Emanuel Shahaf

Equal citizens in the Land of Israel, ultimate deal, ultimate choice

In the days before and after President Trump’s visit, we kept hearing about his deep desire to somehow negotiate the ultimate deal between Israel and the Palestinians, that has eluded all the wise (and not so wise) brokers who have tried their hand at it before. As if all the other US presidents didn’t feel the same call. So let’s be clear about it: This deal, any deal, if we want to close it, is not about what is the ultimate but what is the most reasonable arrangement under the presently very difficult circumstances.

If we analyze those circumstances we see that the antagonists are politically largely disabled because their hold on their respective government is rather weak and doesn’t permit major decisions, either way. The willingness of the international community to enforce changes of consequence in the region is decidedly limited since the situation on the ground after 50 years of occupation is not too alarming when compared to other regional conflicts that are comparatively much more destructive. Israelis are mostly blissfully unconcerned and largely couldn’t care less while Palestinians, having gone through several bloody and unsucessful uprisings, are mainly concerned with the struggle for economic survival rather than  fighting for mundane things like civil and political rights.

What is patently clear to most observers is that before there is a deal, there has to be a choice and the choice is clearly for Israel to make: Do we want to hold on to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or are we willing to settle for the large settlement blocks and some kind of shared arrangement in Jerusalem? Our present government has made it abundantly clear that we want to have the best of both worlds, to hold on militarily to the West Bank but to come to some kind of “arrangement”, a deal, by which most of the Palestinian population of the West Bank is not under our civilian control. The implication is clearly that if there will be an independent Palestinian entity at all, it will not have sovereignty in its territory, and therefore will not be a state.

Such a deal even if it could be concluded as an interim solution, would hardly diminish the incentive for terrorists to continue attempting to undermine peace in the area and would actually do little more than perpetuate the status-quo. This would not be something that could gain wide acceptance from the international community, even if a Trump administration would consider it. Nor would it diminish the drive of NGOs and protest movements the world over to continue and attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel because it maintains the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian population under its control in the territories.

Clearly, Israel has to make a choice and it has to pretty soon: Give up the West Bank in a reasonable deal which is based on the 67 borders, mutually agreed upon land swaps to account for the larger settlement blocks and divide Jerusalem based on the Clinton parameters or something close, or else, annex the West Bank (not Gaza) and give full civil rights to the local population that is interested. Anything else just won’t do.

Unless the continuation of a low intensity civil-war a.k.a. occupation remains the preferred option please consider that these are the only two real choices.  Since the political parties supporting the first choice, a reasonable 2 State scenario, are in the clear minority in the Knesset, the questions that begs an answer is why there is no political party calling for the second approach, a state of all citizens (what else is there ??) in all the territory of the Land of Israel except for Gaza. Is that really so scary? A call for such a state should galvanize the left and could bring a large part of Israel’s Arab population to join in. What am I missing here ?

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".