The newly confident Israeli proponents of a one-state solution (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By RAPHAEL AHREN 07/16/12)
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Demanding a Greater Israel used to be exclusively for the far right.
Now even coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin is insisting Israel annex the
West Bank, ‘regardless of the world’s opposition’
MK Tzipi Hotovely knew her audience well. The last of nearly a dozen
speakers at a conference advocating Israel’s annexation of the West
Bank and the end of the two-state solution, the young Likud lawmaker
described for the crowd a scenario very familiar to right-wing
pundits in Israel: being challenged by the media about their views on
the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.
“After having proven with signs and miracles that a Palestinian state
would be a catastrophe and would just increase terrorism, the
question that scares right-wingers interviewed by the media the most
is this — the ultimate left-wing question: ‘So what is your solution?
What’s your plan?’” Hotovely said. Raising her voice, she
continued: “Friends, everybody here today knows that there is a
solution — applying sovereignty [over the West Bank]. One state for
the Jewish people with an Arab minority, lest any right-winger say
there’s no solution!”
To the raucous applause of more than 500 conference-goers squeezed
into the visitors’ center of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on
Thursday, Hotovely warned against advocating merely the annexation of
the West Bank’s Area C, which is under Israeli control and where most
settlers live, an idea recently spread by some on the right. “We need
to demand sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria, and nothing less
than that,” she declared.
There’s nothing new about far-right groups holding events in which
speakers fantasize about “Greater Israel.” But Thursday’s conference
was different: It indicated that the idea of the one-state solution
has become respectable within a larger segment of society, including
the ranks of Israel’s ruling party.
Hotovely was right: For years, moderate right-wingers tiptoed around
the question of what they envision for the future of the territories
Israel captured in 1967. Only hardliners openly admitted what perhaps
many others secretly desired, but knew to be politically too
incorrect to openly demand.
“We’re all here to say one thing: the Land of Israel belongs to the
Jewish people. Why? Because!” co-organizer Yehudit Katsover
proclaimed in her opening statement to the conference, which she
organized with right-wing activist Nadia Matar.
Katsover and Matar did a smooth job with the logistics of the
conference, making sure every participant had a bottle of water next
to his or her seat and that enough sandwiches were distributed during
the break, and even arranging for a mobile air conditioning unit to
cool the over-crowded venue. They invited a broad range of speakers
who lectured on different aspects of applying Israeli sovereignty to
the West Bank, but all had one thing in common: stressing the
necessity of that step, backed by the conviction that Israel’s
inherent right to Judea and Samaria — whether derived from the Bible
or international law — is nonnegotiable.
If only all Israelis believed that God gave the Land of Israel to the
Jews as an eternal inheritance, Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, the head
of the Jewish Home faction (the new National Religious Party), said
wistfully. He quoted a famous Torah commentary that says that the
Biblical narrative starts with Creation to demonstrate that the earth
belongs to God and that it is his right to bestow the Holy Land on
his Chosen People. If only the Israelis truly felt the land belonged
to them, the entire world would feel the same, he asserted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on record saying that he does
not want to rule over the Palestinians and is ready to accept a
Palestinian state. But that no longer prevents some members of his
party from openly demanding a one-state solution. MK Miri Regev,
speaking on a recorded video clip, boasted that she recently founded
the Knesset Lobby for the Application of Israeli Sovereignty over
Judean and Samarian Communities. The Likud constitution requires the
application of sovereignty over the settlements, she said.
“It’s time to change the discourse in the State of Israel about Judea
and Samaria,” said MK Ze’ev Elkin, the chairman of the coalition,
also in a prerecorded statement. “For 20 years, we talked about what
to give and why. Now the time has come for an entirely different
discourse. This is our land, and it’s our right to apply sovereignty
over it. Regardless of the world’s opposition, it’s time to do in
Judea and Samaria what we did in [East] Jerusalem and the Golan. It’s
time to end this system in which the Palestinians take and take and
we give and give.”
Most speakers focused on Israel’s right to The Land — all of it — and
tried to reassure the audience that they need not fear the so-called
demographic threat. Israel would not lose its Jewish majority if it
annexed the West Bank and granted citizenship to the Arabs living
there, nearly all the speakers promised.
Estimates of how many Jews and Arabs live in the West Bank vary.
Right-wingers claim that fewer than two million Palestinians and
about 350,000 Jews make their homes in the area. Others reckon the
number of Palestinians in the West Bank to be around 2.4 million,
compared to 310,000 settlers.
Former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger used his 15 minutes — the
organizers strictly enforced every speaker’s time limit — for a
slideshow in which he presented a lot of data ostensibly proving that
there are a million fewer Palestinians in the West Bank than
generally assumed. How come? Because the Palestinian officials
dealing with statistics are either incompetent or lying, he said.
Ettinger’s graphs made it easier for subsequent speakers to dismiss
the demographic argument against a one-state solution as left-wing
demagoguery. Gershon Mesika, the head of the Samaria Regional
Council, for instance, called the demographic threat a “big bluff.”
Even most Arabs don’t believe the idea of two states for two people
would work, he added.
And so the evening went by, with speaker after speaker preaching to
the choir, rarely challenging the audience with provocative questions
about, for example, Palestinian national aspirations. “This is not
Arab land. This is the holy land of God,” said Hebron Rabbi Uzi
Sharbaf, adding that it was “absolutely forbidden” by Jewish law to
retreat from any centimeter of the Promised Land.
Lawyer Yitzhak Bam said Israel’s extension of legal authority to the
Golan Heights was probably illegal under international law, as there
was a previous sovereign before Israel conquered the area. On the
other hand, there was “a legal vacuum” in the West Bank before Israel
captured it, since the Jordanians had renounced their claims. But
since the international community didn’t intervene in Israel’s
takeover of the Golan Heights, surely there shouldn’t be a problem
with Israel annexing Judea and Samaria, Bam argued.
At the end of the lengthy conference, as the crowds streamed towards
the chartered buses — equipped with bulletproof windows — back to Tel
Aviv and Jerusalem, Matar and Katsover grabbed the microphone one
last time to reiterate their commitment to the one-state solution.
They were “greatly moved,” they said, that so many people came
out “to say that the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,
and to hear another plan, one that is a breath of fresh air in our
It remains unlikely that any Israeli prime minister in the
foreseeable future would move to unilaterally annex all or part of
the West Bank. But Thursday’s conference was a clear indication of a
political trend that is becoming more visible every day: the
annexationists are growing in confidence, demanding in outspoken
fashion what they always dreamed of but have never dared to say quite
so publicly. (© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 07/16/12)
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