Strategic map of Judea and Samaria
Strategic map of Judea and SamariaMark Langfan

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has proposed a unilateral withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria, with tens of thousands of Jews outside of population centers in Judea and Samaria to leave or remain under a Palestinian Authority government.

He issued the suggestion of another one-sided move in an interview with the Yisrael HaYom newspaper. Excerpts were published Monday and the full interview will be published Tuesday, the day before Yom Kippur.

Jews in Ariel, located in Samaria (Shomron), Maaleh Adumim -- a large city between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea -- and in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, would remain outside the Palestinian Authority, in Barak's scenario.

In the excerpts of the interview, Barak did not state if Israel would officially annex the population centers nor did he discuss the likelihood that the Palestinian Authority would not accept the borders he proposed.

Barak also said that his plan includes an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley and on strategic hilltops in Samaria near such places as Ben Gurion Airport. The hills offer an extraordinary view of the airport and central Israel as well as being an easy launching pad for rockets.

Barak argued that 90 percent of the Jews in Judea and Samaria would remain outside the Palestinian Authority.

The last time Israel carried out a unilateral withdrawal was in the summer of 2005. The Sharon government expelled more than 9,000 Jews from Gaza as well as four communities in northern Samaria, with the stated promise that the absence of Jews would bring peace to southern Israel.

The day after the expulsion, Hamas terrorists begin a rocket war on southern and even south-central Israel that has continued non-stop for seven years.

As with the Gaza expulsion plan, Barak’s proposal includes compensation for the families affected although that is a legal requirement already established by the High Court after the 2005 expulsions.

Barak also admitted, “I do not know if this will succeed. I have no illusions. I do not think that just by wanting peace there would be peace. I think the government is right; the responsibility is on the Palestinian Authority.” Barak called PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas a “real partner” for peace.

He justified his proposal by arguing, “The time has come to look at the Israeli society with an open mind and say, ‘We succeeded in keeping 80-90 percent of the Jews in Judea and Samaria who are there with the initiative and encouragement of the government. It would be a great achievement if we succeed to bring them within the permanent borders of Israel.

“This will help us not only with the Palestinian Authority but also with countries in  the region and with Europe and the American government, as well as for us.

“This is not an easy decision, but Yom Kippur is a good time to look at the facts and say, ‘We are not a government that was just born yesterday. We are 64 years old. We have not been in Judea and Samaria for only one or two years but for 45 years. The time has come to make decisions that concern not only ideology and gut feelings but also recognize reality.”

He praised Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria and said, “As Defense Minister, “I cannot ignore their being on the front lines in every elite combat unit in the IDF.”