In order to secure the future of the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria, it is not only our responsibility to accept the plan but to embrace it wholeheartedly.
IMPLEMENTATION OF the ‘Vision for Peace’ will denote a change in the way the world views both Israel and the settlements.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
There has been much debate among the leaders of the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria whether to accept or reject US President Donald Trump’s “Vision for Peace.” As a proponent, I quote Fredrich Nietzsche, who said, “many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.” Now is the time to silence the background noise and ask ourselves: What is our long term goal? What is it that we as a movement want to achieve?
For me, the answer is clear. The goal is to secure the future of the Israeli municipalities in Judea and Samaria, “the settlements.” Trump’s plan, including the application of Israeli law in Judea and Samaria, is an insurance policy that will move us toward this goal.
Implementation of the “Vision for Peace” will denote a change in the way the world views both Israel and “the settlements.” In the past, the settlements were seen as an impediment to peace; but now, with our thriving joint Arab-Israeli industrial zones and other areas of coexistence, it is understood that we are a critical partner in the peace process. While it would be unthinkable to dismantle all that we have built in order to return to the 1949 ceasefire lines that served as unofficial boundaries until 1967, we understand that both Arabs and Jews live in Judea and Samaria, and we applaud this plan for not removing anyone from their home. It is, consequently, not surprising that there is a broad consensus among the Israeli public to accept the deal.
It is up to us, the settlers, along with the leadership of the State of Israel to accept the deal – but it is not entirely in our hands. Without the support of the international community we will find ourselves in the International Criminal Court in The Hague time after time, at every step of the way. The questions surrounding the definition of a Palestinian state is a matter of semantics and have been blown out of proportion – the very definition of background noise. The reality is that in the very small territory, there are both Arabs and Jews. We live adjacent to each other, but we do not overlap. Anyone who travels the roads of Judea and Samaria recognizes the large red signs that prohibit Israelis from entering the Arab regions. Call it a state, an entity, or an authority – these are just words. While the plan mentions a “Palestinian state,” it also explicitly assigns restrictions that will be placed upon it, clearly indicating that it will not function as a typical state.
Unfortunately, those opposed to the plan have spread a lot of misinformation about the significance of the map. It does not demarcate a future Palestinian state, but merely designates the territory where Israeli law is to be applied in the coming weeks. Despite the declarations from those opposed to the plan, the truth is that very little will change from the status quo. The security situation, jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and traffic in the area will all stay the same. The IDF will remain right where it is today. And the Palestinians will not be any more threatening.
Once we apply Israeli law in Judea and Samaria, the “Vision for Peace” requires us to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians only if they meet the significant preconditions laid out in the plan. Until then, and in order to secure the future of the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria, it is not only our responsibility to accept the plan but to embrace it wholeheartedly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has explained multiple times the plan contains no directive to freeze construction in any Israeli municipalities in Judea and Samaria. It is clear that the Americans do not desire such an outcome either. In fact, the only freeze that has been discussed is in territories where there are currently no Israeli settlements or development. The fact is, every municipality that receives an upgraded status will be able to develop itself, within its borders and without soliciting permission from the military. These measures will strengthen the settlements, not weaken them.
Napoleon Hill, a leading American self-help writer, said “your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” Who knows if this deal is a once in a lifetime opportunity to fundamentally change the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? This deal will benefit “the settlements” and, by extension, the State of Israel. The application of Israeli law alongside recognition of the American government is not just an insurance policy, but a recalibration toward a brighter future. Which is why the behavior of those who wish to reject the plan is so threatening to the Israeli (and American) interests.
We need to internalize that in the US it is an election year. And while most policy initiatives that are advanced during these years often have a political angle, in this case it is not so. The pro-Israel Trump base is thrilled with the recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, not to mention the change in tone from the previous administration. The fact that they are continuing to expend so much capital in presenting this plan during such a sensitive period demonstrates that the Administration genuinely believes that plan serves the interests of the US and the overall US-Israel relationship. There is no doubt the Trump administration has been the most pro-Israel government that the country has ever seen. To reject the plan would harm Israel and insult the US-Israel relationship. The decision could not be easier to make. The time to apply Israeli law in Judea and Samaria has come.
We must not let that time expire.
The writer is the mayor of Efrat and former chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council.