News / Middle East

    Israel Lawmakers Spar Over Future Borders

    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second from right, at weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, June 1, 2014.
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second from right, at weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, June 1, 2014.
    Cecily Hilleary
    A controversial plan by an Israeli political leader to annex parts of the occupied West Bank has triggered an angry debate in Israel, exposing serious divisions in the coalition government over the future of the peace process with the Palestinians.

    This comes in wake of reconciliation between Palestinian political factions, which led to the breakdown of the latest round of peace talks. Israel has said it will not work with a government backed by Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, which runs the Gaza Strip.

    “The Oslo era has ended,” Israel’s economy minister and Jewish Home party head Naftalie Bennett told Israeli and international experts who gathered for a security conference in the coastal Israeli town of Herzliya this week. He was referring to accords forged in Oslo in 1990s.
     

    At that conference, Bennett re-introduced a “Security Plan,” first unveiled during his political campaign two years ago. The plan calls for Israel to gradually annex all of Area C, which comprises just over 60% of the West Bank and includes almost all of the controversial Jewish settlements.
     
    The plan, which he referred to in his speech as a "sovereignty plan," would also offer citizenship to Area C’s Palestinian population, estimated at between 50,000 (Bennett’s figure) to 300,000 (the UN estimate).
     
    UN OCHR Map West BankUN OCHR Map West Bank
    x
    UN OCHR Map West Bank
    UN OCHR Map West Bank

    “But if you choose, for your reasons, that you don’t want to be a citizen, that you want to be a resident, you’re still going to have a status,” Knesset insider and Jewish Home central committee member Jeremy Man Saltan said.  “And we don’t want to leave anybody without a status in any areas that we are going to annex.” 

    The Bennett design would give Palestinians full autonomy over Areas A and B and allow for the free flow of people and goods between them via highways and bridges that would link the mostly non-contiguous zones.

    “We don’t want to run their lives for them,” Bennett told his audience Sunday. “On the contrary, we want to upgrade all their infrastructure, their electricity, their transport.  We want their lives to be better lives, because true peace only grows from below upwards.”

    Bennett’s plan would give Israel control of east Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley east to the Dead Sea. It would not allow for the right of return of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

    The 1995 Oslo II accord divided the West Bank into three administrative zones: Areas A, under full Palestinian civil and security control; Area B, under Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control, and C, under full Israeli civil and security control, until a final peace deal could be reached. 

    The Palestinians are holding out for a future state encompassing all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as their future capital.
     
    Reaction from the left

    Yair Lapid, Israeli finance minister and leader of the centrist Yest Atid party, the second largest party in the coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, slammed Bennett’s proposal in his own speech at Herzliya.
     


    “If even one settlement is unilaterally annexed, Yesh Atid won’t just leave the government, it will topple it,” Lapid said.

    He said the right wing in Israel is pushing his party into blaming Netanyahu for a rift with Washington and said a political settlement with the Palestinians should not be viewed merely as a “price” to be paid by Israelis, but something in their best political interests.
      
    “We need to implement the two-state solution and to be separate from the Palestinians,” he said, expressing concerns over a growing Palestinian population that could someday threaten Israel’s national identity.

    “This is not a marriage we are looking for,” he said.  “We want a divorce settlement.”

    Speaking at the same conference, Israeli Justice Minister and Hatnuah party leader Tzipi Livni said the settlements are a burden that is preventing Israel from reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians.  She, too, threatened to leave the coalition if any settlements were annexed.

    Responding to their speeches, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman lashed out at Prime Minister Netanyahu for allowing so much “chaos” in a single government. And he demanded that Netanyahu come up with a single political plan to unite all the factions.

    Palestinian view

    “What’s wrong with this plan is pretty much everything,” said Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of Washington, D.C.-based Jerusalem Fund.
     
    “It’s a plan that starts from the point of view that Israel—and only Israel—gets to determine the future of these Palestinians living in occupied territory, and that they have no role or say in making their own future,” he said.

    “It’s based on a colonialist notion that ‘our presence in the land is going to be welcomed by the natives because it’s going to improve their economic status and lift them up into civilization,’” he added.

