May 1, 2018
Israeli settlement of Revava, where some 2,300 Jews live, is located 26 miles east of Tel Aviv and about 15 miles south of Nablus in part of Area C in Samaria.
Should Israel Annex Area C in Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”)?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Our FLAME Hotline two weeks ago, which discussed disposition of the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”), stirred the passions of many FLAME supporters.
These stalwart pro-Israel advocates took offense at our featured article by Yossi Klein Halevi, which among many other points, persisted in supporting a two-state solution. Because FLAME believes the opportunity for a two-state solution has likely passed, we, like the current U.S. administration, have ceased to advocate for it (or against it).
Yet, there’s a larger, more immediate issue than how many states emerge from the conflict over the coming decades. Consider three compelling facts:
1) Israel has a powerful claim to all of the disputed territories, given 4,000 years of Jewish history and its recapture of this land in a victory over Arab invaders in 1967.
2) The Palestinian Arabs have stubbornly refused to exchange any land for peace or recognize the Jewish state for the last 70 years, despite several generous offers of 97% of Judea and Samaria and a capital in Jerusalem.
3) The security situation in Israel’s neighborhood—with ISIS, al Qaeda, Iran, Hamas and Hizbollah—has become infinitely more dangerous over the past decade, and the Palestinians seems less willing or equipped than ever to forge peace.
Enough already. It’s time to look at new options for the strategically and historically precious lands of Judea and Samaria.
In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know: As part of the 1992 Oslo Accords, Israel and the Palestinians divided the disputed territories into three sections—Areas A, B and C. Areas A and B consist of lands primarily occupied by about 2.2 million Palestinian Arabs. Governance of those areas has gradually been turned over to the Palestinian Authority.
Area C, where the Arab population is thinnest and where most Jewish settlements are located, makes up the largest part of Judea and Samara—about 61% of the West Bank. Area C has approximately 600,000 Jewish Israeli and about 300,000 Arabs. It is controlled primarily by Israel.
As I learned during my recent trip to Israel, many liberal Israelis still believe the entire West Bank should be held in trust for the Arabs until they decide to make peace. The majority of Israelis—and the majority of FLAME supporters—believe Israel should continue building settlements in the historical Jewish homeland.
But the question looms, especially as settlement growth continues apace: What should be the final disposition of Judea and Samaria?
This question brings us to our FLAME Hotline-featured article (below) by Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, who served in the IDF for forty-two years and commanded troops in battles with Egypt and Syria.
Hacohen argues that Area C is vital to Israel’s interests—not just security interests, but also national interests. He argues forcefully that Israel should continue aggressive settlement building so as to create an unalterable reality on the ground—and counter the feverish efforts of the EU to create a contrary reality, in which the Palestinians seize this disputed territory, inch by inch.
Interestingly, Hacohen’s solution does not address statehood for the Palestinians. Presumably, the Arabs would be left with Areas A and B (and perhaps Gaza)—if they ever attain the skill and discipline for economic independence and self-governance. Would that mean a state? An “autonomous” territory? Who knows? The larger question is what happens now?
I hope you’ll forward this provocative perspective to friends, family and fellow congregants to help them understand why the traditional notion of a two-state solution is quickly fading and why Israel is quietly building a hopeful new reality on the ground in Judea and Samaria.
I hope you’ll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which describes FLAME’s latest hasbarah campaign—exposing Palestinian lies intended to dispossess Israel of its rights to a state in the Holy Land. I hope you agree with and will support this message.
President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)
|P.S.||As you may have read, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders spread blatant lies in the U.N. and other forums almost daily—about Jewish history in Jerusalem and the Holy Land in general, about Palestinian origins, Palestinian refugees and many other factual matters. No wonder FLAME has created a new editorial message—”Palestinian Mythology“—which is about to run in mainstream magazines and newspapers, including college newspapers, with a combined readership of some 10 million people. In addition, it is being sent to every member of the U.S. Congress and President Trump. If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on Israel’s behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME’s powerful ability to influence public opinion—and U.S. support of Israel—comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you’ll consider giving a donation now, as you’re able—with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to donate now. Now, more than ever, we need your support to ensure that the American people, the U.S. Congress and President Trump stay focused on—and take actions against—Iran’s threat to our country, Israel and the entire world.
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Disputed Territories’ Area C Strategically Vital for Israel
By Gershon Hacohen, Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies Perspectives, April 18, 2018
The proposed transfer of significant parts of Area C to the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) will be detrimental to Israel’s national interest, if only because these territories are almost completely devoid of any Palestinian population. As such, they afford not only a strong security grip but the possibility of extensive Jewish settlement without threatening Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.
Last year, upon the publication of Micah Goodman’s book Catch-67, I explained the basic reasons for my disagreement with his analysis and recommendations. That seemed at the time to be the end of the matter. When Goodman chose, a year later, to set forth his views in two almost identical articles—one in the Haaretz supplement (February 16, 2018); the other in Makor Rishon (April 5, 2018)—I felt compelled to warn of the danger his recommendations entail.
Opposed to what some Israelis see as a desirable status quo in the West Bank, Goodman recommends a string of pragmatic small steps that would “enable Palestinian autonomy to expand without Israel’s security contracting.” He explains that “this does not entail major ideological concessions such as evacuating settlements.”
