Mayors Unimpressed by Bibi's 'Enclave Plan'

Idea of applying Dutch-Belgian enclave model to Israel and the PA "sounds like an April Fools' joke," says mayor of Baarle-Nassau.

Elad Benari,

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Flash 90

The mayors of the Belgian and Dutch towns on which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is reportedly basing his new peace plan are unimpressed with the idea.

In fact, one of them told a Dutch-language website on Tuesday that the idea “sounds like an April Fools’ joke.”

Channel 2 News reported on Sunday that Netanyahu was looking into the option of applying a Dutch-Belgian enclave model to the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Netanyahu is basing his idea on the municipalities of Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau,  which are made up of enclaves, some of which are on Belgian territory and some on Dutch territory.

Under the Dutch-Belgian model, Belgian citizens who reside in the Netherlands are also considered local citizens who maintain their rights.

The Dutch-language news outlet Omroep Brabant on Tuesday asked the mayors of both towns what they thought of the idea of applying their arrangement in the Middle East.

"We feel flattered that they have heard of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog in the far-away Middle East, but the situation is indeed very different here," said Mayor Leo van Tilburg of Baarle-Hertog.

"We don’t walk around here with hand grenades nor do we throw rocks, but of course it would be great if our model, even a small part of it, could contribute to a solution to the Middle East," he told the news website.

The mayor of Baarle-Nassau, on the Dutch side, was far less optimistic and dismissed the idea outright.

"Perhaps I am the only one, but this seems like an April Fools’ joke to me,” said Mayor Vincent Braam.

“I think this idea is an insult to the victims who have fallen in this conflict,” he added. "We are a peaceful, quiet village. It seems to me that our situations are not comparable."

A spokesperson for Baarle-Hertog told the website that while the two municipalities would be happy to share information with Israel, “it seems like it is comparing between apples and oranges. We have no war, no wall and no religious conflict.”

There was no official comment on Sunday’s report from the Prime Minister’s Office, but MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) rejected the idea, calling it “crazy”.

“The idea of enclaves is a crazy one from a security standpoint,” said Bar-Lev, formerly the commander of the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit. “I hope that the Prime Minister is only trying to create a spin and is not seriously thinking about this idea, primarily because it would endanger the security of Israeli citizens who would remain in those theoretical enclaves.”

He continued, "Israel has no reserves of land to give to the Palestinians that would allow it to retain large areas beyond the settlement blocs without giving away land located within the Green Line. The Prime Minister must stop running away from the complicated reality and unequivocally decide on a separation from the Palestinians that will allow Israel to fulfill its national goals.”

The Channel 2 report had come on the heels of an interview with Netanyahu on Friday, in which he said that not all the communities in Judea and Samaria will be part of Israel in a peace agreement, but that he will do his utmost to ensure that as many as possible do remain under Israeli control.

“It’s obvious that some of the settlements will not be part of an agreement. Everyone knows that. I will ensure that it’s the smallest number possible, if we get to that point. And I will not abandon any Israeli,” he said.

The so-called “enclave plan”, as well the other recent statements by Netanyahu, have raised concerns among members of his party that he is close to signing an agreement that would see Israel evicting residents of Judea and Samaria from their homes.

Likud MKs, including Danny Danon, have called on the Prime Minister to stand firm against a deal that would see Israel conceding territory or negotiating based on the indefensible, pre-1967 borders.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that it appeared as though “we are moving away from a peace deal."

"They said this week they would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state and never give up the right of return," said Netanyahu.

"I want to clarify that I will not bring an agreement that would not eliminate the right of return and not demand Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state - these are justified basic conditions as far as Israel is concerned," he continued. "The Palestinians show no indication that they intend to reach an agreement that is practical and just."

Netanyahu’s comments were made hours after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party unanimously endorsed his rejection of demands to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Abbas has repeatedly insisted that the PA would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and has also stressed that the future Palestinian state would not include the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier.

He stood his ground last Friday, saying during a meeting with Fatah youth activists that that there is "no way" he will recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of eastern Jerusalem.

On Sunday, Abbas was backed by the Arab League, as the league’s head, Nabil Elaraby, urged Arab countries to take a “firm stand” against Israel’s demand for the PA to recognize it as a Jewish state.