Yes: annexation, No: Palestinian state
PRIME MINISTER Levi Eshkol (right), accompanied by OC Southern Command Yeshayahu Gavish, visit troops in the South during the Six Day War.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
There is no compelling moral, historical or political reason why annexation in whole or in part should be made contingent on agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian entity.
In the coming weeks, Israel will embark on one of the most momentous decisions in its modern history as it moves forward with the annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria, our historic heartland. Just 53 years after the liberation of these areas, when the Jewish people were reunited with our precious patrimony after 19 centuries, we will finally take the step that should have been taken long ago and formally incorporate some or all of the territory into the Jewish state.
At this stage, many of the details still remain unclear, leading to a public and very vocal debate on the right as to whether to embrace or spurn the move, which is but one component of US President Donald Trump’s proposed “deal of the century.”As with many such debates, this has largely devolved into two competing camps. There are those who call for accepting Trump’s plan, saying that the extension of sovereignty to all of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and its recognition by Washington, is worth paying the price of establishing a Palestinian state.Others categorically reject such a position, arguing that under no circumstances can Israel agree to forgo any part of Judea and Samaria, and certainly not if it means assenting to the creation of a hostile Palestinian entity next door. Hence, they argue, it would be best to forgo the extension of sovereignty altogether.Personally, I believe that both sides are mistaken. There is a third way for Israel to advance, one that would require a great deal of fortitude and determination but would bring about the best possible outcome of all.Simply put, it is, “Yes to annexation, no to a Palestinian state.”There is no compelling moral, historical or political reason why annexation in whole or in part should be made contingent on agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian entity, which would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. And there is no reason why Israel must accept such a condition, even if it is part and parcel of Trump’s plan.Yes, Donald Trump has demonstrated himself by far to be the best friend that Israel has ever had in the White House. No rational observer can or should claim otherwise.But Israel must pursue what is in its own best interests, even if it potentially clashes with Washington’s vision for peace. In other words, Israel should go ahead and annex Judea and Samaria unconditionally, regardless of what any other country, including America, may think. It cannot and must not be linked or equated in any way with the formation of a Palestinian state. BEFORE YOU object that this is wishful thinking, consider the following: twice before, Israeli prime ministers have defied the US on the issue of annexation. The first to do so was Labor prime minister Levi Eshkol who, after the conclusion of the Six Day War, ignored American opposition and incorporated eastern Jerusalem into the city’s municipal boundaries on June 28, 1967, effectively annexing it. That very same day, the US State Department issued a sharply-worded condemnation, calling the action “hasty” and categorically proclaiming “the United States has never recognized such unilateral action by any state in the area as governing the international status of Jerusalem.” Eshkol shrugged off the criticism and the rest, as they say, is history.Following in Eshkol’s footsteps, Likud prime minister Menachem Begin passed the Golan Heights Law on December 14, 1981, which applied Israeli law to the Golan. Within days, the US responded with fury, ordering the suspension of a strategic pact and arms deal with Israel and voting in favor of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that declared Israel’s action to be “null and void and without international effect.”In response, then-prime minister Menachem Begin issued an extraordinary statement on December 21, 1981 to the US Ambassador to Israel, perhaps one of the most impassioned and courageous ever made, in which he lambasted Washington for its stance. “Are we a vassal state of yours?” Begin asked the American envoy, “Are we a banana republic? Are we 14-year-olds who, if we misbehave, we get our wrists slapped?”“Let me tell you,” he continued, “who comprises this cabinet. It is composed of people whose lives were marked by resistance, fighting and suffering. You will not frighten us with punishments.”And as for the US decision to cancel the strategic memorandum with the Jewish state, Begin said, “The people of Israel have lived for 3,700 years without a memorandum of understanding with America and will continue to live without it for another 3,700 years.”And that was under the Reagan administration!Sure enough, after tempers had cooled, Begin visited DC and the US-Israel relationship was back on track.Now, I am not privy to what the Trump team is saying to Israel about the annexation in Judea and Samaria or whether it is being linked to an explicit and binding Israeli promise to create a Palestinian state. But fortunately, the bilateral relationship that currently exists is even closer and more intimate than it was three decades ago, meaning that if Israel were to go its own way, the chances of a backlash are minimal, if non-existent. Moreover, it is an election year in the United States and conservative evangelical pro-Israel Christians comprise an important part of Trump’s electoral base. They will surely not stand for any criticism of Israel’s annexation of all or some of Judea and Samaria. GIVEN THIS constellation of factors, the coming months present Israel with a golden opportunity that must not be wasted. We must push forward with reclaiming Judea and Samaria and formally incorporating the areas into the Jewish state while thoroughly rejecting any idea of territorial compromise. We owe no one any apologies for taking back the cradle of our civilization.And if we do, the sky will not fall in, the sun will still rise the next morning and Israel and the US will continue to be allies and the best of friends.The fact is that ever since the Romans sacked the Second Temple and scattered the Jewish people to the four corners of the earth, our ancestors nourished the dream to return to the hills of Samaria, the mountains of Judea, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus) and other sites central to our destiny as well as our identity.We have a chance now to grab hold of that dream and transform it into reality by reasserting our control over Judea and Samaria. We dare not let it pass us by.The writer was deputy communications director for Prime Minister Netanyahu during his first term in office.