The collapse of the Kerry Plan presents Israel with a formidable challenge. It goes without saying that I myself never believed in nor subscribed to this type of policy, but one can’t deny the fact that it provided a horizon, albeit an illusionary one, for many Israelis and Palestinians, as well as for many in the international community.
However, the dismal failure of the American initiative brought home even to them the understanding that that this conflict has no political solution at this time. This “despair” has led to the realization that for the first time in decades, and certainly since the signing of the Oslo accords, there is no serious plan capable of producing results within a reasonable amount of time on the table. A vacuum of sorts has formed and this vacuum, contrary to the conventional 'right-wing' approach, is now problematic.
The vacuum should be filled by a courageous Israeli initiative regarding the lives of Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria. The fact that is impossible to make progress in the diplomatic path reinforces the need to advance in the human path. It is clear the Palestinian Arabs are entitled to drastic and immediate improvements in their lives, and this is feasible. This is especially true in view of the fact that no negotiated settlement to the conflict appears feasible in the foreseeable future.
Israel must initiate an ambitious and bold plan towards improving and normalizing every aspect of day-to-day life in Judea and Samaria and human rights in particular, as long as those changes do not adversely affect its security needs. I refer to “security” in the narrowest sense of the word. The time has come The Prime Minister and Defense Minister, must behave as if hanging before them is a permanent virtual banner asking, "What have we done today to enable the Palestinian Arabs to live in a more dignified manner?"
for Israel and Israelis to let go the trauma of the second Intifada. Israelis cannot go on living under psychological siege while imposing excessively sweeping and burdensome restrictions on the Palestinians, despite the heinous acts of terror perpetrated almost a decade ago..
The Israeli initiative should include far-reaching steps, from the removal of the anti-terror separation fence to the rebuilding of the refugee camps in Judea and Samaria, in cooperation with the international community. The Palestinians will enjoy complete freedom of movement and be able to return to work in the Israeli job market – and not just manual labor. A comprehensive plan will be adopted to increase the Palestinians’ per capita income; the civil administration will no longer be run by the military; Palestinians will serve on planning and building committees; identical legal norms will be applied on both sides of the Green Line; and the governance of the PA will be strengthened.
Of course, the plan must be implemented gradually and with caution, in reversible increments, with a constant eye on the ultimate goal – maximum normalization of life in Judea and Samaria. As I see it, the country's leaders, led by the Prime Minister and Defense Minister, must behave as if hanging before them is a permanent virtual banner asking, "What have we done today to enable the Palestinian Arabs to live in a more dignified manner?"
A basic condition for implementation of the plan is the introduction of a "zero tolerance for violence” defense policy. Palestinian freedom of movement will not result in a reduction of Israeli military activity in Areas A and B. In fact, just the opposite might occur. It goes without saying that zero tolerance for violence means zero tolerance on both sides – the various “Price Tag” activities must be eradicated once and for all, and the sooner the better.
I realize that this plan will spark fierce criticism from certain quarters, and it is not difficult to guess what they will say. I feel no need to apologize. Neither side has a monopoly over human sensitivity or respect for human rights. My well-known position that posits that there should be no sovereignty between the Jordan and the Mediterranean other than Israeli sovereignty is not relevant to this plan. In fact, no political “end game” position is relevant.
The desire and need to dramatically improve the quality of life in Judea and Samaria conflicts with neither the vision of the Greater Land of Israel nor the two-state solution. All the parties can – and in my opinion, must – wholeheartedly support this type of plan. Whatever political reality ultimately emerges, better and fairer conditions of day-to-day life in Judea and Samaria are prerequisites no matter how you look at it.
It is important to stress that this plan is presented by me personally, and does not necessarily represent the views of the YESHA Council or any other organization.
Principles of the Plan
- Freedom of Movement – Removal of the Separation Fence
Israel will gradually remove all restrictions on movement currently imposed on Israelis and Palestinians. Initially, restrictions on movement inside Judea and Samaria, including barriers, checkpoints and restrictions imposed by military orders will be lifted, and Jews and Palestinians will be allowed to move freely on all roads. During the second phase, Palestinians will be allowed entry into Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria and into the Green Line, i.e. the gates in the separation fence will be opened regularly as a preliminary phase before the fence is completely dismantled and removed.
Freedom of movement will also apply to Palestinian travel overseas – Israel will ensure quick convenient access from Judea and Samaria to the international airports of Israel and Jordan.
Needless to say, Jews are also entitled to full freedom of movement. Although it does not depend exclusively on Israel, action must be taken to ensure the right of Jews to move freely and securely in Hevron, Nablus and all other parts of Judea and Samaria.
- Freedom of Employment
As a direct consequence of their freedom of movement, the Palestinian Arab residents of Judea and Samaria will also benefit from freedom of employment in Israel. This is a mutually beneficial interest. There is currently no satisfactory reason why Israel should import tens of thousands of foreign workers from all over the world while tens and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who live among us are struggling to earn a living.
Palestinians need to return to Israeli cities, but not only as blue-collar workers. Israel must make a concerted effort to encourage the inclusion of Palestinian academics in its advanced industries: an engineer from Ramallah can and should be able to work in Tel Aviv and a Palestinian Arab (in addition to Israeli Arab) doctor treating patients in an Israeli hospital should not be a rare sight. On the contrary; even if this currently seems like no more than a fantasy, in the long term, this vision should include Israeli academicians working in the Palestinian cities of Judea and Samaria – in factories, hospitals and academic institutions.
