Last Tuesday evening, after we visited the ballot booths, something interesting occurred. While the preliminary election results were being presented, there was something unusual in the atmosphere; mixed emotions. Even at the celebration of the “Yesh Atid” Party, which achieved an impressive victory, the joy expressed was combined with a feeling of solemnity, as a realistic understanding of the challenging tasks awaiting the victors in the upcoming days, suddenly fell upon them.
I am not referring here to the socio-economic challenges, which lie before us. There is no question that deep reforms must be implemented to curb the high cost of living, advance equality of military service, and restore dignity to the middle class. Nonetheless, the greatest threat to our future as a sovereign Jewish State, is not economic. Our survival as a legitimate regime in the eyes of the international community depends primarily on the way we address the Palestinian issue.
We cannot afford to go through another term without realizing progress in this area. The world has already lost its patience. Our leaders have to set a substantive goal and advance towards it. In other words, they need to embrace a practical solution, rather than marking the revival of negotiations, as a goal in and of itself. After the government determines its geo-political goals, it will decide whether or not the best way to achieve such goals is through negotiations, or alternative unilateral actions. Our Palestinian counterparts have already jettisoned the idea of negotiations, opting instead for unilateral actions. Therefore, it is currently unrealistic for us to cling to the concept of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.
In my opinion, it is more important that the solution be acceptable to our partners in the Western world, than to the Palestinian Authority. This is because a Palestinian leadership with the public consensus required to make even the slightest concessions for the sake of peace, does not exist.
If we want to create a geo-political settlement that is acceptable to the United States and Europe, there are three clear guidelines: first, the solution to the dispute must be one that honors, to the greatest extent, the human rights of all citizens on each side of the conflict. Secondly, the solution must be one that does not require the forceful uprooting of any people – neither Palestinians nor Jews. Otherwise, blood will be running in the streets once again. Thirdly, the solution must require each party to grant equal rights, democracy, and freedom to the populations living within its jurisdiction.
In a perfect world, we could set as a goal the building of a Swiss-type federation in the land of Israel, which possesses separate cantons based on ethnic homogeneity; sovereign regions with significant public powers, joined by a joint federal government, which oversees only broad national areas, such as protection of borders, national security, and the collection of customs. Because it has never been, and most likely will never be, a realistic option to establish such a relationship between Jews and Palestinians, the only realistic option left is this: the unilateral annexation by Israel of all areas designated as “C” under the Oslo accords.
This solution will grant Israeli citizenship to between 50,000 to 150,000 Arabs living in Judea and Samaria (the accurate number depends on whether you ask Naftali Bennet or Ha’aretz Newspaper), a population which constitutes roughly 0.7% to 2.1% of our population. This is not a significant demographic threat. Furthermore, as soon as the State of Israel gives the Arab residents of area “C” full citizenship, we can start demanding that the international community apply pressure to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt to grant full citizenship to the Palestinian refugees, who reside within their borders. As a result, we will weaken the “right of return” claim, which is the greatest obstacle to any peace agreement.
Since all of the Jewish settlers in the disputed territories, who number approximately 350,000, live in area “C”, the annexation solution does not require the removal of any Jewish settlements, and will leave strategic areas such as the Jordan Valley in our hands. In any case, half of the world recognizes areas “A” and “B” as a Palestinian State. All that remains is to recognize area “C” as the State of Israel.
The second stage, after the nation of Israel has assumed governing responsibility for area “C”, and granted equal rights to every person living within its jurisdiction, we can start discussing Israeli recognition of the Palestinian Administration, as a state. As a human rights activist, I believe that the Palestinian Authority will deserve to be recognized as a state, only after it establishes a society, which recognizes the value of life more than the value of land, and honors individual freedoms, the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
The question is, will the next Prime Minister of Israel have the vision, the wisdom, the courage and (perhaps most important practically), the coalition partners necessary to carry out this plan? The answer to that question will become clear in the upcoming days.