The existential threat of a Palestinian state

Let me be clear. This is by far the best peace plan devised thus far.

PALESTINIAN DEMONSTRATORS burn effigies depicting US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in Hebron last week. (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
PALESTINIAN DEMONSTRATORS burn effigies depicting US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in Hebron last week.
What happens when a president who is the greatest-ever friend to Israel proposes a Palestinian state? How is the US Jewish community in general, and the State of Israel in particular, to respond to an American head of state whose dedication to Israel’s security has no precedent, but whose plans involve fundamental risks to Israel’s future?
That is the conundrum facing people like me for whom US President Donald Trump on Israel has exceeded all expectations but whose peace plan presents potential perils.
Let me be clear. This is by far the best peace plan devised thus far. It prioritizes Israel’s security and demands the dissolution of the Hamas terrorist state. It terminates fraudulent Palestinian claims to eternal victimhood and refugee status and gives Israel an undivided Jerusalem capital within the existing security barrier. It demands, as a precondition to any Palestinian state, that the Palestinians end all incitement against Israel and says that any Palestinian state would be completely demilitarized. Israel would retain army surveillance posts and the right to enter the “State of Palestine” at any time it feels its security compromised. Israel would be responsible for all external security.
Israel would have the right to annex 30% of Judea and Samaria and retain all existing settlements. Unlike the Gaza and Sinai withdrawals, no Jewish communities would be uprooted and no Jews – and of course no Palestinians – would be forcibly taken from their homes.
But the elephant in the room is still the Palestinian state.
Those arguing in favor of the plan will say it’s not really a state. It has no army. Its external security is provided by the IDF rather than the Palestinian Security Services. Unlike Gaza, where the IDF can enter only by bombing terrorist targets from the air or an all-out invasion that is war, here the IDF would retain the right to enter at will whenever Israel deems it necessary for its security, such as shutting down a bomb or missile factory.
Supporters will further say that offering a Palestinian state allows the Trump administration to create permanent ties between Israel and the Arab Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE which require a Palestinian state for cover. They will add that the Palestinians may not even get a state since, thus far, they have utterly rejected the deal, and second, they will not meet the criteria, like recognizing Israel as a Jewish state or stopping the incessant incitement.
But all of these benefits do not counter the one great flaw of the plan, which is to acknowledge that Judea and Samaria – the ancient biblical heartland of the Jewish people where 80% of biblical events took place – does not belong to the Jews. And once you deny Jewish ownership of Hebron, Shiloh or Eli, you open the Pandora’s box to the antisemitic argument that neither Jerusalem, Beersheba or Haifa belong to us either.
In the year 2020 it may seem anachronistic to use religious arguments for political ownership. But by what right does the Vatican occupy, as a sovereign state, 40 hectares smack in the middle of the Italian capital of Rome, if not for the fact that St. Peter’s is the sacred headquarters of the world’s largest faith? Even the Trump plan bizarrely leaves control of the Temple Mount not to Israel, or even the Palestinians, but to Jordan, a country 30 miles away, for religious reasons, this even as the Temple Mount is only the third-holiest shrine in Islam but the holiest site in Judaism. But that’s how seriously the Trump plan takes religious claims. Should those of the Jews be any less?
The very first Rashi in the Torah says that the Book of Genesis exists only to teach us that God created the world, the earth belongs to Him, and He parcels it out to the nations he sees fit. And he gave Israel to the Jews as an eternal inheritance. Rashi adds the time would come when the nations of the world would accuse the Jews of stealing Israel. They would then invoke Genesis, the most famous and influential of all biblical books, as a land deed to which the nations would have no rejoinder.
Evangelical Christians, the president’s primary political base, accept this argument as gospel. But the accusation that the Jews are thieves who would steal the land? Utterly prophetic. The major battle that Israel is battling today is one of delegitimization. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement argues that Jews are colonizers and occupiers, thieves who stole Palestinian land. And they don’t mean only the West Bank. The annual Palestinian commemoration of Nakba Day (“Catastrophe Day”) on the day after the Gregorian calendar date for Israel’s Independence Day claims that all of the land was stolen.