Freedom of movement and freedom of occupation also means free movement for Palestinian imports and exports, without delays or unnecessary restrictions. Israel must remove the majority of barriers and delays that currently impede Palestinian importers and exporters. There is no reason why a container destined for Nablus should be delayed for days in the Ashdod port, or why a container from Hevron should be delayed for a week at the Tarkumiyye checkpoint on its way to Europe.
Increase Palestinian per capita income
Free occupation is only one, albeit major and necessary, step in the overall process that Israel must adopt to increase Palestinian per capita income. Israel, in conjunction with the international community, must adopt practical measures to comprehensively improve the infrastructures for water, sewage, transportation, education, health, etc. in Judea and Samaria. The goal: to decrease to a minimum the huge infrastructure gaps between Israeli and Palestinian Arab societies.
Here is an example: Whereas for now, Israel generously allows its advanced healthcare system to provide treatment of various humanitarian cases, the aim is to dramatically improve the Palestinian healthcare system so that it can treat more of these cases on its own.
Furthermore, Israel should establish at least five new joint industrial parks throughout Judea and Samaria. The main goal is not to build more Israeli-owned factories, but rather to establish significant new Palestinian-owned industries within joint industrial parks. This is important both economically and symbolically.
- Demilitarizing the Civil Administration
The Israeli Civil Administration will employ civilians instead of members of Israel’s military. A 50-year-old Palestinian should not have to deal with soldiers and officers half his age. The civil administration should employ experienced people who understand full well that it is their job to serve the Palestinian civilian population efficiently and courteously.
Establishment of joint courts for the arbitration of civil disputes; incorporation of Palestinians in planning and building committees
Joint Israeli-Palestinian courts will be established in Judea and Samaria, to hear and decide on civil disputes, including those involving land. This will involve extremely complicated legal proceedings, but will make a significant and genuine contribution towards alleviating the sense of hostility felt by Palestinians towards Israeli rule, and hence its decisive importance.
Even before the establishment of the joint courts, Palestinian Arab residents will be included as full-fledged members of the Civil Administration’s planning and building committees that consider construction in Arab towns.
- Application of equal legal norms on both sides of the Green Line
As a matter of principle, it is unacceptable that Judea and Samaria be subject to different legal norms than those applied on the other side of the Green Line, particularly with respect to punishment policies. The law that applies to a 16-year-old Palestinian from Judea and Samaria caught throwing stones should be the same as the one that applies to a 16-year-old Jew in Judea and Samaria caught throwing stones and any other 16-year old of any ethnicity committing the same offence inside the Green Line. There is no practical or moral justification to implement a different legal policy for Palestinian Arabs and Israelis.
- Strengthening the Governance of the PA
Besides trenchant criticism of the Palestinian Authority's behavior on the diplomatic front and our profound revulsion with the methods of incitement that it has chosen to adopt, it is not in the interest of either party to weaken or dissolve the Palestinian civil mechanisms of self-government, which have been functioning independently for the past twenty years. Israel must not fight its justified political battle against the Palestinian Authority by disrupting day-to-day Palestinian life in Areas A and B.
In this context, Israel must refrain from delaying the transfer of various tax payments to the Palestinian Authority, strengthen the parity coordination mechanisms in various sectors pertaining to the quality of residents' lives and generally adopt any measures that promote the efficient functioning of the PA's civil mechanisms.
- Hevron as a Symbol
The reestablishment of a Jewish community in Hevron is a Zionist act of the first order, and the right and obligation to maintain and develop it is unassailable. Without any contradiction of this unequivocal determination, it is Hevron that should serve as a symbol of Israel’s new and daring policy. As in the entire region of Judea and Samaria and Israel as a whole, all the ugly barriers and fences that restrict the movements of both Jewish and Arab residents of Hevron should be removed. The whole city of Hevron will be effectively open to all: Palestinian Arabs will no longer be subject to the severe restrictions imposed years ago to address the security needs of the Jewish community, and the latter will no longer be forced to remain within closed enclaves.
- Rehabilitation of the Refugee Camps
66 years after their creation, the time has come to thoroughly and determinedly rehabilitate the refugee camps in Judea and Samaria. It is unacceptable for fourth and fifth generations of refugees continue to live in abject poverty and in conditions incompatible with life in the 21st century. Camp residents should be provided with suitable housing, employment, healthcare services and, of course, education.
Rehabilitation of the camps in Judea and Samaria is a project that Israel cannot take on by itself, for many reasons, including political ones. This project will come up against fierce resistance from the Palestinians as well as from international entities such as UNRWA (the UN Refugee Agency for Palestinian Refugees), which has thus far proven to be a complete failure in handling the problem, and not by coincidence.
Nevertheless, we must stick to this goal – the rehabilitation of the camps – and persevere to make it happen. It is intolerable for hundreds of thousands of people in Judea and Samaria to continue to knowingly live in poverty and unemployment, leading to frustration and violence, captives of political circumstances that have remain unchanged for almost seven decades, and which show no signs of changing in the future.
As noted earlier, this plan is based on the premise that in the absence of a political solution at this time, Palestinians are, of course, still entitled to live dignified and proper lives. This premise holds true for residents of the refugee camps as well.