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
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
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One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
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The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
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Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
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He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.