The gut-wrenching decision that could save Israel

The existential problem that almost every Israeli prime minister, from Levi Eshkol in 1967 to Bibi Netanyahu today, understood and tried, each in their way, to remedy, is rapidly reaching a critical stage.
The problem — holding on to most of the West Bank will inevitably lead to a “one-state” result.
At the recent prestigious 2015 Saban Forum, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that a one-state solution would endanger Israel’s security.
Lamenting that “the level of distrust between them has never been more profound,” Kerry urged leaders on both sides to return to the negotiating table.
And while he demanded that the Palestinian leadership must do more to prevent and combat anti-Israel violence, he was also careful to warn Israeli leaders not to advocate or allow the Palestinian Authority to disintegrate.
If that were to happen, Kerry said, Israel would be forced to assume all governance in the West Bank and potentially accept a one-state solution that would compromise Israel’s future as a democratic, Jewish state.
Without a two-state solution, Kerry said “Israel would be forced into an unsustainable position of perpetual occupation that would be rejected not least by the Palestinian but by most, if not all, of the international community. The one-state solution is no solution at all for a secure, Jewish, democratic Israel…it is simply not a viable option.”
Put simply, a one-state-for-two-people solution means giving the Palestinians citizenship and equal rights. Within one or two election cycles they will have a majority in the Knesset and could democratically vote to change the country’s name to “Palestine,” change the national anthem to Biladi, Biladi and switch flags.
Since 1967, despite the initial emotional giddiness evoked by the capture from Jordan of the traditional Jewish heritage locations of Hebron, Bethlehem, Shechem, Samaria, Jericho, Shiloh, etc., during the Six-Day War, every Israeli government understood this danger to the Jewish status of Israel and tried to give them back to Jordan, in exchange for peace, according to U.N. Security Council Resolution 228. Jordan made peace with Israel but refused to take back the West Bank.
Successive Israeli governments have also restricted the establishment of Jewish communities to “consensus” areas totaling about 7 percent of the territory, which will permanently remain in Israel as part of any future arrangement.
Since the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, no new government-authorized Israeli communities (“settlements”) have been built in the West Bank. All new construction has been limited to Oslo-compliant expansion within the established parameters of pre-Oslo communities.
I don’t always agree with the secretary of state, but this time John Kerry got it right. He understands what then-Prime Minister Arik Sharon did in September 2001, when he stated for the first time that Palestinians should have the right to establish their own land west of the Jordan River.
In 2003, Sharon endorsed the U.S., EU and Russia–sponsored “Road Map for Peace,” and announced his commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state in the future.
In 2005 he unilaterally and controversially withdrew from the Gaza Strip, while maintaining control of its coastline and airspace. He also started to plan a similar withdrawal with land swaps from the West Bank.
While his plan was welcomed by more than 80 percent of Israeli voters as a solution to the “demographic bomb” of a one-state solution, it was greeted with strong opposition from within his own Likud party and other right-wing Israelis, based on national security, military, and religious grounds.
On Nov. 21, 2005, Sharon resigned as head of Likud, and formed a new centrist party called Kadima (“Forward”), with essentially one main policy plank: unilateral withdrawal from about 93 percent of the West Bank — with or without an agreement. This way Israel defines the borders and the security arrangements. He had already evacuated two West Bank settlements during the Gaza withdrawal.
Top politicians from both the left and the right supported Sharon’s policy and joined Kadima, including Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz and others.
Sharon’s stroke in December 2005 changed everything, and though Kadima, led by Ehud Olmert, won a plurality of seats and formed the government after the following elections, the withdrawal never happened.
Numerous negotiations have been held, under American leadership, between Israeli prime ministers and both Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen, but both Palestinian leaders absolutely refused to accept even Israel’s most generous offers. They, like John Kerry and Bibi Netanyahu, know that there will never be a “negotiated” two-state resolution as long as:
The Palestinians continue to garner international sympathy and money via the “knife and car intifada.”
Their corrupt and ineffective money-stealing leadership continues to take no responsibility because “Israel is ‘occupying’ the West Bank.”
Their leadership incites them to “liberate” Palestine with knives and axes.
There is a growing consensus among Middle East experts and pundits that the only way to force them to finalize a negotiated two-state agreement is for Bibi to fulfill the promise of a permanent, democratic, powerful, Jewish-majority homeland in Israel.
He can do it by unilaterally, and on Israel’s terms, withdrawing from most of the West Bank, with the IDF, and only the IDF, in charge of security … forever!
It will be gut-wrenching and painful, with a scar that will last for generations. But I prefer the pain, the scar and probably the occasional terrorism and war, if it avoids the one-state democratic destruction of Israel.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email:
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DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.

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