Op-Ed: In Praise of Bennett's Partial Annexation Plan
Naftali Bennett is a rising star in Israeli politics.
He became the leader of the National Religious Party (NRP) and combined it with National Union (NU). The enlarged party is callede Habayit Hayehudi, Jewish Home .
During the present election cycle he is polled at almost double the number of mandates (from 7 to 12) for both parties from the current Knesset with a month yet to go until elections.
A central plank in his platform is the annexation of Area C defined by the Oslo Accords.
Prof Martin Sherman’s wrote an open letter to Naftali Bennett arguing for the annexation of Areas A,B, and C of Judea and Samaria and offering compensation to PA Arabs to leave for other countries.
I responded with an open letter of my own:
“Martin, your letter to Naftali is not as devastating to the cause of annexing Area C as you may have thought.
“Admittedly, like Areas A and B, 'Area C is a crazy quilted patchwork of enclaves, corridors and access roads, with an outer contour well in excess of 1,000 km'.
"You ask, 'Is this meant to designate Israel’s final sovereign frontiers? If so, how are they to be secured, and at what cost – operationally, financially and diplomatically? If not, what are these final frontiers to be and how are they to be determined?'
“From my point of view, the current fence protects our sovereignty to the west of the fence already. It protects Area C, where all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are located. Area C, though we would claim it as sovereign territory, can remain as it is defined under Oslo.
"Potential infiltration over that area will remain as it is today and dealt with as it is today, save for the fact that there would an incentive for Arabs to infiltrate into Area C in order to get the benefits of Israeli citizenship. This problem can easily be managed by taking a census of all Arabs living there, thereby shutting the door, so to speak, on would be infiltrators.
“That is not to say that we would automatically offer citizenship to all original residents of Area C. It would be offered only to qualified Arabs, the qualification for which would conform to those of some other western countries: e.g.,sign a loyalty oath, the violation of which would have consequences, know Hebrew, been a peaceful resident for say 10 years and so on..
“No massive expenditures would be required on the road system.
“As for the status of the remaining areas, the Oslo Agreements would apply subject to negotiations. Of course the Arabs wouldn’t negotiate changes in terms or borders and would continue their diplomatic onslaught. These issues are child’s play compared to the final status issues which have consumed our energies for a quarter century.
“Strangely you proffer 'by annexing Area C, you permanently forgo sovereignty in Areas B and C.' Why so? The potential to annex the rest is always there unless and until a new agreement is negotiated. The rationale for our military presence there remains as it is today, namely the Fourth Geneva Convention would apply as it does today, though we reject its applicability.
“It matters little whether the Palestinians abandon Oslo and sink the PA. We would deal with this area as we do with Gaza. What would be the difference? Their actions will determine how good or bad it is for them in the interim. Sure, we are concerned about such matters as charcoal production and sewage disposal, but these are small problems compared to the ones we are facing now.
“As for the humanitarian solution you proporse (changing the UNRWA mandate and offering generous compensation for voluntary emigration), which I fully support, we can pursue it with a vigor that doesn’t exist today. I suggest it focus on the Arabs living in Area C at the beginning. Of course, the Arabs who accept the inducement will not be permitted in Areas A and B. I suggest to you that such a solution would get far more traction because of the annexation than it received in the past.
The next decade or so will focus on negotiating an autonomy deal. In the meantime we will be continuing with the humanitarian plan. If the Arabs choose to make things difficult for us, they will be the ones to suffer. This would make compensated emigration all the more attractive when we decide to start offering it to the Arabs living in Areas A and B.
“The primary benefit to partial annexation compared to full annexation is that the world demand for citizenship for the Arabs would not be as potent and can easily be avoided. Not so under your plan.
“You have suggested that we annex all and start immediately offering compensated emigration. You have been silent on whether in the interim we offer citizenship. If you propose we do, then your plan would be less effective in inducing emigration. If we don’t, we will be subject to considerable pressure to do so. This would also retard progress under your plan.
“With all due respect.”