(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Continuing to push for a two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is “messianic behavior,” at a time when what is needed is “opening our thoughts” to new diplomatic approaches, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday.
Bennett, in a 90-minute meeting with The Jerusalem Post editorial staff, stressed that one thing he does not want to see is a “second Palestinian state.”
“I do not believe in a second Palestinian state beyond what we have in Gaza,” the Bayit Yehudi head said.
Bennett maintained that the four central trappings of statehood are clear borders, an effective governing body, military power and foreign relations.
Gaza, he said, has three-and-ahalf of those four criteria. The Palestinian Authority does not, he said, lacking clear borders and an effective government.
So rather than establish a second Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, Bennett proposed gradually ending military rule in Area C, applying Israeli law and offering full Israeli citizenship to the 80,000 Palestinians living there. He wants to start by incorporating Ma’aleh Adumim into Israel.
The guiding principle behind Bennett’s plan is to incorporate into Israel 100% of the Jews in Judea and Samaria, while minimizing the number of Palestinians that would be drawn into the state’s borders. A country of more than eight million people, he said, is not endangered demographically by granting citizenship to 80,000 people, which would account for less than 1%.
Along with extending Israeli law to Area C, Bennett wants to significantly strengthen Palestinian autonomy in Areas A and B.
“This would be less than a state, but [it would still be] a lot,” he said. “They would have a central government with elections, if they so choose.”
Under this plan, the Palestinians would effectively manage their own lives: pay their own taxes; handle their own education; collect their own garbage.
He envisioned a situation where there would be complete freedom of movement, without roadblocks.
Borrowing the name of US efforts to rebuild Western Europe after World War II, he said this would be accompanied by what he described as a “Marshall Plan” for the PA: massive economic investment in the infrastructure in the areas, including a land port in Jenin with connection to Haifa, a significant upgrade of roads and a free tourist zone connecting Nazareth with Nablus, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
“Whatever they need to thrive,” he said.
Still, this area would be less than a state, because it would be demilitarized. And secondly, it would not be able to accept into its territories “six million descendants of Palestinian refugees,” because those refugees would inevitably demand to be settled not in Jenin and Nablus, but to go “home” to pre-1948 Israel.
Bennett said this was more realistic than the current talk of a two-state solution, because the failure of the diplomatic process over the past 23 years – since the Oslo Accords – has shown that there is no deal to be made, and that the most an Israeli government is willing to offer does not meet the Palestinians’ minimal requirements.