On March 27, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo vowed to “broaden the debate” and shed old “parameters” governing negotiations for a final status peace agreement between Arabs and Israelis. In the spirit of Secretary Pompeo’s words, Israel should annex at least most of Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to as the “West Bank.” Twenty-eight out of the 30 Likud members of Knesset, with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Benny Begin being the only exceptions, have explicitly supported Israel applying sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. Forty-two percent of the Israeli population now supports either partial or full annexation of Judea and Samaria.
Judea and Samaria’s Deep Historical Roots
As the indigenous people, Jews had sovereignty and pseudo-sovereignty of Judea and Samaria from 1010 B.C.E. to 617 C.E. (a mere twenty years before the Arab occupation of Jerusalem in 637 C.E.). After the Jews lost political power in Judea and Samaria, they continued to reside there until the modern period, with interludes when occupying powers forbade them from living in places like Hebron and Jerusalem. In fact, during Israel’s War of Independence (1947–1949), approximately 10,000 Jews were kicked out of or killed in Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
Judea and Samaria’s Strategic Importance
Israel doesn’t have much room to negotiate over Judea and Samaria because most of this land is of vital strategic importance to Israel. Shortly after the Six-Day War, the heads of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a now declassified report in which they recommended that Israel retain at least half of Judea and Samaria, and this would provide Israel with “a militarily defensible border.”
Israel should retain Judea and Samaria’s mountain ridge. The ridge looks down on Israel’s coastal plain, which contains 70 percent of Israel’s population and 80 percent of its industry, and surrounds Jerusalem on three sides. The ridge looks down on Tel Aviv (12 miles from the Green Line, or the 1949 armistice line between Israel and Jordan), and Ben Gurion International Airport (6 miles from the Green Line), among other vital areas. If Israel withdrew from these mountains, it would be extremely vulnerable to rocket attacks from its east. The “narrow waist” of Israel before the Six Day War was eight miles wide. Israel could be overrun quickly in a future war if it ever withdrew to the Green Line.
Israel should retain the settlements surrounding Jerusalem, as they are important to protect it against terrorism and invasion. The E-1 Corridor, an area of land between eastern Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, is also critical to connect the two. This would prevent Ma’aleh Adumim from being isolated and indefensible in wartime, as Jerusalem was in Israel’s War of Independence.
Retention of the Jordan Valley is vital, given the prevention of smuggling of weapons, infiltration of terrorists, and land invasions. With control of the Jordan Valley, Israel needs to patrol only a 62-mile-long border instead of the 223-mile-long Green Line.
Furthermore, Judea and Samaria are home to about 400,000 Israeli citizens, most of whom live in Area C of Judea and Samaria. This area constitutes approximately 60% of Judea and Samaria. It is ridiculous to assume that Israel will evacuate these civilians in a final peace agreement, given that its evacuation of approximately 9,000 of its citizens from Gaza in the 2005 disengagement brought Israel to the brink of civil war.
The Arabs Don’t Want Judea and Samaria Anyway
Even if Israel wanted to give Judea and Samaria to the Arabs, the Arabs don’t want it. The Arabs have shown through their own actions that they do not want sovereignty in the land. The Arabs rejected proposals to gain sovereignty of Judea and Samaria in 1937, 1947, 1967–1968, 2000, 2001, and 2008.
The Peace Process Hasn’t Given Israel Peace…
Israel should abandon existing paradigms of “land for peace” with the Arab world. “Land for peace” in an Orwellian way has brought more war upon Israel. Israel’s withdrawals from parts of Gaza and Judea and Samaria during the Oslo Accords in the 1990s were met with the Second Intifada (2000–2005). Israel’s full withdrawals from southern Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005 were met with at least four wars, and the massive arming of Hezb’allah and Hamas. Lastly, while the benefits of Israel’s peace with Egypt should not be understated, there are now jihadi groups in Sinai targeting Israel, despite Israel completely withdrawing its civilian population from there in the 1980s.
…So Israel Should Try Something Else
Instead of pursuing the same failed policies, Israel should try something new to enhance chances of a true peace. In any new paradigm, in order to maintain its strength and its Jewish and democratic character, Israel should 1) retain as much of Judea and Samaria as possible and practical and 2) absorb the smallest number of additional Arabs.
Some options that are not necessarily mutually exclusive include:
- Israel annexes Area C of Judea and Samaria. Arabs in Area C are given Israeli citizenship, while Arabs in Areas A and B are given self-rule.
- The Arabs in Judea and Samaria receive self-rule in seven Arab “emirates” in Judea and Samaria based on the seven major Arab population centers there, with Gaza functioning as the eighth emirate. Israel then annexes the remaining land and gives citizenship to those Arabs not living in Gaza or the seven other emirates.
- Israel annexes all of Judea and Samaria and grants all Arabs in Judea and Samaria citizenship. This option is based on data indicating that Jews currently constitute a stable majority (60%) of the population from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, excluding Gaza, and that this majority will grow to 70% in 2059.
- Jordan gives land to the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria. In compensation, Saudi Arabia gives land to Jordan. In compensation, Egypt returns two islands to Saudi Arabia.
- Egypt gives land in the Sinai to expand Gaza, and this becomes the Palestinian state.
- Israel annexes all of Judea and Samaria. The Arabs in Judea and Samaria stay where they are and become citizens of Jordan and residents of Israel.
- Israel annexes all of Judea and Samaria. The Arabs in Judea and Samaria stay where they are and become citizens of Arab countries, such as the Gulf States, and residents of Israel.
- Israel annexes all of Judea and Samaria. The Arabs in Judea and Samaria stay where they are and vote in local, not federal elections, like Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States.
- Israel conducts a partial, after-the-fact population exchange with the Arab world. In exchange for Israel absorbing 850,000 Jews that fled or were kicked out of the Arab world during 1948, Israel financially compensates Arabs in Judea and Samaria to leave Judea and Samaria.
The Arabs have responded to Israel’s “land for peace” initiatives with violence, and the Arabs have rejected Israel’s (and the international community’s) multiple offers of Arab sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. Israel should logically respond to these developments by annexing at least most of Judea and Samaria and offer a path forward. Hopefully then will peace become a reality.