With Israeli elections due in October – the major players vying to become Israel’s next Prime Minister – current caretaker PM -Yair Lapid, current Minister of Defence - Benny Gantz and current Opposition Leader - Bibi Netanyahu have yet to issue any statement on the Saudi plan released on 8 June to merge Jordan, Gaza and part of the 'West Bank' into a single territorial entity to be called 'The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine'.
The Plan’s author - Ali Shihabi – is a confidant of Saudi Arabia’s next King – Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and a member of the Advisory Council appointed by Bin Salman advising him on his personally-driven initiative - a $500 billion development called NEOM - a megacity of the future like none other on this planet – to be built in Northern Saudi Arabia on an expanse of land equal to the size of Israel.
The Saudi Solution offers a lot to excite Lapid, Gantz, Netanyahu and their respective political parties with these game-changing features:
- The plan reverses two previous Saudi peace proposals in 1981 and 2002 calling for Israel to withdraw completely from the 'West Bank'.
- The two-state solution –the creation of a separate Palestinian Arab State between Jordan and Israel – pushed unsuccessfully by the United Nations for the last 29 years and by the European Union since 1980 - is consigned to the diplomatic graveyard
- Jerusalem will not be claimed as the capital of 'The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine' – whose capital would be Amman.
- The right of return to Israel is abandoned
Citizenship would be offered in the 'Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine' to Palestinian Arab refugees living outside the boundaries of the new entity.
Promising voters to negotiate with Jordan on implementing this Saudi Plan is an assured vote winner.
The most contentious issues in such Israel-Jordan negotiations would be:
- Israel’s security concerns in relation to the territory of the new entity West of the Jordan River - where demilitarization and responsibility for maintaining security control would be issues on the negotiating table
- The carve up of the 'West Bank' and Gaza - where Israel and Jordan would have a good map to focus on for starters – President Trump’s 2020 Conceptual Maps “Vision for Peace”(See following diagrams)
The areas designated as “A future State of Palestine” would be the starting point for Jordan’s negotiators.
The areas designated as ‘The State of Israel” would be the starting point for Israel’s negotiators.
Armed only with sharp pencils, erasers and liquid paper – and motivated to emulate the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty – these negotiators could agree on the new international border between Israel and the 'Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine' in literally a matter of months as well as the terms of the new peace treaty that would replace the 1994 one.
Netanyahu and Gantz have already agreed to Israel’s starting point – having approved the Trump subdivision in 2020 and the formation of a joint Mapping Committee comprising three members each from Israel and America to define the new border with greater precision.
One could reasonably assume this would also be Lapid’s starting point
With Operation Breaking Dawn still fresh in their minds – Lapid, Gantz and Netanyahu need to get off their high horses and break their months-long silence by:
- commenting on the Saudi Plan
- announcing without any further delay whether negotiations with Jordan on this Saudi plan will be part of each of their parties’ election platforms.
Making the Saudi Plan an election issue should not be missed by Lapid, Gantz and Netanyahu.
If they think otherwise – they risk seeing their party being thrashed at the polling booths.
Israel’s media army needs to confront them for their urgent response.
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.