'Gov't must separate from Palestinians'

Former top negotiator Gilad Sher: Gush Etzion can be annexed, int'l force should control West Bank.

gilad sher (photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
gilad sher
(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
The incoming government must immediately begin planning for a separation from the Palestinians, veteran negotiator and security figure Col. (res.) Gilad Sher said during a lecture in Ramat Gan on Monday evening. Sher, who managed several previous negotiation rounds with the Palestinians and who served as bureau chief for Ehud Barak when he was prime minister, described Israel's continued presence in the Palestinian territories as an "existential threat." "We need to separate from the Palestinians, either with negotiations or without," Sher said at an event organized by the Council for Peace and Security. "I have no illusions over the unpopularity of this stance after the Gaza disengagement." He added, "We are calling on the government to begin to piece together a national plan for separation from the first day of its term. If the negotiations don't succeed, the government can say, we tried, now we will leave on our own." Describing himself as a "big believer in dialogue with the Arabs," Sher said it was nevertheless important to recognize that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority "may not end in agreement," and to plan for that eventuality. Sher said the creation of permanent borders was vital for Israel's future, adding that "IDF activity in the Palestinian Authority harms our readiness for conventional war." He said at least two to three years would be needed to formulate a wide-ranging separation plan that could go into action should negotiations fail. A unilateral pullout could use "the route of the security fence as a temporary border," Sher said. Referring to a map, he added that "Gush Etzion and parts of western Samaria can be annexed to Israel. A multinational force should take command in the West Bank until the Palestinians can fulfill their security responsibilities." Under a permanent agreement, Israel could annex 7.3 percent of the West Bank, while the PA could annex 5% of land back from Israel, Sher proposed. Dozens of settlements and tens of thousands of settlers would need to be evacuated, Sher said, a process that would be hastened by the passing of a compensation law to financially reward those who voluntarily relocated back across the Green Line. Sher pointed to the handling of Gush Katif evacuees as a failure and an example not to follow, adding that many former Gaza settlers still lacked "employment and permanent living arrangements." "We don't want to repeat that mistake, which is why we need planning," he said. "I want a Jewish majority in Israel, and I'm not ashamed to say so," he declared, adding that separation from the Palestinians was the only means of ensuring this.