? Although I usually support Bennett et al.’s approach, Netanyahu is right this time, for many reasons.
The disgrace, trauma, and futility of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s removal of 8,000 Israelis from Gaza in 2005 – a move unprecedented for any democracy – points to the imperative for Israel’s government to establish the inviolable principle that it never again will remove its nationals from territory. The Gaza experience also established how exponentially more disastrous it would be to repeat this process with the West Bank’s 40 times’ larger population of Israelis. That Netanyahu strongly objected to Sharon’s decision (and left his government in protest against it) highlights his honorable consistency here.
Second, why should the government of Israel fulfill the Palestinians’ wish for a Judenrein West Bank?
Third, permitting Jews to live under the Palestinian Authority is eminently practical. The Israeli flag cannot follow each Jew and make him an island of Zionist sovereignty. Plenty of Jews around the world and even some in the Middle East live outside of Israel’s borders. Why not in the West Bank?
Jews in Hebron currently need a great deal of security. Here, a soldier guarding a Purim parade in 2012.
Fourth, the PMO statement cleverly shreds the campaign of delegitimization against Jews residing in the West Bank. If Jews can live on the West Bank under Palestinian rule, they no longer can be portrayed as obstructing a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, thereby defanging the whole “settlement” issue.
Finally, this Netanyahu’s position changes the terms of debate. It permits Jerusalem to argue that true resolution of the conflict requires Jewish Israelis being able to reside peaceably in a Palestinian state. The conflict will only truly end, I have contended for over a decade, “when the Jews living in Hebron need as little security as the Arabs living in Nazareth.” Such a prospect, of course, is very remote; but accepting the principle of Jews living in “Palestine” allows Zionists to accept the two-state solution in the abstract while justifiably delaying its implementation for generations, maybe forever.
Bennett and his supporters should calm down and appreciate Netanyahu’s diplomatic master stroke.
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
* Several readers asked why I use the term West Bank here rather than Judea and Samaria. For my reply, please click hhttp://www.danielpipes.org/2325/palestinian-word-games#WestBankere.
Feb. 20, 2014 update: John Kerry apparently agrees with this approach. Israel Hayom reports that “Israeli settlers might not be required to leave their homes as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2” to be aired in full today.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians receive the latest by email: subscribe to daniel pipes’ free mailing list This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.
See also Mr Pipes editorial in Israel Hayom http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=7269
By ALAN ROSENBAUM
“We are a government agency with a start-up soul,” says Hagai Dror, managing director of HealthCare Israel, one of the three winners of the 2019 InnoDip Award for innovative diplomacy. The award, established by the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at the IDC Herzliya, will be presented at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on Thursday, November 21 in Jerusalem.
Healthcare Israel was created by Israel’s Ministry of Health in 2016 to deliver life-saving and cost-saving healthcare innovation, technology and expertise to the world, and promotes cooperation and Israeli health system exports through collaborations between government, the health system and the healthcare industry. It has leveraged Israel’s existing diplomatic ecosystem to reach out and create new kinds of international cooperation projects and business deals specifically in the healthcare space.
By YAAKOV KATZ
U.S. Ambassador Friedman to ‘Post’: New policy advances the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace • PM: Policy rights a historical wrong
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Leftist students verbally abused and ransacked tables belong to conservative students
Binghamton University’s downtown campus in New York.
A New York State assemblyman has slammed Binghamton University for the way it has handled a group of leftist students who verbally abused and ransacked tables belonging to the campus College Republicans group.
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Tel Aviv has long awaited a solution for transportation during Shabbat and other Jewish holidays. The principle of the “status quo”—a guideline which dictates maintaining the common practice when it comes to the fundamentals of Jewish Orthodoxy, especially Shabbat observance—effectively prevents the state from offering public transportation services on Shabbat, but since Tel Aviv’s service is free, it does not currently fall under the legal definition of public transportation.
A police car in the German capital of
An elderly man has been viciously beaten up in broad daylight on a Berlin street by a youth who showered him with antisemitic abuse.
According to the BZ online news outlet, the 76-year-old pensioner was walking along the Berliner Strasse in the Pankow district of the German capital at 9 a.m. on Monday when his passage was blocked by a 16-year-old youth and four of his friends.
Oct 25, 2019 0People arrive at a polling station to vote in the federal election in Beauce, Quebec, Canada, Oct. 21, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Mathieu Belanger. A top Jewish advocacy group said on Friday it...
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