How, then, will the Trump peace plan affect these arguments? Would the creation of a Palestinian state satisfy Palestinian demands for the land and quell wider Arab thirst for Jewish-controlled areas, or would it embolden Arab nationalism and its determination to drive Israel into the sea?
The Trump administration believes that a $50 billion injection of capital investment – a vast sum – would mollify Palestinian hostility with the promise of economic opportunity and better lives. No doubt, for a great many that would be so. But the United States has poured more than $2 trillion into Iraq and Afghanistan, and both countries despise Americans. Would American and Arab gulf money stop the Palestinians from spewing venom against the Jews?
The Trump plan would say, Well, if they don’t stop the hatred, they won’t get a state. To which the Palestinians might respond, Wait, even if we do stop the hatred, we get a fake state. We want our own army, our own foreign policy. We want to sit at the UN as an equal to Israel and force Security Council resolutions against Israel every day. We want to indict Israel at the International Criminal Court at The Hague as a full-fledged UN member state.
ON MARCH 3 our organization, the World Values Network, will present our highest award, Champion of Jewish Values, to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. We will also be presenting a special award to Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer. Present at the gala will be last year’s honoree Jason Greenblatt, the principal author of the peace plan. All three men are close personal friends and great patriots of their respective nations and utterly dedicated to the security of Israel and the flourishing of the Jewish nation. They have transformed how Israel is viewed by the rest of the world.
Only an ingrate would dismiss Trump’s plan without first admitting that this president has done more to legitimize Israel and guarantee its permanence than any of his predecessors, and no president has had greater moral clarity as to who is at fault in this conflict than Trump.
But our Palestinian brothers do not share Trump’s affinity for the Jewish people, and Israel’s leftist enemies around the world do not share the Evangelical commitment to the Jewish people’s biblical birthright. So talk of Israel relinquishing 70% of the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria can open a Pandora’s box, providing to Israel’s enemies proof positive that even the Jews admit that the land is not theirs.
And this becomes especially acute after the conclusion of a Trump presidency even in 2024. No Democratic candidate running for office is even close to being as trustworthy on Israel as Trump. On the one hand, that would be an argument to accept the Trump plan now, given how awful the pressure on Israel to almost completely withdraw from Judea and Samaria under a Democratic administration would be. Remember the Obama years and “the 1967 borders”?
On the other hand, an even more powerful argument can be made that this is the time for Israel to hunker down and say that it will never negotiate the return of any land whatsoever. It is immovable on its ancient biblical birthright, especially now that it’s finally been captured in a defensive war as the Arab’s sought Israel’s annihilation.
It is quite possible that Israel will never again have a friend in office as devoted as Trump. He makes even the very friendly administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush seem lukewarm by comparison. And Bush, let’s recall, is an Evangelical Christian. But it took Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
But Israel is not deeded to the Jewish people by its greatest friends, the world’s mightiest nation, nor by any human agency. To the contrary, the president’s precedent-setting plan to allow Israel to annex 30% of Judea and Samaria is a recognition of the eternal Jewish connection to the land. Israel was gifted to the Jews by God as an eternal inheritance that no power on earth can undo.
And any map will show that there is no room for another state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Tiny Israel is small enough. Autonomous, self-governing Palestinian regions that recognize Israeli sovereignty and are short of a state are the future.
This is not really about the Palestinians, as they will reject both ideas either way. The word “state,” I understand, would provide the cover for the Arab states to forge new relations with Israel, but at the expense of Israel relinquishing claims to 70% of its most storied biblical lands, and give fodder to all those who would use the Jewish renunciation of the land as fodder for their argument that the Jews stole the rest of it as well.
Is it worth it?
The writer is the international best-selling author of 33 books, including the upcoming Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.