Top Israeli security think-tank redraws map for the Trump era

Concludes that prospects for success of negotiated final-status agreement with Palestinians has gone from "very low" to "zero."

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Judea and Samaria
Judea and Samaria
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Israel's leading security think-tank has published a plan to redraw the map of Judea and Samaria to include unilateral withdrawals while consolidating major communities and preventing the spread of others, this against long term government policy of negotiations before any one-sided moves. The plan does not extrapolate consequences to Israel's security.

The plan, presented Monday to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as part of the Institute for National Security Studies' yearly strategic survey, calls for the government to allow construction in the large blocs of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. At the same time, it recommends a halt to construction in the 90 percent of the territory outside the major blocs.

In laying out the plan, researchers Assaf Orion and Udi Dekel argue that negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs are unlikely to lead to a final-status agreement. With relations deadlocked, they warn, Israel is drifting toward a single binational state with the Palestinian Arabs, which threatens its democratic and possibly Jewish identity, a conclusion that has been countered by other experts.

It is an analysis that echoes one put forth in a speech last month by US Secretary of State John Kerry, although unlike Kerry's plan it would proceed without direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs intended to reach a final-status agreement and without resolving what Kerry called "all the outstanding issues." This central aspect of the plan echoes Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, a move that was taken without a peace agreement and led to thousands of rockets followed by several IDF operations and the threat of tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel.

To preserve Israel's options, including the possibility of a Palestinian Arab state, the researchers say, the government should implement their plan in coordination with the incoming administration of US President-elect Donald Trump, which has already signaled that it will not pressure Israel on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria or negotiations.

Amos Yadlin, the director of the institute and a former head of Israel's military intelligence, has suggested this plan before, but now added that in his opinion Israel had a "window of opportunity" with Trump. Yadlin joined the left of center Zionist Union party in January 2015, and was its candidate for Minister of Defense in the last elections.

"Israel should take this chance of a new administration with a new approach to promote the bottom-up independent shaping of its borders, even if the Palestinians are still holding their extreme position," he said.

The main changes under the institute's plan would be to Area C, the 60 percent of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli control under the 1993 Oslo Accords. Besides carving out 17 percent of the area for the large blocs, where 86 percent of residents live, Orion and Dekel suggest using up to 42 percent for development on behalf of the Arabs and up to 33 percent for protection of "vital" security sites, including the Jordan Valley. The rest of Area C would keep its current status, and Jewish residents would be encouraged to relocate to the settlement blocs.

The Palestinian Authority would administer the major Arab population centers in Areas A and B, which comprise 40 percent of Judea and Samaria and are home to 99.7 percent of Palestinian Arabs, as it already largely does. But the Israeli military would retain the right to act as needed.

The status of Jerusalem, which Israel governs as its capital but the Palestinians also claim as theirs, would not change.

Orion and Dekel recommend that Israel and the world promote security and development in Judea and Samaria. This could bolster the Palestinian Authority's declining legitimacy on the street and help prepare the society for eventual final-status negotiations, they say. An alternative, they say, would be for Israel to take "independent steps" to politically separate from the Palestinian Arabs.

The Hamas-governed Gaza Strip would be handled separately, ideally with a combination of military deterrence, border security and development.

Yadlin said the Institute for National Security Studies had long preferred a negotiated final-status agreement with the Arabs, but this year concluded that the prospects for success had gone from "very low" to "zero."