The Dangers of a Unilateral Israeli Withdrawal from the West Bank

Last year, Israel’s Labor party added to its platform a proposal to cede 80 to 85 percent of the territory beyond the 1949 armistice lines to the Palestinian Authority’s control, absent a negotiated settlement. The plan would involve giving up certain neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, evacuating 80-100,000 Israeli residents of the West Bank, keeping the major settlement blocs, maintaining a military presence in the Jordan Valley, and completing the security barrier between Israel and a now independent Palestine. Deeming this policy one “born out of failure, not ideology [and] frustration, not vision,” Hirsh Goodman argues that it would solve nothing while creating tremendous problems:

Israel has withdrawn unilaterally twice before: from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005. . . . In the end, the unintended consequences of both . . . included four full-scale wars, thousands of cross-border incidents, and the transformation of tactical problems into strategic ones, all of which have left deep and indelible scars on Israel.

Here, the proposal is for a unilateral and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from 80-85 percent of the West Bank, to which Israel [has substantial legal, historical, and moral claims], to a line recognized by no party other than Israel itself. The proposal gives these vacated territories de-facto recognition as legitimately Palestinian, whereas, in reality, they are still in dispute and held by Israel in accordance with international norms and conventions pending a settlement.

It [also] unilaterally relinquishes, without any quid pro quo and contrary to broad national consensus, the unity of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.

Without an Israeli security presence, the illicit Palestinian arms industry in the West Bank will flourish and terrorism will become legitimized and encouraged. Key strategic Israeli targets, like neighborhoods in Jerusalem . . . and the entire center of Israel, including Ben-Gurion airport, could be menaced and closed down at will by a primitive rocket fired from a hill a few kilometers away or by a shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missile. Recapturing these territories would be problematic, and the re-establishment of a reliable Palestinian Authority would be impossible. . . .

There is also the internal Israeli dimension. It does not take much to imagine the political and social consequences that a unilateral relocation—probably forced—of 100,000 Israeli citizens from their homes would cause in the country. If the Gaza evacuation was a tremor, this would be an earthquake.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Gaza expulsion, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Labor Party, Two-State Solution, West Bank

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict