US President Donald Trump's pending peace deal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must not include a demand that Israel withdraw from territory including in the West Bank, settler leader Yossi Dagan and evangelical leader Tony Perkins warned on Tuesday.
“The Trump administration should stay the course, continuing to avoid the 'land for peace' proposals, and the policies that have prevented Israelis from building in Judea and Samaria, which have repeatedly failed to work,” Dagan and Perkins said in an editorial they jointly published Tuesday in The Washington Times.
Dagan was the first of the settler leaders to support Trump, but he is concerned that the president’s peace plan could include a demand for territorial withdrawal, something that could cause Trump to lose support among his evangelical base.
“One thing is clear, we won’t sit on the sidelines while world leaders play with our future," said Dagan, who is an evacuee from the northern Samaria settlement of Sa-Nur. It was one of four West Bank settlements that Israel destroyed during the 2005 Disengagement Plan, which also included a withdrawal from Gaza.
“The period of Gush Katif has ended," Dagan said. "We will use all the tools and connections we have to ensure that any [peace] plan... will not harm the State of Israel or Judea and Samaria."
Three weeks ago, he led a delegation from Samaria to Washington, DC, that also included his spokeswoman, Esther Allouch. The group met with evangelical leaders and asked them to use their connections to ensure that Israel’s biblical heartland is not handed over to the Palestinians.
“Mr. Trump is making history as perhaps the most pro-Israel president," Dagan and Perkins wrote in their opinion piece in The Washington Times.
Trump’s “decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel annexed from Syria in 1981, strengthens the US-Israel relationship, provide greater security and stability in the region and further cement support among the president’s evangelical base,” they continued. “At this time, as many are thinking about a new peace deal in the Middle East, they must remember that 'land for peace' efforts have a long but failed history. Agreements like the Oslo Accords and the freeze on building houses for the Jewish people did little to stop Palestinian violence, which continued after they were put in place. We must not be naive about this.”
They said that if the adage of land for peace proposals was applied, “we will be very wary of any claim that we can expect peace if we would only uproot Jews from their ancient lands where Abraham walked and Joseph and Joshua are buried.” They noted that withdrawal from Gaza did not stop the violence and there should be no reasonable expectation that this approach would work elsewhere in Israel.
“In the intractable conflict rooted in the land God gave to the people of Israel, the best approach would be to seek God’s solutions in God’s timing,” they wrote.
The two men added that support for Israeli retention of Judea and Samaria is even more necessary now, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent pledge to apply sovereignty to the West Bank.
“One of us is a Christian, the other an Orthodox Jew,” they wrote. “We both pray for and desire peace, stability and freedom in the Middle East. But just because we desire something to be does not make it so. We cannot control whether the necessary parties come to the negotiating table, and we should not fail to speak the truth and recognize reality because of the fear of others’ reactions.”