Illustration: View from the hills of Samaria
Illustration: View from the hills of SamariaKobi Finkler

The Israeli Right has abandoned the diplomatic arena to the Left, by focusing solely on community-building and other forms of "practical Zionism," and must work to rectify the situation by posing practical political solutions of its own.

So says Likud MK and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin, in an interview with Sovereignty, a new political journal published by the Women in Green movement, 100,000 copies of which will be distributed in both Hebrew and English for the first time this week.

"The Right has invested in practical Zionism: the wonderful settlement project in Judea and Samaria, the development of Jerusalem, etc., but has left statesmanship to the Left and this has been its mistake," he said,  in an interview set to be published in full on Friday.

"We are not isolated from the rest of the world these days, and one can’t achieve anything without influencing the world to understand your position," Elkin explained.

With the relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian Authority talks, recent months have seen renewed debate among the Israeli Right over alternatives to a "Two State Solution", which would see the establishment of a 23rd Arab state in the hills of Judea and Samaria.

Two recent conferences in Jerusalem have highlighted two separate approaches now emerging from the Israeli Right. 

While speakers at the "One State for One People" conference earlier this month emphasized the need for the immediate annexation and full application of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria - despite the area's large Arab population - an earlier conference discussed an alternative "Two-State Solution", which involved the empowerment and recognition of Jordan's Palestinian Arab majority.

Within that context, the new Sovereignty journal "aspires... to take another step toward conceptual and practical implementation of the Zionist alternative to the failed two-state vision that the Left has been presenting for decades," according to a statement by the Women in Green.

According to the group's leaders, Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover, Sovereignty aims to "conduct an ideological and practical discussion of the fundamental and essential questions regarding the political vision of the Israeli Right:

"What is a viable alternative to the two-state idea? How can we deal with the demographic specter? Is it better to consolidate and present one concept or perhaps to raise several scenarios? How will the world accept an idea that is not consistent with the Oslo Accords? And many other questions that, despite their importance, cannot overshadow the primary and basic principle that Israeli sovereignty must be imposed on Judea and Samaria for one simple reason – this is our land. This guiding principle takes precedence over all other explanations and justifications, and is their foundational basis."

Elkin appears to favor the first approach - as does fellow interviewee, Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi/Jewish Home).

In Elkin's view, even the current status-quo is better than an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, along with the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews.

"Whoever objects to the ‘two state’ solution does not need to present an alternative solution because the basic situation is that this territory belongs to us," he said. "It is the burden of whoever desires to uproot us from here to bring evidence as to why it is a better idea. Meanwhile, all evidence leads in the opposite direction.”   

Israel, meanwhile, should take a leaf out of the Palestinian Authority's book.

"We can learn something from the Palestinians, which is the ‘salami method’, where they say ‘we will take whatever they are willing to give and then we will continue to demand all the rest’," he continued. "We should at least annex those areas that everyone understands will be in our hands, and we should not wait for the messiah to come or for a final settlement".

With Israel's left-wing Justice Minister and Two-State advocate Tzipi Livni leading secretive talks with the Palestinian Authority - and amid accusations that she is going beyond her remit by offering the PA more than the government's official position - many on the Right fear a replay of the political intrigue leading up to the failed Oslo accords. In the run up to that agreement, then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres famously maneuvred Israel into making wide-reaching concessions, by holding secret negotiations with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat behind the back of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. 

Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council Head Gershon Mesika recently expressed those very concerns in a recent Arutz Sheva interview:

"When we know the situation we can fight it, but it's a problem when we do not know what we are facing. The inner sanctums where Livni is conducting talks with her Palestinian partners is where they are brewing their version of a 'solution'," he said.

"All the rumors and stories emerging from these talks must be taken into account," he warned, and urged members of the ruling Likud party "to take a stand" against further concessions to the PA.

But what about the demographic threat to the Jewish State posed by absorbing more than one million more Arab citizens, many of whom are openly hostile to it?

On that issue, Elkin is evasive, stating that now, while there is great instability in the Middle East, it is too early to clearly define the parameters of an end-game solution. 

"As long as the map does not become stable again, we will not be able to plan how the Palestinian issue will be. When there are earthquakes, you don’t begin to pour the foundations of a house, you wait for a period of stability in order to see how the ground looks, and only then do you plan".

In contrast, Minister Uri Ariel believes that there are a number of options open to Israel, in order to avoid the loss of Jewish self-determination through a massive influx of Arab citizens.

"First of all, there is the real possibility of having residents who are not citizens," he said, citing the example of Jerusalem, where only a small percentage of Arab residents are Israeli citizens with the right to vote in national elections, whilst the remainder have "resident" status, and only vote in local elections.

Even among those eligible to vote, he continued, only one percent actually exercise their democratic right, which he says proves that "they are in no hurry to vote".

But wouldn't such a move be obviously discriminatory, providing ammunition to some of Israel's fiercest critics?

Not so, says Ariel. 

"Whoever desires citizenship should request it, and must meet certain conditions such as knowing the language, declaration of identity with the State of Israel, and so forth. These are [criteria for citizenship] that are recognized and acceptable all over the world".

The Housing Minister also proposed a change to the electoral system, advocating a "regional-relative" one, in which half of the members of Knesset will be elected as regional representatives in local constituencies, as opposed to the current "proportional representation" system whereby parties receive a percentage of 120 Knesset seats in line with the percentage of votes they receive nationwide. That, he believes, will offset the potential for Arab citizens to mobilize to "vote-out" the Jewish State.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, former MK and Chairman of the Professors for a Strong Israel movement Professor Eryeh Eldad voiced cautious optimism regarding Ariel's proposal, which he says mirrors his own position.

Eldad is another voice on the Right who has called for a serious and honest dialogue on political alternatives to the current "Two State" discourse.

He chaired a recent conference discussing the "Jordanian option" and has repeatedly invoked the recommendation by none other than the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) which, in its 1947 call for a Jewish-Arab partition of the British Mandate of Palestine, differentiated between "citizenship" and "residency", calling on Arabs remaining in Israel to be granted the latter, but not the former, as a means of preserving Jewish self-determination.

But at the same time, he expressed skepticism at such statements coming from members of the current government.

"I am quite skeptical of those members of the government who know exactly what Netanyahu is doing these days [in the negotiations with the PA], yet who make such declarations," he remarked.

Regarding Elkin's statements, Eldad warned that those who simply call for annexation of Judea and Samaria whilst ignoring the existence of its Arab residents should not be taken seriously.

"I certainly support the idea of annexing Judea and Samaria, but the fact that they do not really go into detail about what will be the legal rights of the Arabs in the area they will annex makes me even more suspicious that it is just hollow words.

"The main obstacle in the eyes of the Left and Bibi (Netanyahu) is that if we don't implement a 'Two State Solution' [in Judea and Samaria] Israel will lose its Jewish identity and become a bi-national state," he explained.

"There are refutations to this assertion, but when you are in the government you are expected to do it, not to just make declarations."