In his first meeting as president with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump stated publicly that he had no particular connection to the long-standing American “two-state solution” policy in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman now says that the Trump administration has rediscovered the wisdom of tradition. Responding to calls on the Israeli Right to annex the West Bank after Trump’s earlier comments, Lieberman announced that the White House has told him explicitly and directly that any such move would precipitate an “immediate” diplomatic crisis with the US:
Israel’s defense minister said Monday the U.S. has notified Israel that imposing Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank would lead to an “immediate crisis” with the Trump administration.
“We received a direct message — not an indirect message and not a hint — from the United States. Imposing Israeli sovereignty on Judea and Samaria would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at the start of parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee meeting. Judea and Samaria is the biblical term for the West Bank, land Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and continues to occupy.
The defense minister was responding to a media interview with lawmaker Miki Zohar, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, in which he rejected the idea of a Palestinian state and advocated for a “one-state solution” in which Palestinians would have Israeli citizenship.
Zohar’s comments on annexation included a proposal that would exclude Palestinians from voting in national elections. Only if they agreed to serve in the Israeli army would they get trusted with the right to elect members to the Knesset, under Zohar’s informal proposal:
Israeli lawmaker Miki Zohar of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party told i24NEWS on Sunday that “the two-state solution is dead”, leaving a one-state solution with the West Bank’s Palestinians receiving citizens’ rights with the exception of the right to vote in parliamentary elections. …
Zohar, who was speaking with i24NEWS‘s Ami Kaufman on The Spin Room, proposed that after annexing the West Bank, Israel could permit its 2.5 million Palestinian residents to vote if they agree to serve in the military or civil service, as Israeli citizens are required to do by law.
When fellow guest Tami Molad, a journalist, expressed skepticism over the prospect of millions of Palestinians enlisting in the army, Zohar said they would not agree to serve and therefore “let go” of the right to vote.
If not, then they could only vote in municipal elections in areas reserved for Palestinian autonomy:
“The Palestinians will have to choose if they want to be citizens with equal rights or not,” said Zohar. “They will be able to vote and be elected in their city under administrative autonomy and under Israeli sovereignty and with complete security control.”
This is the problem with annexation. Israel gets accused of imposing a system of apartheid on the West Bank and Gaza, but that’s not the case in either place. They have conducted a military occupation of both ever since the 1967 war, in large part because the Palestinians remain convinced that they will eventually take back all of Israel and refuse to accept a two-state solution as a permanent outcome. They’ve had opportunities to do so, especially at Wye River, when Bill Clinton got burned by Yasser Arafat. Thanks to generations of propaganda, it’s almost impossible for the Palestinian Authority to agree to a real two-state solution without getting murdered by their own people or taken over by Hamas.
Annexation, however, would bring the Israelis one step closer to apartheid, especially as Zohar explains it. It would reverse the settlement system and create Palestinian “Bantustans” instead, with few if any national rights or suffrage. That would end up being just as unsustainable as the present status quo, but more fraught with potential foreign-policy consequences. As I noted last month, the one-state solution either means denying the Palestinians the vote, or losing the essential Jewish nature of the state and its safe harbor for Jews around the world. Both would be disasters.
It seems that the White House has rediscovered the wheel on this issue, a little belatedly. Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s all academic anyway. The one-state solution would be a disaster, while the two-state solution would require Palestinians to accept the permanence of Israel as a Jewish state. Neither has much chance of happening in the near, mid-term, or even long-term future, so the status quo may wind up being more sustainable than any other option.