There is a raft of hot and hotter reaction in Israel to the Obama Administrations abstention on the recent UN Resolution against settlements. Naftali Bennett, Education Minister and leader of the Jewish Home Party told multiple media sources that the gloves are off and in a tweet that “Israel government policy will be to annex Ma’ale Adumin,” and (all of area C). He has a lot of support in anger if not action at least yet by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has promoted building if not outright annexation and is busily taking a series of punitive measures in response to the United Nation Resolution, (2334), while he waited impatiently for the final day of the Obama Administration and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump.
Polling identifies growing support for a policy of annexation; 39% according to a recent survey by the Rafi Smith Institute. But the same polling responds with general support for the much tried and still to be proven true solution of Two States, which remains in the back pocket of the Prime Minister.
Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog called on Education Minister Naftali Bennett to support a public poll that would decide the fate of settlements in the West Bank.
“Bennett, if you are so sure (the public favors annexation), let’s do a referendum now and decide whether we are heading to one or two states, without your mockery and arrogance.” Israel National News
But in spite of key MK’s for and against annexation the politics of the moment will probably be balanced between the threat by Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid to not only leave the Coalition but bring down the Netanyahu government if annexation goes forward and the promotion by a new pro-settlement Trump led America to support Netanyahu, move the embassy to Jerusalem and empower his new ambassador, David Friedman to replace Obama’s long held anti-settlement policy with a more positive recognition of the permanence of the settlement blocks, (similar to President Bush’s policy announcement.
The announcement came in an April 14, 2004 exchange of letters between Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon and US President George W. Bush:
“In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
For many this acknowledgement of the settlement blocks as facts on the ground represents the essential ingredient in formulating a resolution of the conflict by adjusting the borders based on Israeli occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and parallel religious claims underlining the Jewish history of Judea and Samaria.
But for me this new/old recognition is balanced by the term “mutually agreed changes,” which follows the acknowledgement of the settlement blocks. It returns to a negotiated process of mutually acceptable land swaps rather than a claim against the larger process of negotiating Two States for Two Peoples and just annexing whatever territory Israel desires. This is the essential process that is required superseding any unilateral action whether taken in Gaza or planned by the current Netanyahu government.
All of this activity comes in the aftermath of an ongoing process by the Palestinian Authority to continue to internationalize the conflict and take it beyond the limited confines of a seemingly endless negotiation by the principals. Resolution 2334 with an abstention by the United States cultivates international action against Israeli settlements and sets up a final push by the Obama Administration to enshrine an Obama doctrine established early in 2009 against any settlement expansion into a framework of increasing international involvement in an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process that the United States itself had long characterized as being built upon a formula of direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians. It didn’t work. Obama, a liberal and Netanyahu, a Conservative not only never saw the same path to peace, but were elected by their respective countries to achieve very different ends that made the Obama design for peace based on a settlement freeze a non-starter and an incredibly lousy ender for eight years of politics and diplomacy that has now been turned over to President Trump.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to a meeting of hundreds of Israeli peace activists at his headquarters in Ramallah on January 5th and said that peace would not be realized through international forums such as the United Nations, but rather, can only be achieved through dialogue.
“It is enough for us to talk in order to get to peace. The only way is for us to live together in this land for peace,” Abbas told an audience including Uri Avnery who was seated next to him.
I believe in Two States, in Peace and a Peoples Dialogue Process that can rebuild enough trust between Palestinians and Israelis to enable the two governments to move forward at the behest of their publics to negotiate a complete and final status agreement that delivers peace with security to all the residents of Israel and West Bank and eventually those in Gaza too.