    In recent days, Netanyahu has said little on the issue except to criticize Lapid for political inexperience

    Indecisive or just stalling?

    The Israeli prime minister has publicly endorsed a two-state agreement and blames the Palestinians for the stalemate in talks. Netanyahu’s critics, among them New York University professor and negotiation insider Alon Ben-Meir, say otherwise:
      
    “What you have today is very right-wing Israeli government led by Netanyahu and supported by the Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett’s party, who are absolutely committed not to allow the creation of a Palestinian state,” said Ben-Meir, who has been directly involved in various negotiations between Israel and its neighboring countries such as Turkey.
     
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 6, 2014.Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 6, 2014.
    x
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 6, 2014.
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 6, 2014.
    “What that means is rejecting the unity government is only a political maneuver.  But the reality is that with or without such government, Netanyahu is not willing to negotiate in earnest in order to resolve the conflict,” Ben-Meir said.

    Other blame Netanyahu for being irresolute.

    "Netanyahu has always preferred the option of 'do not do today what you can delay for as long as you can', an approach reflecting the sense that time is not necessarily working against Israel, and that the current situation, while not ideal, is the ‘devil you know,'" Israeli political analyst Josef Olmert said.
     
    What is clear is that Netanyahu, by virtue of the makeup of his coalition, is in a political bind:  If he opposes right-wing parliamentarians, who make up the majority of his coalition, and concedes to the Palestinians, it will mark the end of his tenure as prime minister.
     
    If he endorses annexation he runs the risk of isolating Israel internationally, and some Israeli analysts fear that this could lead the U.S. and Europe to support a Palestinian appeal to the ICC.
     
    The United States maintains that final status issues such as settlements, Jerusalem and the refugees may only be resolved through diplomatic negotiations. 

    The U.S., E.U., U.N. and China have said they will work with the new Palestinian government if it continues to adhere to the principle of peace with Israel based on a two-state solution.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Arron from: California
    June 15, 2014 1:57 PM
    In the Koran it says Israel was given to the Jews by Allah. In the Torah/Bible it says Israel was given to the Jews by God. If Allah and God are one and the same, then we have to understand that the Israel becoming a state was not given by man but by God for the Jewish people. This is a spiritual matter folks. It cannot be sorted out by a "peace deal." The situation over Israel cannot be compared to any other counties that suffer as the people of Israel do today. The Muslims do not accept what the Koran says nor do they accept what God says about Israel given to the Jewish people. This has been an ancient feud between two brothers (Ishmael and Isaac) over who has the inheritance (which is the land of Israel) long ago. Israel belongs to God. He chose the Jews to represent Him to the nations. In the Koran and the Torah, it says Allah/God made Ishmael great princes and has given them most of North Africa and east, beyond Israel. Many do not know this information. I hope that this will cause all who read this, to seek out truth from other sources other than media that can be biased.

    by: michael mack from: usa
    June 15, 2014 11:07 AM
    Israel continues to show they are not capable of being deserving of the gift of a Statehood that they never deserved. Palestinians should hang in there like the people of South Africa and their fight against apartheid.

    by: Robhmac from: PA
    June 14, 2014 5:42 PM
    The two-state solution is never going to work, I'm sad to say. A one-state solution seems inevitable now.

    The key demands of both sides will never be realized otherwise. Israel will never allow Jerusalem to be divided again, allow for the "right of return" for Israel proper, or for security reasons never allow any international border for a Palestinian state, even a demilitarized one.

    The Palestinian governments have never been democratic, are corrupt, and their best bargaining chip in the international community is through violence and intransigence. Their people deserve to live in a democracy, with the refugee camps
    dismantled, and receive capital and investments and Israeli know-how to make the build up their infrastructure and make the desert bloom. The deserve a state where they are not in fragmented areas choked off by security check-points, and free of militants who threaten peace by firing rocket attacks and intifada.

