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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon, who is very close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, ruled out the creation of any "Palestinian entity" at a conference at the Knesset on Tuesday entitled "Alternatives to the Two-State Outlook."
The conference, organized by Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, was purposely timed to coincide with the aftermath of Netanyahu's meeting in Washington with US President Barack Obama, amid speculation ahead of Obama's key speeches to the Muslim world and the quartet next month. The event was intended to send a message that opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state was common among mainstream Israelis and politicians not considered extremist.
In his address, Ya'alon outlined why every diplomatic process with the Palestinians had failed so far and why efforts to find a solution to the conflict must stop. He said the best that could be done now was to manage the conflict, rather than solve it, by encouraging reforms and economic development in the Palestinian Authority.
"I do not see any chance of establishing a viable Palestinian entity in Judea and Samaria and/or the Gaza Strip that could sustain itself economically," Ya'alon said. "The gap between Israel as a First-World country and a Palestinian Third-World country is a recipe for instability. I also don't see a chance to form a viable Palestinian entity in Judea and Samaria and/or the Gaza Strip that could bring stability on the security front, while chances the entity would be adversarial are very high."
Ya'alon instead suggested educational, economic, political, police and military reforms for the PA, while cooperating with Arab countries on issues like the humanitarian plight of Palestinians who consider themselves refugees. But he said even this could not take place without a responsible and able Palestinian leadership that would recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu's former bureau chief, Uri Elitzur, surprised people at the event when he said that the best possible option was the annexation of the entire West Bank, despite the danger of Israel eventually becoming a bi-national state. He said that solution was preferable to withdrawing from Judea and Samaria or continuing the current situation.
"While everyone has been saying for years that annexation was the worst option, we have tried everything else, so I think annexation is actually the most right plan," Elitzur said. "I would give citizenship to every Palestinian. There is no difference between Palestinians in Jenin and Sakhnin."
Elitzur, who is currently an editor at the Makor Rishon newspaper, said he did not fear demographic problems, but that Israel first needed to draft a constitution formally enacting that Israel would always remain a Jewish state. He said Israel should start governing and investing throughout the West Bank.
Asked what Netanyahu thought about his plan, Elitzur said that although he was still friends with the prime minister, "Bibi doesn't agree with me, and really no one else does either."
Other plans presented at the conference called for a confederation between the West Bank and Jordan, and the extension of the Gaza Strip into the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Desert. Proponents of the ideas included former national security council head Giora Eiland, former Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria director-general Adi Mintz and an aide to former National Union chairman Benny Elon.
Also Tuesday, President Shimon Peres sent a warm letter to Jordanian King Abdullah, congratulating him on his country's 63rd year of independence and expressing hope for regional peace.
"Israel places a great deal of importance on its relations with Jordan, and we trust, your majesty, that under your leadership, these relations will continue to strengthen and flourish in the future," Peres wrote.