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.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
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,

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid