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Annex now, debate later
By URI Y. BANK
07/01/2014
Two weeks have passed since terrorists abducted our boys Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal, and yet we have not annexed at least Area C of Judea and Samaria.
 
An elementary tool of statesmanship is formulating a plan that serves your country’s best interest, and having that plan tucked away in a drawer, waiting for the right moment to implement it. Annexation of areas of consensus is an excellent example of such a program.

Once again, Palestinian terrorism has hit us hard, and once again we have no adequate diplomatic response. Two weeks have passed since terrorists abducted our boys Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal, and yet we have not annexed at least Area C of Judea and Samaria. It’s pure foolishness and lack of political conviction.

It also serves as yet another proof of the sad fact that we Israelis, just like the Palestinians, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

For the past 20 years, Israel’s leaders have proven themselves “experts” in lack of diplomatic vision, acumen and perspective.

They consistently failed to understand that their responsibility to Israel’s future entailed drafting up a diplomatic plan in advance and waiting for the right moment to implement it. Analyzing what Israel’s long-term strategic objective should be, and preparing a tactical plan that will lead to that goal.

For many years there has been a consensus, which extends even to the hawks of the Left, that Israel will eventually annex the major settlement blocs of Judea and Samaria.

The great, historic error is that Israel’s leaders did not understand that their responsibility was to formulate this consensus into a concrete diplomatic plan. Unfortunately, the crazy reality we live in here in the Middle East, and the global Islamic jihad, provide many opportune moments to actualize such a plan – as long as it has been well planned and thought out in advance.

The constant fear that Israelis have is, “What will the international community say?” and the claim that, “The world will never allow us to do that.” But just imagine how president George W. Bush would have responded if, on September 12, 2001– the day after Muslim terrorists brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City – prime minister Ariel Sharon had ordered the IDF to destroy the Palestinian Authority terrorists and confiscate all the weapons given to them under the Oslo Accords, which they turned against us. Anyone who knows George W. Bush knows that at that time not only would he have not reprimanded us, he would have applauded us and asked for tips on the best ways to fight Islamic fundamentalism.

The auspicious change in public opinion of late, namely that it has now become clear and is admitted by most everyone – including the few leftists who actually have intellectual integrity – is that the Oslo Accords have totally failed and the two-state solution is no longer feasible.

Annexation of the settlement blocs – i.e. at least Areas C in Judea and Samaria – is much more reasonable and realistic given the current situation on the ground.

A few years ago this was understood only by a few leaders, who Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu deliberately and consistently left out of his governments, because he could do without them. This was the case with Rehavam Ze’evi and Binyamin Elon’s Moledet party in 1996, and Yaakov Katz and Uri Ariel’s National Union party in 2009. During those years, the Likud and the National Religious Party (Mafdal) had no alternative diplomatic solution to Oslo.

When asked about the issue, all they did was stutter faint statements about the status-quo or some form of canton plan.

Today, the entire right wing is in agreement that Israel needs to annex at least the settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria – here and now. Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the third-largest faction in the current coalition, is leading the battle cry of “annexation now” and his Area C Annexation Plan is the common denominator that all right-wing leaders agree to today.

However, there is still debate within the right wing regarding the future status of the Palestinians living in areas A and B. There are those who support “annexation and naturalization,” which would give these Palestinians full citizenship and the right to vote for the Knesset – while others support re-affiliating them with Jordan, and giving them back the Jordanian citizenship they held up until 1988.

But this argument is totally irrelevant at this point, because of the broad agreement regarding the fact that the annexation of the settlement blocs, or the entire C region, is both needed and justified. If Prime Minister Netanyahu had been wise enough to determine this as Israel’s strategic goal and to prepare it in advance for implementation – there is no doubt that we could have achieved this objective as the appropriate diplomatic response to the kidnapping of our sons.

Unfortunately, it is very clear that sooner or later we will have to endure more such difficult moments. If we are smart about it, we can utilize these situations to do what is best for Israel, at the moments when it will be the hardest for the world to criticize us. It is critical that we arrive at such future moments after we’ve already made our clear decision on the matter: To annex what we all agree upon – the settlement blocs of Judea and Samaria. After that we’ll continue the debate about all the rest.

The writer is a member of the diplomatic committee of the Yesha Council, a member of the executive board of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, and the secretary-general of the Bayit Yehudi faction in the Knesset.

The column was first published in Hebrew on nrg.co.il
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