A new take on the Peace Now slogan “Territory for Peace” posits asserting Israeli sovereignty on the disputed territory of Judea and Samaria in order to bring peace and quiet to the region, as opposed to establishing a Palestinian state that is sure to become another Hamastan. This is the idea behind the first “Regaining the Initiative” Conference, held in Hevron.
The Arab world has made the idea of a ‘Palestinian’ state, a land for a people that didn’t exist until they were created at the end of the 20th century, into an axiomatic must-do for most of the world. The Arab narrative includes taking this proposed land from the Jews, branding them as usurpers and occupiers while negating millennia of Biblical and historical Jewish rights to the land, this despite the Arabs losing the many wars they initiated, and despite the Balfour Declaration, League of Nations mandates and United Nations recognition for a Jewish state. All that somehow seems perfectly fine to a good many liberal well wishers, and even finer to a good many not so well wishers.
How did they do it? Putting aside the subconsciously anti-Semitic readiness of the world to believe anything of the Jews, they did it by turning the issue into a subject of common discourse. Conferences, meetings, interviews, resolutions, clever use of visual imagery made the idea of Palestinian rights as ubiquitous as humus is in the Arab souk.
Polls have shown that most mainstream Israelis feel that a Palestinian state is a disaster for the Jewish one. Even those in the government who have agreed to its establishment hedge their offers out of fear of rockets falling on Ben Gurion airport the morning after.
They find themselves on the defensive as the other side says Whats your alternative?
On Thursday, Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover , indefatigable leaders of the Women in Green decided to Regain the Initiative, as they called their packed conference in Hevron, and begin to explore the different aspects of a real alternative – asserting Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria . This is just the beginning of public discourse, they said, and the hundreds who came to help kick start the initiative, agreed.
The speakers addressed the various ramifications of Israeli sovereignty, Jewish, Zionist, political,,economic, legal and diplomatic, discussing options for annexation, the status of Arab residents, demographics and world reactions.
Carolyn Glick, senior contributing editor of JPost, said that although that is the only option on the table at present, any Palestinian state will be a terror state, Gaza will reach Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs will demand independence and an invasion from Iraq will follow. Once Israel gives in to a Palestinian state, she said, we admit to being outside conquerors, and the rest is downhill.
Glick suggested asserting sovereignty now, giving todays PA Arabs the franchise, but setting rules: no votes for members of terror organizations, for example. She recalled that nothing happened when Israel united Jerusalem and annexed the Golan Heights without fanfare. There is no standing still, she maintained, and if we don’t want to pay the price for victory, we will lose.
MK Hotovely said that we must ignore the left. MK Eldad painted the varying scenarios possible once Israel decides to assert sovereignty in Yesha, listing pros and cons for each.
Professor Raphy Yisraeli said that a Palestinian state in Yesha would not solve anything, as only a third of those claiming to be refugees live in Yesha and the other two thirds would soon demand the rest of Israel. He suggested population switches, including of Israeli Arabs, modeled on the post WWII period when 20 m. refugees were resettled successfully in a matter of years. Israels pre 1922 borders could be the start point of negotiations, a state built out of parts of that, so that Arabs left in Israel should be Palestinian citizens.
The most original thesis came from economic correspondent Eran Bar Tal, who outlined the significant economic gain for Israelis and Arabs if sovereignty is asserted, an outcome for which the left has no alternative.. From a rise in property values of Arab homes and subsequent capital gain, to solving the housing shortage for Israelis (as Yesha is not the Negev or Galilee, but close to employment centers), eliminating the need for foreign workers while raising living conditions for Arabs all told, an economic win-win situation, that people can relate to easily.
Former UN Ambassador Yoram Ettinger brought statistics that showed that time is actually on the Israeli side, that the Congress which represents mainstream America is 80% pro Israel (eliciting a laugh when he said that this is a higher percentage than polls of Israelis attain). He listed demographic predictions of doom in the past that turned out to be inaccurate, explaining that a double-counting error led to 1 m. more Arabs in Yesha than are really there to be on the books. He juxtaposed the rising birthrate in Israel from 80,000 in 1995 to 125,000 in 2010 with the lowering Arab one.
Dr. Yitschak Klein of the Israel Policy Center claimed that Israelis suggest policy according to how they wished Arabs would act, but not as they really do. Now is the time act, he said, as as public opinion has changed radically. Negotiations have failed, Oslo has collapsed, and a majority of Israelis polled do not want to give up any more land. They do want to be separated from PA Arabs and therefore he suggested giving over Arab concentrated areas in order to gain other areas.
Dr. Gabi Avital summed up the initiative by saying that details can be worked out, but that from this point on, the Territories for Peace slogan must be turned on its head. Israel can assert sovereignty all at once or in stages over the territory of Yesha, work out the status of PA residents now or later, but Yesha must become Israeli sovereign territory for it to take a chance on peace.”
Source material can be found at this site.