Israel's new Prime Minister – Naftali Bennett – seems set to challenge the decades-long failure by the international community to achieve its called-for two-state solution, involving creating a second Palestinian Arab state, in addition to Jordan, for the first time in recorded history.
Bennett made his intention very clear when introducing Israel’s next Government – not necessarily with his new coalition partners’ unanimous approval:
“We will ensure Israel’s national interests in Area C – and we will increase standards to that end after much neglect in this area.” (Note: The Oslo Accord divided the disputed region of Judea and Samaria, aka 'West Bank', into Areas A, B, and C. Areas A and B were granted autonomy and are governed by the Palestinian Authority, except for security issues in Area B, while Area C has all the Jewish residents and about 4% of the Palestinian Arabs living in the region.)
Bennett – anointed as “Prime Minister and Minister for Settlement Affairs” – is now uniquely placed to promote his “Israel Stability Initiative – February 2012” (Stability Plan) – summarised by him in 2017:
“The main idea of The Stability Plan is to provide full civilian self-governance to the Palestinians so they can elect themselves, pay their taxes, and control those areas that are theirs. We should apply sovereignty in Israeli-controlled areas – known as Area C – and Palestinians living there will become part and parcel of the State of Israel. And since within the State of Israel you cannot have two levels of people, those Palestinians living in Area C – approximately 80,000 people – will be offered full Israeli citizenship, including voting rights. I think most will opt for residency rather than citizenship (like in East Jerusalem) but it’s up to them. They can be Israeli citizens, Israeli residents or Palestinian citizens.
"Those living in the Palestinian-controlled areas (Areas A and B) will govern themselves in all aspects barring two elements: overall security responsibility and not being able to allow the return of decedents [sic] of Palestinians refugees. We can’t have an inflow of millions of great grandchildren of 1948 refugees coming across the Jordan River because in one swoop that would distort the demography of the area, and within a few weeks of their arrival, the local Palestinians in Judea and Samaria would tell them to ‘go back to Jaffa’ which would subsequently create pressure on Israel that could lead to a third intifada inside ‘Smaller Israel’.
"My option is that Palestinians have an ‘autonomy on steroids,’ and I’m open to ideas about how this materialises; it could be a confederation with Jordan, or local municipalities, or a central government. It would encompass full freedom of movement, massive infrastructure investment, the creation of a tourism zone so Christians can enter Haifa, Nazareth, Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Hebron without going through road blocks. We would have joint industrial centres, and we’d be able to create a land port governed by the Palestinians in Jenin that would be connected to Haifa.”
“I understand there is global consensus around the two-state solution, but what the world thinks is no proof for the correctness of a plan. The world gets it wrong a lot.
"I’d say to those in the international community who are so entrenched in the idea of a Palestinian state that (a) the Palestinians have a state in Gaza and they blew it, and (b) after 50 years, at what time do we need to rethink? In the high tech world where I come from, if my employees tried the same solution and failed again and again I’d fire them as I’d expect them to have tried to tackle the challenge from a different angle by now! There is an industry around this topic – think-tanks, journals, professionals and academics who keep on chewing on the same old failed solution. We’re not in Europe, we live in a region with very few democracies, and when we tried this idea out it blew up in our faces and no one showed us any sympathy.”
Is Bennett going to stand behind his earlier plan? Global consensus needs to positively respond to Bennett’s challenge.
Author’s note: The cartoon — commissioned exclusively for this article — is by Yaakov Kirschen aka “Dry Bones”- one of Israel’s foremost political and social commentators — whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades.