BETWEEN BILLS to annex illegal outposts and overlooking the rulings of the Supreme Court, the government has sought unilateral solutions to a complex conflict.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In October 2014, following the collapse of the last diplomatic effort between Israel and the Palestinians and the Gaza-Israel war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Palestinians in a cabinet meeting that “unilateral actions will not advance the peace process” and committed to restart stalled peace talks. He further warned the Palestinians that any attempt to circumvent such talks by going to international bodies “was not realistic and will not advance the real diplomatic process.” Recent actions by his own government indicate that he himself has decided to follow a similar course of unilateralism.
Annexation has been the de facto policy of Netanyahu in recent years and especially since the formation of his current coalition. So far it has been a slowly creeping reality of annexation by expanding existing settlements and overlooking the erection of new outposts. In the past couple of months there has been an effort to annex the territories of Judea and Samaria outright, from bills to annex illegal outposts, overlooking the rulings of the Supreme Court, through a bill to annex the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem, to a proposal that seeks to annex Ma’aleh Adumim, a settlement bloc east of Jerusalem.
While there is consensus in Israel about Ma’aleh Adumim’s future status, supported internationally in the framework of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and even tentatively agreed on between Israel and the Palestinians in previous peace talks, any step toward annexation has explosive potential and must be weighed carefully.
I have called upon the prime minister to remove the bill from the agenda of the ministerial committee for legislation, considering its purely declarative nature and that it lacks any substance.
It will not improve the lives of residents in Ma’aleh Adumim in any way but only serve to antagonize the international community, including the newly elected US President Donald Trump and his administration, as well as regional partners such as Jordan, Egypt and the PA.
No one has the moral right to advance empty provocations at the expense of the vision of peace. A future State of Israel with internationally recognized borders is at risk and with it the very existence of Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state. Netanyahu must be consistent in his support for the twostate solution, in accordance with his promise to the Israeli people and our friends around the world.
Provocations from the far Right must not be followed merely out of his own weakness and narrow political maneuvering.
Anyone genuinely committed to supporting the people of Ma’aleh Adumim, along with the other settlement blocs, should work toward a peace framework that brings Jewish settlements within the universally acknowledged borders of the State of Israel.
Furthermore, Israeli politicians must operate carefully and wisely, maximizing coordination with the Palestinian leadership, the new American administration and Israel’s other allies around the world. Ultimately, unilateral actions of this sort not only put Ma’aleh Adumim’s implicit legitimacy at risk, but also the future status of east Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods.
The prime minister cannot make up for the absence of any sound policy on the future of the territories in Judea and Samaria simply by accusing the other side of unilateral actions, when his own government pursues that same path.
If this proposal goes ahead, Netanyahu’s hypocrisy and reckless populism will become visible to the international community and he will make Israel appear as the side that derails the peace process, and risk increasing tensions as well as retaliatory moves seeking international recognition of a Palestinian state outside of a bilateral agreement.
This de facto and de jure process of annexation has been out of control for too long, threatening some of the most sensitive areas in this land.
While unilateral actions won’t advance the prospects of peace, there is dire need for bold, consistent and decisive leadership, which does not shy away from taking initiative and proposing clear borders for the country.
Regrettably, that is exactly the sort of leadership Netanyahu cannot provide.The author is the country’s most veteran Knesset member. He is a former defense minister, opposition leader and chairman of the Labor Party, a role for which he is currently contending.