Shmuel L. Gordon

Israeli citizens in Palestine

One of these greatest obstacles to establishing agreed-upon borders between Israel and the Palestinians is the assumption that it is impossible to remove a quarter-million settlers from their homes. The experience of the evacuation from the Gaza Strip indicates the dangers of an evacuation from the West Bank. Thus, the assumption that a mass evacuation is an essential condition for an agreement with the Palestinians is dubious, and opponents of the evacuation will probably ask grave questions such as “how will terror activity be prevented?”

Thus it is incumbent upon both sides to consider alternatives that enable Israelis to live peacefully in the Palestinian state. One sound model has been in effect, successfully, for almost 20 years, and applying it the West Bank in an agreement would include the following principles:

A special regime will apply to the Israeli settlements, recognizing that in an area which is under Palestine’s sovereignty there are places with Israeli private property rights.


Palestine will be committed to grant, without charge, unimpeded freedom of entry, exit, and movement within the area to Israeli citizens, and to allow them freely to dispose of their land in accordance with applicable Palestinian law. It will also refrain from applying its customs or immigration legislation to land-owners. Nor will Palestine impose discriminatory taxes or charges with regard to the land or activities within the area. It will take all necessary measures to protect and prevent harassment of or harm to any person entering the area. It will permit, with the minimum of formality, uniformed officers of the Israeli police force access to the area for the purpose of investigating crime or dealing with other incidents solely involving the landowners.


Palestinian law will apply to this area. Israeli law applying to the extra-territorial activities of Israel may be applied to Israelis and their activities in the area, and Israel may take measures in the area to enforce such laws. Palestine will not apply its criminal laws to activities in areas that involve only Israeli nationals”

This is not a wild fantasy or a dream. In fact, it is based on the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan (October 26, 1994) regarding the Zofar and Naharaim areas. That treaty has been in effect for 18 years almost without incident. So why not go for it?

There’s a chance, but obstacles and mines (literally, as well) along the road should be evaluated thoroughly. However, it is a practical vision only insofar as the two sides understand that it is almost impossible to evacuate the settlers, and Israel comprehends that it is probably the only possibility for preserving the Jewish state. Palestine must also believe that the Israelis are not a fifth column – just as Arabs in Israel are not. Only when we internalize these facts will we be able achieve a compromise arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians. Isn’t that alternative worth of a second thought?

About the Author
Colonel (res) Shmuel L Gordon has a PhD in International Relations and Strategic Studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and has written several books and hundreds of essays on national security, decision-making, strategy, air warfare, and counter-insurgency conflicts. He had a distinguished career in the Israeli Air Force as a fighter pilot and commander. He is the winner of Yitzhak Sade Prize for Defense Literature, the Karmon Prize for Research from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and And the Ben Gurion Prize for Security study from the General Histadrut.