Now that we have the findings of the government-appointed advisory committee on
the legality of Israeli “outposts” in the West Bank, a three-person panel
handpicked by the prime minister which, not unsurprisingly, found that all
settlement in the West Bank is legal.
Also, those who are for the formal
annexation of the West Bank to Israel argue that the Arabs have no legal hold to
the territories; that the Arabs aggressively invaded them in 1948, and Israel
regained them in 1967 and now, after 45 years, it is time to formalize Israel’s
hold over them.
OK, I say, you’ve won! I give up. They tell us there is
no demographic threat to Israel from holding onto the territories, Israel’s
control of the West Bank is entirely legal, and even settlements established
without government permission are legal. Land for peace has failed (we all know
how Ehud Barak tried to “give it all away” in the hope of peace, and got war
instead); the Palestinians are divided, their leadership is weak, and every time
Israel has withdrawn from territory it has been met with a hail of rockets and
missiles, not accolades.
Israel needs permanent borders. Who can argue
with that? A state without borders is not a state, rather something transient
and negotiable. Israel cannot continue to live in never-never land, its
ambivalent hold over the territories open-ended. It needs to end the
debilitating debate within itself over their future and to preempt any specter
of civil war within the country.
So, it is all kosher, the territories
are not occupied, but redeemed; there are no illegal settlements; there is no
demographic threat; and land for peace cannot work. On the contrary: Land given
back today provably becomes the battlefield of tomorrow; the Palestinians are
divided and leaderless; Israel needs permanent borders; Judea and Samaria are
ours, and avoid a civil war.
What more compelling array of reasons for
Israeli annexation of the West Bank now? For an end to 45 years of having the
Promised Land without being able make good on the promise.
I recently had
coffee with Yoram Ettinger, the former diplomat and current demographer, who
gave a very convincing presentation as to why there not as many Palestinians in
the West Bank as claimed. If Israel annexed the West Bank, he argued, Israel
would not be faced with a demographic threat as commonly perceived, and at no
point would the Palestinians of an expanded Israel constitute more than
one-third of the population.
Connect the dots of the logic above, place
your trust in Ettinger’s numbers and the international legal expertise of the
government committee on settlements, believe that the West Bank was intended for
Israel before the Arabs grabbed it in 1948, and away you go: Annex Now! Save
Israel from civil war, get the country permanent boundaries and live happily
ever after. Indeed?
I asked Ettinger what the status of the Palestinians in
Greater Israel would be. Would they be given the vote, or would I be
living in a country where at least one-third of its citizens cannot vote for
racial reasons, sort of like you-know-what. Would Israel take upon itself
the billions the Palestinian Authority now gets from international donors and
institutions? Would Israel be responsible for the health, education,
development, welfare, housing, infrastructure of its new citizens? Will outlays
be equal to those spent on Jews, or will a two-tier system apply like, well,
And if the territories are no longer occupied, but part of
Israel, who takes on the army’s role and responsibility for civil society? What
happens to the Palestinian security forces, the folks the extreme right-wing
claim are nothing but potential terrorists in uniform?
Ettinger is totally
unfazed when asked about the status of the Palestinians in Greater Israel. It
will be referred to committee, he says, giving a general time frame of “several
years” for the issue to be worked out, this despite there being no demographic
threat to the Jews, as per his own analysis.
Demographic threat or not,
what is clear is that the problems that come with annexation, in addition to the
perceived benefits, are immense, so much so that many Palestinians you speak
with today are all for Israeli annexation of the territories. They too want to
clarify their status, end their never-neverland.
They see no benefits to
the status quo, to being people from nowhere, going nowhere. They too are
frustrated by their weak leadership, the divisions in their society. They have
lost all faith in a two-state solution, want Israel to choke on the territories,
be the subject of international condemnation for the inherent inequalities and
injustices that come with annexation and no citizenship rights.
as keen as Ettinger and his allies, the historians who read backwards and
government-appointed legal experts for Israel to become Greater Israel. At least
that way they can continue to blame Israel for the ills that befall them rather
than themselves, and perpetuate their claims of victimhood, just as they were
beginning to sound hollow.
Four decades of inaction, indecision and
creeping, endemic, settlement expansion need to end. Is annexation the way, or
is the answer to be found in “measured unilateralism” as some are now proposing?
Whatever the answer, it cannot remain hidden, unexplored and set aside for much
longer, without either of these two undesirable scenarios coming
There is a thing called a technical victory, the sort of thing
that happens when one of the sides fails to turn up at a tournament. The
proponents of a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestinian conundrum are in
deep hibernation, while Ettinger has been diligently counting and others
conveniently rewriting history and interpreting the law to suit their
As for me, I feel like throwing in the towel. I don’t want to
live in a country where a third of the people can’t vote and have no rights. I
just don’t know what to do about it.