A solution for the construction freeze issue, billed by its author as “win-win,” proposes that whoever controls the territory, controls the buildings on it.
Political analyst Dr. Aaron Lerner, who operates the Independent Media Review and Analysis service read around the world, has suggested the idea just as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leaves for the U.S. to engage in direct talks with the PA's Mahmoud Abbas. The main issue hovering over the talks at present is whether Netanyahu will end the construction freeze or not; Abbas has threatened to quit the talks if Netanyahu allows resumed Jewish building in Judea and Samaria.
It will be recalled that Netanyahu called the ten-month freeze over nine months ago, for the express purpose of enticing the PA into direct negotiations. Abbas refused to enter into direct talks – until now, just a month before the freeze is to expire – and now he demands that the freeze be extended indefinitely.
Netanyahu has promised his constituents that he will not extend the freeze, and a large majority of his Cabinet opposes an extension.
Lerner's idea is this: Whatever buildings are built after a certain date should be registered, and in the event of a future Israeli withdrawal from parts of Judea and Samaria, those buildings will be either demolished or used by the PA, at no cost to the PA and at its discretion.
Lerner notes, by way of introduction, that many PA Arabs support their families from their jobs in construction for Israeli towns, and that they can only lose if such construction is stopped indefinitely.
If the PA fears that Jewish growth precludes an Israeli withdrawal from a given area, Lerner writes, the Disengagement from Gaza in 2005 – as well as the withdrawal from Sinai in 1982 – shows that the existence of Israeli communities is not a deal-breaker in terms of Israeli withdrawals.
Lerner thus proposes:
- Records will be maintained documenting structures built in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria after an agreed date, for instance, the meeting in Washington this week.
- In the event that Israel relinquishes control of an area in Judea and Samaria, Israel will intact leave, for PA use, all structures constructed after the reference date.
- The State of Israel will not demand any compensation from the PA for the value of the relinquished structures, and will, on the other hand, compensate the Israeli owners of the buildings in accordance with Israeli law.
- The PA has the right to demand that any or all of the relinquished structures be demolished and removed at Israel's expense.
The above proposal is win-win for all parties, Lerner explains, for several reasons:
- The PA workforce gains employment in construction projects.
- In the event of an Israeli withdrawal, the PA gains possession of the buildings at no charge, or can have Israel remove the structures at Israel's expense if their presence interferes with future PA plans for the area.
- In the meanwhile, the Israeli citizens can exercise their property rights in building residential units.
Lerner states that as both sides are convinced that in the end, each of them will retain or receive the areas in question, both can feel optimistic that the buildings will, in the end, be theirs.
Drawbacks, however, include the following: The PA might fear that the "interim" period could take too long, while the increasingly growing Jewish communities will exacerbate its nationalist frustrations. On the other hand, overly-cautious Israeli clerks might hesitate to approve government spending for projects that might one day revert to Arab ownership.
Ironically, the new proposal was expressed in reverse by MK Yaakov Katz (National Union) today. He said that Israel should welcome the construction of the planned Arab city of Rawabi in southern Samaria, because "it will provide housing for the Jews from around the world who will arrive in Israel."
"Each of the parties to the conflict is welcome to have its own ideas as to who ultimately will reside in a given location," Lerner sums up. "In that respect, our only concern regarding Arab construction should be in those instances that it has security ramifications or may seriously impair infrastructure."