The essence of the dispute lies in two practical recommendations that to my mind are disastrous: Transferring considerable parts of Area C to PA control; and “halting settlement expansion outside the large blocs.” These recommendations show that Goodman is stuck in a mechanistic security paradigm, borrowed from senior defense establishment officials whom he met while writing his book—but Israel’s control of the West Bank is not solely predicated on security needs.
The national-security equation goes well beyond technical security aspects. As stated in the IDF’s doctrinal literature: “National security is the domain concerned with ensuring the national ability to contend effectively with any threat to the national existence and to the vital national interests.” Indeed, the debate between right and left about Israel’s continued control of the West Bank (or parts of it) is rooted in the question of its vital national interests there. Unable to agree on their national vision, Israelis have vested the debate in the hands of the security specialists. As a result, those vital interests have been reduced to little more than an inventory of security requirements, such as monitoring the border crossings in the Jordan Valley and having an early warning station on Mount Hazor.
For Goodman, his only interest beyond technical security matters—to which he assigns major importance—is separating from the Palestinians. This goal has been turned by the likes of Ehud Barak, Haim Ramon, and Tzippi Livni into a supreme national interest. Yet in their many statements about the need for separation, they totally ignore the fact that the lion’s share of the separation was already implemented at the start of the Oslo process under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In May 1994, Israel’s rule over the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip came to an end with the establishment of the PA; and in January 1996, the Israeli civil administration’s rule over the Palestinian population of Areas A and B of the West Bank came to an end. Since that time, over 90% of the Palestinians in the territories conquered in the June 1967 war have been living under the Palestinian Authority.
To continue demanding that Israel separate from the Palestinians and minimize its rule over them-when that rule was already minimized quite some time ago—is a manipulative way of pushing for a near-total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, something Rabin was adamantly opposed to. (The settlement blocs that are supposed to remain in Israeli hands constitute no more than 4% of the entire territory.)
Moreover, from a spatial and ecological standpoint, an Israel that shrinks down to a strip of land along the coastal plain, from Nahariya to Ashkelon, becomes a densely populated urban nightmare. Even today the problem of density has reached the boiling point. For example, the Planning Authority has been ordered to plan the construction of an additional 2.6 million new apartments by 2040, all within the Green Line. Yet the spatial future lies in the open territory of the Jordan Valley from the river to the mountain spine; it is there that millions of Jews can be settled in a swath of land parallel to the coastal strip.
The way in which Rabin drew the contours of Area C, paying close personal attention to every road and hill, shows the map of Israel’s spatial interests in the West Bank. The territorial aspects of this conception require a settlement endeavor comprising four main tasks: 1) developing Greater Jerusalem, primarily eastward toward the Dead Sea; 2) developing southern Mount Hebron; 3) developing the Jordan Valley; and 4) developing the corridors from the coastal strip to the Jordan Valley. The distribution of Jewish localities in the West Bank, supported by the outposts, hews very closely to this strategic logic.
Herein lies the key to understanding the subversive activity the EU and the PA have been conducting in Area C in recent years. With coordinated strategic planning, stepped-up building, and extensive agricultural development, the PA is striving, with overt European support, to prevent Israel from realizing its national interests in the West Bank. This means not only struggling to broaden the Palestinian living space but also to fragment and isolate areas of Jewish settlement.
The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians now centers on the question of who, at the end of the day, will find himself fragmented and isolated. For Micah Goodman, who lives in Kfar Adumim, the personal significance of his own proposal is that his own village, like the Gush Etzion neighborhoods, will become an enclave in a Palestinian domain. This struggle will also determine the status of Jerusalem: whether Palestinian neighborhoods such as A-Tur and Isawwiya will be Palestinian enclaves in the Israeli space, or Maale Adumim will be an Israeli enclave in the Palestinian space.
This explains the stubborn American opposition to the founding of a national park on the eastern slopes of Mount Scopus: The goal is that Maale Adumim (Jewish settlement, editor) will become an Israeli enclave in a Palestinian area.
Goodman’s recommendations dovetail with EU-led efforts to curtail Israeli control of Area C. What his small-steps paradigm really portends—even if the settlement blocs remain in Israeli hands—is a creeping Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line.
This dispute should be presented in its true colors. It involves contrasting understandings of Israel’s national mission and the issue of reclaiming the Jewish ancestral homeland, as well as different ways of assessing the security aspects of the situation. The dispute is not between those advocating judicious pragmatism and those caught up in an ideological vision that ignores the constraints of reality. The latter, too, are committed to pragmatic navigation that surmounts obstacles. It appears, though, that not only are the two parties’ goals different, but their compasses are differently calibrated.
In line with the traditional security concept of the pioneering Zionist movement, my pragmatic navigation regards extensive settlement of Area C as the key to strategic stability. The more Israelis settle in this area, the more others will come to view Israel’s presence as an unalterable reality with which it is best to reconcile. That is why the EU chose to get so openly involved in shaping this territory in the Palestinians’ favor.
Goodman’s recommendations run counter not only to the vision of the settlement enterprise in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, but also to the way in which Rabin viewed Israel’s national interests in this territory.
“The only way to maintain the existing situation is to change it.” With those words Goodman ended his article. I certainly agree. The dispute, however, is over the direction of the change. Contrary to Goodman’s recommendations, Israel must increase its settlement activities with the goal in mind of three million Jews living in Area C, notably the Jordan Valley. Given that this area is almost totally bereft of Palestinian population, such a development is bound to strengthen Israel’s national security while having a negligible impact on its demographic balance, and none whatsoever on its continued existence as a Jewish and democratic state.