It has taken just two months for Israel’s new Prime Minister – Naftali Bennett - to abandon implementing his own 10 years old policy calling for Israel to unilaterally extend its sovereignty into 60% of Judea and Samaria ('West Bank') - dubbed Area C under the Oslo Accords.
Bennett’s backdown was made in the New York Times on 24 August:
“This government will neither annex nor form a Palestinian state, everyone gets that”
Bennett told the Knesset exactly the opposite on the occasion of his swearing in as Prime Minister on 13 June:
“We will ensure Israel’s national interests in Area C – and we will increase standards to that end after much neglect in this area.”
Bennett articulated Israel’s national interests in Area C when presenting his comprehensive Israel Stability Initiative in February 2012:
1. Israel unilaterally extending sovereignty over Area C:
“Through this initiative, Israel will secure vital interests: providing security to Jerusalem and the Gush Dan Region, protecting Israeli communities, and maintaining sovereignty over our National Heritage Sites. The world will not recognize our claim to sovereignty, as it does not recognize our sovereignty over the Western Wall, the Ramot and Gilo neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Yet eventually the world will adjust to the de facto reality.
"Further, the areas coming under Israel’s sovereignty will create territorial contiguity and will include the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, Ariel, Maale Adumim, the mountains above Ben Gurion Airport, and all of the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. As a result, residents of Tel Aviv, the Gush Dan Region, Jerusalem, and Israel will live in full security, protected against threats from the east.”
2. Full naturalization of the 50,000 Arabs living in Area C:
“This will counter any claims of apartheid. Currently there are 350,000 Jewish residents, and only 50,000 Arab residents of Area C. Irrespective of religion, all residents of the area will receive full citizenship. Based on this outline, no Arabs or Jews will be evicted or expelled from their properties.”
3. A full Israeli security umbrella for all of Judea and Samaria:
“The success of the initiative is conditional on keeping the territories peaceful and quiet. Peace can only be achieved with the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] maintaining a strong presence in, and complete security control over, Judea and Samaria. If the IDF leaves, Hamas will rapidly infiltrate the area. This is how Hamas took control of Gaza, and how Hizballah took control of southern Lebanon”
Abandonment of these objectives by Israel’s present Government for the next four years can only be regarded as:
- an attempt to curry favour with Biden, the Democrat Party and his administration
- a missed opportunity to advance President Trump’s detailed peace plan to extend Israeli sovereignty into approximately 50% of Area C (see diagram following)
The mutual backslapping and expressions of self-admiration by Bennett and Biden for each other at their White House meeting on 27 August took place as the US was reeling from the deaths of 13 US military personnel, 18 more wounded and at least 169 Afghani citizens killed in two suicide-bombing attacks following Biden’s disastrous decision to unilaterally withdraw from Afghanistan.
Forgotten was Bennett’s own assessment of Trump in May 2020:
“Israel has never had a friend like Donald Trump. But it cannot guarantee that of his successors. His bold peace vision creates new possibilities that we believe should be pursued—but not at any price.”
Taking flight from – rather than fighting for – Bennett’s own and Trump’s carefully crafted proposals to provide Israel with secure, defensible and recognized borders – is not in Israel’s national interests.
Kowtowing to Biden and jettisoning Trump does not augur well for Bennett’s coalition Government or Israel.
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.
David Singer is an Australian lawyer who is active in Zionist community organizations in that country. He founded the "Jordan is Palestine" Committee in 1979.