Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestine Liberation Organisation President Mahmoud Abbas need to break their silence and confirm or deny whether two of their senior officials have been discussing implementing the Saudi-based Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine solution or alternative solutions in secret back channel meetings for the last two months.
Answering this question undercuts Netanyahu’s predilection for secret negotiations articulated by him on 15 December 2022:
“You know, I’m sort of a champion of a slight twist in what Woodrow Wilson said in the Versailles Peace Conference. He said he believed in open covenants, openly arrived at. I believe in open covenants, secretly arrived at or discreetly arrived at...
…"I don’t need the public fanfare, I don’t need it. You know, if you come to an agreement, it will be publicized. If you don’t come to an agreement, nothing happens. I think we can come to amazing agreements.”
That luxury is no longer available - nor is responding to reporters’ questions by “neither confirming nor denying” good enough at this critical juncture – having regard to:
- the rapidly deteriorating political, legal and security situations in Israel, Gaza and Judea/ Samaria (West Bank) and
- the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran
Israelis in their hundreds of thousands - demonstrating for the last 10 weeks to preserve, in its present state, Israel’s High Court of Justice from the reforming zeal of the current Government - are probably unaware of the Court’s inexplicable intrusion into decisions properly the Government’s to make - placing these protestors own lives in jeopardy.
The High Court of Justice on 24 May 2018 rejected a final appeal by 200 residents of an illegally constructed Bedouin encampment – Khan Al Ahmar – when three judges unanimously decided the Government had the right “under the letter of the law” to demolish and evacuate its residents.
Nine adjournments had been granted since then until 1 February this year when these three Judges refused to grant the newly-installed Netanyahu Government a tenth adjournment for a further four months - creating an immediate political crisis by ordering the Government to come up with a plan of evacuation by 2 April and relisting the matter for final hearing on 1 May.
This act of judicial petulance placed the Government in an intolerable political bind that could have been avoided by simply granting the further adjournment.
Court dates are deadlines that cannot be ignored.
The Judges clearly had had enough of these adjournments – oblivious apparently to the political ramifications of what they were causing by refusing another.
Successive Governments grappling with the 2018 decision had clearly indicated the Court’s order was too controversial and inflammatory to deal with – to be put off to another date and time.
Netanyahu and Abbas now need to neutralize the April 2 and May 1 Court-imposed deadlines.
Any perceived threat that the illegal encampment and others like it might be demolished could trigger a chain of violent protests and reactions causing a major humanitarian disaster.
Netanyahu and Abbas need to come clean and persuade the Court on May 1 – whether a plan of evacuation of Khan Al-Ahmar has been filed by April 2 or not - that negotiations have been commenced between them to find a solution whose successful implementation will render the demolition irrelevant
The Saudi-based plan - calling for Judea and Samaria (aka 'West Bank') to be divided between Israel and the newly-created Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine - provides such a solution.
The High Court of Justice needs to climb down from its impetuous incursion into making political decisions that are clearly the province of Government - by granting another adjournment.
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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