When asked about the two-state solution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated quite recently his long-standing policy that the Arab population in Judea and Samaria “should have all the power to govern themselves, but none of the power to threaten us.” What does this mean in practice, and how does this fit into the two-state solution embraced by the international community?
While much of the world has been obsessed with solving the Arab-Israeli conflict by focusing on Israeli territorial withdrawals, few take into account the unique set of serious security challenges that Israel faces. Judging by the amount of media attention, many would be forgiven for wrongly believing that Israel is a giant country. In reality, the Jewish state’s territory is one of the tiniest in the world. Israel within the Green Line is similar in size to tiny Wales or New Jersey. Unlike these territories, Israel is still surrounded by hostile neighbors who seek her destruction.
Abba Eban, Israel’s legendary late foreign minister, famously referred to the pre-1967 lines as “Auschwitz borders.” By that, the dovish Israeli diplomat was referring to the danger and insecurity that accompany Israel’s nine-mile-narrow waistline, while facing hostile neighbors. By comparison, New York’s compact Manhattan Island is more than 13 miles long.
Israel’s current security challenges from Hamas-run Gaza would pale in comparison if Israel were to completely withdraw militarily from Judea and Samaria without proper security arrangements. The weak and ineffective Ramallah regime would quickly collapse and be replaced with Hamas, just as had occurred in Gaza.
From the commanding heights of Judea and Samaria, terrorists would seriously threaten Israel’s major population centers around Jerusalem and metropolitan Tel Aviv. Terrorists could easily target civilian planes going to and from Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport, which is located merely 4 miles (6 km) from the Green Line. What has become a daily threat for the residents of the Israeli border town Sderot adjacent to Gaza could become a reality for Israel’s major population centers in the center of the country.
The Trump administration is expected to unveil its much talked-about Arab-Israeli peace plan after the midterm elections. French President Emmanuel Macron has insisted that in the absence of an American peace plan, France will soon present its own alternative Arab-Israeli peace plan.
The key U.N. Resolution 242 from 1967, is often referred to as the legal basis for settling the Arab-Israeli territorial dispute. Ironically, since it was drafted and passed in a pre-PLO propaganda era, the word “Palestinian” does not appear anywhere in the text. The resolution urges Israel to withdraw from some but not necessarily, all disputed territories. The international community today frequently overlooks this key distinction. The resolution also conditions this on a requirement that Israel be able to live in “peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”
Critics have argued that what Israel and Netanyahu are prepared to offer the Arab population in the disputed territories does not constitute a “real state”. Prime Minister Netanyahu has responded by stating that he prefers content over labels. In practice, Israel has no interest in interfering in the daily lives of the Arab population in Judea and Samaria. Most of them are already today ruled by Ramallah. However, due to its vulnerable narrow borders and unique security challenges, Israel needs to retain overall security control over the tiny airspace and the strategically crucial Jordan Valley that blocks potential enemy forces from the east.
Israel has also insisted that the potentially new Arab entity must be demilitarized without a standing army. Several dozen countries, including affluent Iceland, lack a standing military but are nevertheless defined as countries.
As long as the regimes in Ramallah and Gaza prioritize Israel’s destruction over the well-being of their own populations, the two-state plan will remain an unattainable pipe dream, no matter how many peace plans are launched by the international community.
Numerous countries, including America, Britain, France and Turkey, maintain overall overseas military bases as part of their national security. These bases are often located thousands of miles from their capitals. It would be hypocritical to deny the Jewish state the right to maintain proper security arrangements on its doorstep.
Daniel Krygier is a writer and a political analyst and a Fellow at the Haym Salomon Center.