Former negotiator: 100,000 settlers need to be evacuated

It’s not possible at this time for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final status agreement, former peace negotiator Sher says.

Efrat settlement 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner )
Efrat settlement 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner )
Some 100,000 settlers would need to be evacuated for a two state solution to be executed in the West Bank, according to Gilad Sher who was chief of staff to Ehud Barak when he was prime minister from 1999-2001.
Sher made his statement at a one-day conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords held Wednesday at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Although the topic was the famous agreement on a negotiations process that was signed on the White House lawn on September 13th, most of the speakers more broadly addressed the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the newest negotiations that resumed in July.
“Any outline of two states for two people will involve the evacuation of settlements,” Sher said.
He estimated that this would involve the uprooting of 100,000 people, slightly less than one third of the West Bank Jewish population.
It’s not possible at this time for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final status agreement, Sher said. The gaps between them can be bridged, but not now, he said.
He was among a number of speakers who believed that the best outcome of the negotiations underway would be an interim agreement. Still, he said, Israel should begin preparation for a two-state solution by halting building in isolated settlements and preparing a master plan to evacuate them.
“We have to prepare ourselves in an organized way, on a national level for the time when the settlers will come back home to the borders of Israel,” he said.
It could take as long as three or four years to draw up such a plan, Sher said.
Dov Weisglass, who served as chief of staff to former prime minister Ariel Sharon, said he too believed that some 100,000 settlers would have to be evacuated to pave the way for a two-state solution.
But should Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu come to an agreement with the Palestinians, he lacks the necessary political support to turn it into a reality, Weisglass said.
“Netanyahu has crossed the Rubicon, but he is alone on the other side,” Weisglass said.
Both Weisglass and former justice minister Yossi Beilin who was among the architects of the Oslo Accord, said in spite of Netanyahu’s support for a Palestinian state, he would still not be able to offer the Palestinians terms they could accept as a final status agreement.
The Palestinians won’t accept anything less than what was offered to them by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Weisglass said, adding that anyone who thought otherwise was deluding themselves.
Beilin added that Netanyahu, for ideological reasons, would not agree to divide Jerusalem.
In the 1990s, during the Oslo negotiations, “we could have reached a permanent status agreement but we didn’t.”
During this round of talks, he said, the focus is on a permanent agreement, “but unfortunately in the best of scenarios, we can only reach an interim agreement.”