    The best thing to do is create a bi-national federation consisting of the State of Israel and a Palestinian state. Israel would remain as the homeland of the Jewish people, while the new Palestinian state would consist of all of the West Bank and Gaza strip. While there would be a 1:1 transfer of territory to accommodate some of the larger settlement blocks, the interior ones (such as the two "fingers") would have to be dismantled. The security barrier would have to be taken down in stages, starting with the portion within the new Palestinian state. Jerusalem would be come a federal district (like DC), where the new national legislature, existing Israeli Knesset, and a new Palestinian legislature would all be located in a shared capital city. The new federal government would have to have full and democratic participation and representation for both states. No Hammas or other terrorist parties.

    A federal security force blended from both Israeli's and Palestinians would be responsible for securing the borders, preventing terrorism, and preserving peace. The "right of return" would be restricted to the new Palestinian state, so that Israel would not be drowned out demographically, with the compensation that has already been promised. Of course, the evacuated Jewish settlements would be available as well. While residency would have to be somehow restricted to each state, all other civil rights, including the right to work and travel would be guaranteed. All religious sites would continue to be controlled by their respective religious authorities.

    Both Israeli and international capital would be used in the new Palestinian state to rebuild the infrastructure, to take down the refugee camps, create jobs, spread the population out to encompass the more thinly populated areas of the West Bank.

    This is the best way to give both parties what they demand: Jerusalem as their capital, a Palestinian state (albeit a sub-national one, but not demiliterized) in both WB and Gaza, a more limited "right of return", secure borders, prevention of terrorist attacks and the smuggling of arms, a stable and democratic government, guaranteed civil rights, self-determination, recognition of the Jewish state, and peace with Arab neighbors.

    Again, a single-state is essentially what exists now. Best to plan what it becomes. Israel truly does not want to control a Palestinian population-- who deserve democratic self-determination-- while also living in an undeclared state of war, with constant attacks from militants. The rights and dreams of the Palestinians will never be realized by corrupt and squabbling and militant leadership.

    by: readingnews from: california
    June 14, 2014 4:40 PM
    Maybe they should start by defining current borders

    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    June 14, 2014 4:34 PM
    I hope Israeli politicians pay attention and take care not only of their children but Palestinian children.

    by: Richard Saunders from: New York
    June 14, 2014 3:18 PM
    Stop Israeli Apartheid.
    Give equal rights and treatment to all.
    Allow all people the right to vote.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    June 14, 2014 2:22 PM
    Israel should not think of annexation but maintain a return to the Promised Land started since 1948. However, the fear of the Palestinians multiplying like flies and mosquitoes overrides the need for a marriage. Israel may have nothing to do with the Oslo 1&2 accords which rather ridicules its sovereignty by scattering its capital - Jerusalem - into many portions. The trouble against Israel in the Middle East is a sign of growing antagonism to the belief in God, otherwise called atheism or agnosticism. Whereas we have world leaders in muslim and islamist countries owning up to a belief in the religion of their forefathers, so-called leaders in former Christian enclaves prefer to be seen as civilized people that have nothing to do with religion. While the former have been bound by a common front to destroy Israel, the latter sees nothing in preserving even if Israel represents a relic of what their own forebears stood for. This is unfortunate. It may not be that Israel or PM Benjamin Netanyahu is playing a waiting game, it must mean one thing - the hand of providence to forestall the catastrophe of achieving what the Oslo accords were intended for - to defeat God's plan for the Promised Land. God forbid. Unfortunately so, there have been leaders in former (or current) civilizations who have set themselves the agenda of ridiculing the fisherman's scriptures, in whose time the world support for Israel is shown to be at its lowest contrary to what the true picture is. Therefore the last paragraph of your article above should have read: "... Oboma, Cameron, Ban Ki Moon and Xi have said they will work with the new Palestinian government if it continues to adhere to the principle of peace with Israel based on a two-state solution". These are the front runners to the antichrist regime.

    by: M. A. S from: Dallas
    June 14, 2014 10:22 AM
    Palestinians leaders are stupid waiting on a solution to their cause. Israel will not yield any land they took by force. Israel has the power to keep what they stole. there is no solution to this; Palestinians should dissolve that nonsense PA and let the Israeli occupiers provide for the people of Palestine,

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