An exclusive news item published last week in Matzav Haruah, a weekly pamphlet distributed in Israeli synagogues, revealed that the U.S. is hardening Trump’s Deal of the Century, and now demands that the lines that demarcate the area where Israeli law is to be applied will be pre-defined as a “clear border”, without the possibility of amending them. This has caused many among the "settlement" leadership to demand that Netanyahu insist on changing the decision, and if he does not succeed– then to refrain from applying sovereignty.
Until recently, there was a widespread understanding with the U.S. that sovereignty would be applied over 30 percent of the territory of Judea and Samaria – half of Area C – and the rest of Area C would remain with an undetermined status for the foreseeable future, including the possibility that Israel might apply sovereignty there as well, if the Palestinian Arabs continued to reject the plan - as seems likely.
But in recent weeks, the article said, Americans have a new demand: Israel must already give up any future claims on the part of Area C where it does not apply sovereignty, even if the Palestinian Arabs don’t accept the plan and refuse to come to the negotiating table.
The original Trump plan, as it was presented to Israel in the festive ceremony at the White House on January 28th, noted that the attached map of sovereignty over 30 percent of Judea and Samaria, was a “conceptual” map only,, over which there would be negotiations with Israel. This was so in order to determine the map of sovereignty according to Israeli interests, and the interests of the "settlement" enterprise.
When the Americans published the map, it became clear that 15 of the communities in the entire area of Judea and Samaria would remain as enclaves within the area designated for a Palestinian Arab state:
- Hermesh and Mevo Dotan in northern Samaria;
- The four communities on the mountain ridge – Elon Moreh, Itamar, Bracha and Yitzhar;
- Ateret in the heart of Binyamin;
- Meitsad, Ma’ale Amos and Karmei Tsur in the east and in the south of the Etzion Bloc;
- Telem, Adorah and Negohot west of the Hevron Hills;
- Beit Hagai and Otniel in the center of the Hevron Hills.
The reality that the plan proposes to these communities is catastrophic, and eliminates all the advantage in achieving sovereignty: In these communities, indefinitely, from now on, it will only be possible to build upward. This was not the original American plan. This is a change that was made about two months ago. Any intelligent person can understand that the intention is to suffocate these communities and evacuate them. No one would come to live in a place where they tell him “you are isolated, you will suffocate, and your future will be as an enclave in a Palestinian state”.
This position already has practical, immediate ramifications: All municipal building plans (“Taba”) in these communities are already frozen in the Civil Administration’s Supreme Planning Board.
When representatives of Israel presented the demand to join these communities to a territorial contiguity, without changing the 70:30 ratio, they encountered American resistance – especially from Jared Kushner. It turns out that the conceptual map had become a map of fixed borders – even now, regardless of the current or future Palestinian position. Whether the Palestinian Arabs come to the negotiations or not, whether they accept the plan or not - the border is determined now, unilaterally by it.
And in addition: the Americans demand that in the part of Area C where Israel will not apply sovereignty there will be a building freeze – but only for Israelis. Because these territories are designated for a future Palestinian state. In the Trump plan, it states that “in the territories of the West Bank where it is not anticipated, according to this vision, to be part of the State of Israel, Israel will not build new settlements, expand existing settlements or promote plans to build in these areas. Israel will not expand the Israeli enclaves (that is, the 15 communities mentioned above – H.H) or promote plans to expand them in the territories beyond their present footprint”.
The plan also states that Israel “will not destroy any structure that exists at the time of this writing and will assure legislation and/or legal resolution to secure this result”. This refers to illegal Palestinian Arab building. (The only exception is “destruction of structures that present a security hazard, as will be determined by the State of Israel, or destruction of structures as punishment for acts of terror”).
Unprecedented building freeze
In a lecture given by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman at the Jerusalem Institute for Public and State Affairs on February 9th, he praised the State of Israel for “going the distance in agreeing to freeze construction in areas that the plan designates for a Palestinian state in Area C. This is a significant commitment that was not given in any prior agreement”. Friedman reveals here that Israel had agreed that half of Area C, where sovereignty will not be applied, another 30 percent of the territory of Judea and Samaria, is a down payment for a future Palestinian state – even if the Palestinian Arabs do not enter into negotiations, and even if they do not accept the plan.
And what is to happen after 4 years of this freeze? This is not clear. What is clear is that the Palestinians will take advantage of these four years to determine facts on the ground by building at their pleasure, as they are already doing. And if the Civil Administration is currently lax in enforcing its control over the territory, in the four next years there will be no such enforcement at all. Practically, we will lose half of Area C that is now under our control.
This is the main problem of the sovereignty plan! Not the willingness to consent to a Palestinian state and not the traffic arteries to the Jewish communities that would be under Palestinian control in the future. These things, after all, depend on the Palestinians entering into negotiations and accepting the Trump plan. And if they do not, those things will not happen anyway.
However, regarding the sovereignty map, this is an Israeli-American agreement that does not depend on the Palestinian Authority position at all. It bestows an immediate and unilateral status to the sovereignty map, which determines the fixed borders now, with Israeli-American agreement, regardless of the Palestinian position.
With Israel’s agreement to this, as demanded by Jared Kushner, head of the American team and President Trump’s son-in-law, Israel again finds itself in a sort of unilateral and irreversible withdrawal, this time from Judea and Samaria, very like Arik Sharon’s Disengagement.
The Trump plan is an agreement between Israel and the U.S., which obligates only these two parties. Therefore, Palestinian Arab rejectionism will not free Israel from the extensive concessions in the agreement made with the U.S.
It is not irreversible
The reality that I described is indeed bleak – but reversible. The Americans themselves are not consolidated and as we revealed last week in Matzav Haruah, there are some fairly complex disagreements between Vice President Pence supported by Ambassador Friedman, and Jared Kushner, the ‘bad guy’ in this story. Instead of struggling over the topic of recognition of a Palestinian state or the subject of traffic arteries – two issues that are not critical at the moment – we must focus the struggle on the main thing: the map.
Netanyahu can stand before the Americans and correct the map – provided that he is resolute enough to do so. Unfortunately, at the moment, he does not seem to have the required resolve. Netanyahu, who, in the past, could stand resolutely before the Obama administration, is willing now to accept his friend Donald Trump’s American proposal as is, even at the cost of abandoning the 15 communities, even with the one-sided cost of this process. It is as if the main thing is that he will be able to put a check mark on the paragraph “I brought sovereignty”. Bibi’s fighting spirit and willingness to stand strong for Israeli interests seem to be in decline.
And this is why we must not give in. Netanyahu can remind his friend Trump that his commitment in the ceremony in the month of February was to sovereignty over all of the communities without exception, as well as territorial contiguity with the State of Israel – and that is what must be. Not limited sovereignty, but to conclude in advance that if the Palestinians do not enter into negotiations, the other half of Area C would return to Israeli control, exactly as was stated in the Oslo Accords.
Haggai Huberman is a noted military correspondent, veteran reporter for Arutz Sheva Hebrew site and a regular columnist in the Hebrew weekly BeSheva. He is the editor of the popular religious Zionist weekly, Matzav Haruah.
Link to the original Hebrew article https://www.inn.co.il/Generic/Generic/SendPrint?print=1&type=0&item=438854