Postscript: OK, you’ve won; now what?

If the territories are no longer occupied, but part of Israel, who takes on the army’s role and responsibility for civil society?

July 12, 2012 21:09
West Bank outpost Migron

Migron Outpost 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

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hope of peace, and got war instead); the Palestinians are divided, their leadership is weak, and every time Israel has withdrawn from territory it has been met with a hail of rockets and missiles, not accolades.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, you-know where?

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.

They are 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 about.

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 beliefs.

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.

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