What Do Israelis Want for the West Bank?

Feb. 15 2017

While a small number of Israelis want their country to hold on to Judea and Samaria at all costs, and another minority want to cede these territories as quickly as possible, the majority, according to Haviv Rettig Gur, are themselves of two minds over what seems to be an intractable problem. The internal tensions go back to the very strategy that created the West Bank settlements in the first place:

The new settlements [founded after the Six-Day War] ran roughly along the contours of the “Allon Plan,” developed by [the Israeli general Yigal] Allon, who had urged the conquest of the West Bank in 1948. The plan sought to strike a balance between the two incompatible aims with which the Israeli cabinet had wrestled twenty years earlier: to claim areas that would mitigate the perpetual threat to Israel’s narrow north-south corridor while leaving intact and unclaimed a large, contiguous Arab-majority territory that could someday become a Palestinian state.

In practice, that meant relatively modest steps, such as establishing well-defended hamlets along the Jordan River whose reservists-turned-farmers could hold an enemy army at bay in an emergency, or expanding the most vulnerable and precious of Israel’s cities, Jerusalem, to encompass the hills that before the war had threatened it on all sides. Even today, most of the settlers live in a circle around Jerusalem or in towns placed as buffers around the main highways leading to the capital. . . .

When diplomats in Washington, London, or elsewhere wonder about Israel’s intentions—when they complain that Netanyahu is lying either about his support for Palestinian statehood or about his support for settlements, because how can he support both?—they are overlooking the most important fact of Israel’s position. Since Israel’s earliest days, the West Bank has meant both secure boundaries and mortal danger, a homecoming to the landscapes of Jewish and biblical history and a potentially disastrous intertwining with a foreign people.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Palestinians, Settlements, West Bank

 

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy