I have resided in Efrat, a town in the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion 10 miles south of Jerusalem for 25 years and have no doubt of the historical justice of our presence here. Often in life, however, there is a difference between what is right and what is smart and I believe that applying Israeli sovereignty to all or part of Area C, where all of the Israeli settlements are located, is not the smart thing to do.
Applying sovereignty will not improve the lives, security, or future of any citizen in Israel including those who live in the so-called settlements. Even the most basic premise is simply wrong, the premise that in applying sovereignty we will change forever the rules of the game, the starting point, the chess board. Our own brief history shows us otherwise.
The Golan Heights was annexed in 1981 and yet successive prime ministers, maybe even including Benjamin Netanyahu himself, offered up the entire Golan to within a few centimeters of the Sea of Galilee in return for a peace treaty with Syria. Fortunately, Syria rejected the offer.
Parts of Jerusalem annexed in 1967 including much of the Old City were offered by at least two Israeli prime ministers in return for a doubtful peace with the Palestinians. This too was rejected. What would change Israel's position, and not for the better, would be massive settlement in all of Area C precluding even the possibility for a Palestinian state/entity, no matter how remote that may seem now, in the remaining checkerboard of Areas A and B and as such forever forcing upon Israel some degree of control over the lives of millions of Palestinians.
Such a situation would leave Israel with the choice of a volatile status quo which will inevitably include some degree of actual occupation or a one-state solution, the latter threatening a solid Jewish majority in the Land of Israel. Of more immediate importance is the risk to the fragile stability we achieved in these years of turmoil in the Middle East. True, the situation along our border with Gaza is untenable and our northern border explosive, but in the broader picture our relations with the Sunni Muslim world in the face of the Iranian Shi'ite threat have placed Israel in the strongest strategic position it has ever been.
This position would at worst be shattered and at best retreat as it would be impossible for the Sunni Muslims not to at least symbolically and perhaps significantly degrade their relations with us. Contrary to pronouncements of self-styled experts, leaders and others in the Gulf states have made clear that the slow forward momentum in our relations will be reversed. Our treaties with Jordan and Egypt and hence our strategic cooperation with them would also be at risk. The relative quiet in the Palestinian Authority, broken as it is by stabbings and other sporadic acts of terror would likely end and there are serious ramifications to ending security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
And of course, always more Palestinian than the Palestinians, the Europeans are already jumping with glee at the opportunity to legitimize further Israel-bashing, something at which they are already quite adept. Those sitting on the edge of BDS, not quite in, but sympathetic to its position will march right in.
Israel's political relations in the US will lose all semblance of bipartisanship. The Republican Party will not be in power forever. With this election or the next, a Democrat will eventually move into the White House. In fact, the only real winners in the annexation gamble, short-run winners at that, will be Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump. Their gains come at too high a price for the rest of us to pay. n
The author is head of planning at the Mandel Foundation, vice president of Atid EDI and a long time resident of Efrat in Gush Etzion