[Martin Sherman has been warning about such a move for quite some time. Obviously if the “negotiations go nowhere, this is the Plan B. Ted Belman]
The music coming from the Prime Minister’s Office in recent weeks is anomalous. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been making uncharacteristically passionate statements about the diplomatic process; statements that go beyond the expected chatter about Israel’s desire to engage the Palestinians and negotiate a two-state solution.
One gets the sense that Netanyahu is desperate for diplomatic movement; that he has bought into the left-wing argument that the status quo is unsustainable; and that he is preparing to launch a unilateral Israeli initiative to concede significant parts of Judea and Samaria.
There is certainly a tremendous amount of international pressure on Netanyahu to do so. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s current effort to convene Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and bring about an agreement are unlikely to bear fruit. Even if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agrees to come to the table, in all likelihood the talks will falter or blow up quickly enough since Abbas is prepared to concede nothing.
Abbas rejects any further interim agreements with Israel. And even if Israel were to concede 99 percent of the West Bank, Abbas cannot sign an “end-of-conflict and end-of-demands” affirmation when the Gaza Strip is controlled by Hamas, nor will Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state. And Israel will not agree to any so-called “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants. So the chances of a permanent status agreement are zilch.
Nevertheless, international demands for Israeli action remain, and European threats of boycott and other isolating moves are increasing. The world wants to see proof of Israeli seriousness in the form of evacuation of settlements and other symbolic Israeli actions that denote withdrawal.
In this country, too, there is a groundswell of “elite” (read: leftist) opinion building in favor of unilateral Israeli moves in the West Bank — to signal to the Palestinians and the world that Israeli is serious about compromise; to show the world that Israel is not interested in “forever being an occupying power”; and to “help create conditions for the emergence of a stable two-state reality” sometime in the future.
Orni Petruschka, co-founder of the Israeli organization “Blue White Future,” which is backed by many people from the orbits of former prime ministers Barak and Olmert, laid out the plan this week.
Israel should “firmly put itself on an alternative path towards attaining its goal of two states,” he wrote in Haaretz, even without a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians, by creating a “framework for two states.”
This “constructive unilateralism” as he calls it, has Netanyahu announcing, independent of any negotiations, that Israel has no sovereignty claims over areas east of the security barrier. Israel would then follow up this “constructive unilateral step in the international arena” with “constructive unilateral steps in the domestic arena” by enacting a voluntary evacuation and compensation law for those settlers who “prefer” to …read more