by Sondra Baras
February 4, 2020
Last week, President Trump stood with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the White House and announced to the world his “Deal of the Century.” Describing his vision “From Peace to Prosperity,” Trump changed the paradigm for Middle East Peace Processes. For years, Israel has been pressured, blamed and delegitimized for daring to claim its historical homeland. The vocabulary of the discussion has been one-sided. Israel has been called an occupier, and the heartland of Biblical Israel, including the very place where the Land of Israel was first promised to Abraham and his descendants by G-d, was considered illegally-occupied Palestine.
Even Israeli leaders have traditionally been reluctant to press the claim to this vital area of the Land of Israel. Israel has rarely put forth a vision for permanent possession of Judea and Samaria. And, indeed, the right was often, legitimately, accused of rejecting plans proposed by the left without putting forth comprehensive plans of their own.
About ten years ago, under the leadership of a few visionaries, people began discussing sovereignty. While the settlement movement and its supporters had always advocated permanent Israeli control over all of Judea and Samaria, we couldn’t quite figure out how to handle the large Arab population that lived in these areas. Most of us were terrified at the thought of granting citizenship to what was and remains a population largely hostile to Israel. When the conversation turned to sovereignty, however, creative individuals began to develop new ideas.
Naftali Bennett, the head of the Yemina Party and the Minister of Defense in Israel’s interim government, put forth a plan a number of years ago calling upon Israel to annex Area C in a staged fashion, the area that remained in exclusive Israeli control after Oslo and where all Jewish communities and their access roads are located. This was in contrast to Binyamin Netanyahu who continued to support a two-state solution, albeit redefining the state so as to resemble more of an autonomy than a state. Netanyahu’s lip-service to a two-state solution, however, provided an excuse for sovereignty detractors to point to the right-wing prime minister as a supporter of a Palestinian State. Clarity was indeed in short supply.
While the US has long been a friend of Israel, most American presidents have supported the creation of a Palestinian State. President George Bush and President Barak Obama, exerted enormous pressure on Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria. Obama forced Israel to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria for nearly a year and then engineered UN Security Council Resolution 2334 calling “settlements” a flagrant violation of International Law.
And then came President Trump. He moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, retreated from the Iran deal, stopped US payments to the Palestinian Authority, recognized Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan Heights and announced that the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria were not illegal.
Trump’s vision, as announced last week, states firmly that Israel has historical and Biblical rights to Judea and Samaria. While recognizing the notion of a Palestinian State, statehood in this context is totally redefined. The Palestinians will not have security control over their territories nor will they ever be entitled to establish a military. Their borders and airspace will be controlled by Israel. In essence, this “state” is really just an autonomy, that will enable the Palestinians to govern themselves and control their own civilian lives but without posing a threat to Israel.
But most importantly, the Palestinians will only be given the right to establish a this redefined state if they agree to a detailed list of criteria, including the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state with a united Jerusalem as its capital and the renunciation and effective eradication of Arab terrorism, incitement to violence and international activity against Israel. And this is the greatest paradigm shift. Israel will no longer be expected to withdraw or surrender its assets as a gesture towards the Palestinians. It is the Palestinians who will now be expected to change their behavior and accept principles that are essential for peaceful living in this region.
Can or will the Palestinians do this? Can the leopard change his spots? (Jeremiah 13:23) If they do, there may well be a chance for peace. But everything we have experienced over the past 100 years and the immediate Palestinian response to Trump’s plan points to their continued hostility to Israel and a total rejection of this plan.
And that leaves us with the opportunity of the century. Trump explicitly recognized Israel’s right to annex the areas that include Jewish communities. Does the plan include risks? Of course! But it also includes opportunities. The question remains whether Israel will seize these opportunities, quickly, before the tide begins to turn. As Israel faces its third election in a year, it is by no means clear whether the next government will support broad Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. And it is not clear whether President Trump, facing his own re-election will still be president one year from now.
US Administration officials are speaking in two voices — those who are urging Israel to act immediately and those who are counseling patience. But there is no time to lose. Israel must annex the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria now. We have been granted the opportunity of a lifetime. We dare not let it pass us by.
If you are an American, please contact your political leaders and urge them to support Israeli annexation today. If you are a citizen of any other country, please contact your leaders and urge them to support the Trump vision. But most importantly, pray. Pray that our leaders and yours have the courage to do the right thing.