Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s elevation of Tzipi Livni to lead negotiations with the Palestinian Authority constitutes a serious setback to Israel’s efforts to keep its citizens safe, fend off the tide of regional violence and thwart the escalating efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state.
Israel’s Knesset elections took place in a week that featured the continued implosion of Syria and Egypt, the former already bogged down in a bloody civil war and the latter possibly on its way to one. The Israeli electorate utterly rejected Livni’s tired campaign slogans and her worn-out and failed prescription for a Middle East settlement: Israel withdraws from most or all of Judea and Samaria, uproots tens of thousands of people from their homes in the cradle of Jewish civilization and agrees to carve up Jerusalem. An Arab state, the 22nd, is created in the areas from which Israel withdraws, leaving Israel with a nine-mile wide border in its center.
The major upheavals in the Arab world have done nothing to bring about any fresh thinking on Livni’s part regarding this “twenty-second-state solution.”
In the years before Oslo, the widely held position in Israel was that a sovereign Arab state west of the Jordan River would represent a grave danger to the State of Israel.
Even the Oslo accords, which according to its architects were made with a leader that represented the entire so called Palestinian people and with an entity that had sworn off terror, didn’t guarantee the Arabs a state west of the Jordan.
Indeed, in prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s last major Knesset speech, delivered in October 1995 just a few weeks before his assassination, Rabin spoke of a final settlement where there would be a “Palestinian entity... which is less than a state... The borders of the State of Israel during the permanent solution will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”
Among the changes cited by Rabin were that Israel’s eastern border “will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term” and that Israel would establish “blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.”
Not even Shimon Peres would have dared to present to the Israeli public an agreement in which Israel would withdraw from nearly 40 percent of Judea and Samaria if, following such withdrawals, the Palestinians would possess and launch missiles capable of reaching most of southern Israel and the Gush Dan area, incitement against Israel would continue in official Palestinian Authority newspapers and television stations, PA leaders would unashamedly preside over the naming of schools, summer camps and town squares in honor of suicide bombers, and multiple terrorist groups, including Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida would continue their murderous rampages against Jews whenever given the chance.
But even after the fundamental tenets of the Oslo process have been shown to be vacuous, with 1,200 Israelis killed and thousands more wounded since the signing of the accords, with Palestinian groups highly fragmented, but united only in the single goal of eliminating the Jewish state, Livni continues to champion farreaching concessions that go far beyond what was contemplated by Rabin. Even after the Palestinians have reversed the clarion call of Isaiah to beat swords into plowshares and, instead, turned world class multi-million dollar agricultural hothouses into missile launching pads, Livni remains ever more keen to grant the Arabs a sovereign base right in Israel’s midst from which to continue their terror with greater deadliness.
It is telling that the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement against Israel was launched just after Ariel Sharon announced his plans to uproot every Jewish settlement from the Gaza Strip; and that the first Palestinian BDS Conference, held in November 2007, took place when Livni was foreign minister and in the same month as the Annapolis Peace Conference, when Livni and prime minister Ehud Olmert reiterated their support for the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.
The abandonment by Israel of its rights in Judea and Samaria did not win us more respect and friendship.
Quite the contrary, it fed and encouraged the belief in international circles that all the ills of the Middle East are attributable to the “Palestinian problem” and that it isn’t Arab terror and aggression that is responsible for instability in the Middle East, but rather Israel’s refusal to end its so-called occupation of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
Indeed, when Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister for the second time in 2009 following Olmert’s and Livni’s stewardship, Israel was facing a hateful, well orchestrated campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state and to make it virtually impossible for Israel to defend itself from deadly attacks. Faced with unprecedented pressure, Netanyahu resigned himself in his Bar-Ilan speech in 2009 to the core principle of most US and European Middle East peace plans: the establishment of a demilitarized Arab state in the biblical heartland of Israel. Netanyahu stipulated that guarantees of such demilitarization would have to be provided by Israel’s “friends in the international community, headed by the United States.”
In a recent speech to a visiting delegation of American Jewish leaders, Netanyahu reaffirmed his support for “two states for two peoples: a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”
But only the dangerously foolish would believe that the Arabs, with all their emphasis on power and pride, would long forgo a fundamental attribute of sovereignty and agree to remain demilitarized. And only the hopelessly naïve would bank on the world community, including the United States, enforcing an open-ended limitation on a sovereign Palestinian government that has signed a peace treaty with Israel.
Equally fanciful is the notion that Israelis could live securely between well-armed sovereign Arab populations in Gaza and Judea and Samaria. Not only would most cities and towns in Israel, and every plane taking off and landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport, be vulnerable to even short-range rocket attacks, but as Israel’s experiences in Gaza in Operation Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense clearly demonstrated, Israel would be seriously hamstrung in its ability to respond to such attacks, as they would inevitably be launched from or near mosques, schools and civilian buildings. Accordingly, even a restrained Israeli response would subject Israel to severe international condemnation.
Were Israel to return to nine mile-wide borders and the eastern section of Jerusalem divided block by block into separate Jewish and Arab control, as contemplated by today’s most popular “peace” proposals, Israel’s vulnerability would dramatically increase even prior to a weapons flow into the new Palestinian state. Terror attacks, including simple sniper fire, which the official Palestinian government would presumably condemn, would bring incalculable suffering, paralyze life in Jerusalem, Kfar Saba, Netanya and other major Israeli cities, and wreak havoc on Israel’s economy, its tourism and the psyche of its population.
Responding to attacks emanating from a sovereign state would have serious consequences, especially when the sovereign dissociates itself from them, as would likely be the case. One can hear the voices of all those who will warn Israel to hold its fire lest it enlarge the circle of its enemies and incite the Arab “street” against it. Apologists for Abbas and the PA would point fingers at Hamas, and apologists for Hamas would pass off the attacks as the work of Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida. The level of pain that Israel would have to endure before it felt able to act would be devastating.
There is nothing “inevitable” about a Palestinian state in the center of Israel. But those who for whatever reasons support its creation should be honest enough to recognize that the chances of it remaining demilitarized are non-existent.
The writer is an attorney in Israel and New York and a member of the Likud Party’s Central Committee.