Over the past few months, analysts in Israel and abroad have warned that Israel will face what Defense Minister Ehud Barak has termed a “diplomatic tsunami.” In September, the Palestinian Authority plans to bring the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundary to the United Nations General Assembly for a vote. The Palestinians’ request will almost certainly be approved.
While most voices in the Israeli and international news media are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to grant major concessions to the Palestinians to forestall such a move, he should in fact do the opposite: he should annex the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria.
In 1995, as part of the Oslo accords, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” If the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, decide to disregard this section of the accords by seeking United Nations recognition of statehood, it would mean that Israel, too, is no longer bound by its contents and is freed to take unilateral action.
The first immediate implication would be that all of the diplomatic and security assistance that Israel provides to the Palestinians would be halted, and the transfer of tax revenues — upward of $1 billion per year — would end permanently. This alone could threaten the very existence of the Palestinian Authority.
Second, a United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood would give Israel an opportunity to rectify the mistake we made in 1967 by failing to annex all of the West Bank (as we did the eastern half of Jerusalem). We could then extend full Israeli jurisdiction to the Jewish communities and uninhabited lands of the West Bank. This would put an end to a legal limbo that has existed for 44 years.
In addition to its obvious ideological and symbolic significance, legalizing our hold on the West Bank would also increase the security of all Israelis by depriving terrorists of a base and creating a buffer against threats from the east. Moreover, we would be well within our rights to assert, as we did in Gaza after our disengagement in 2005, that we are no longer responsible for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who would continue to live in their own — unannexed — towns.
These Palestinians would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population.
While naysayers will no doubt warn us of the dire consequences and international condemnation that are sure to follow such a move by Israel, this would not be the first time that Israel has made such controversial decisions.
In 1949, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion moved the Knesset to Jerusalem and declared it the capital of the State of Israel despite the 1947 United Nations partition plan, which had designated the city an international zone. Immediately after the 1967 Six-Day War, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol annexed East Jerusalem and declared that the city would remain a united and undivided entity. And in 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin extended Israeli sovereignty to the Golan Heights.
In each of these cases, Israel’s actions were met with harsh international criticism and threats of sanctions; all of these decisions, however, are cornerstones of today’s reality.
Our leaders made these decisions based on the realization that their actions would further Zionist values and strengthen the State of Israel. The diplomatic storms soon blew over as the international community moved on to other issues. It would be wise of Mr. Netanyahu to follow in their footsteps.
If the Palestinians decide that they want to end the Oslo agreement and begin experimenting with unilateral actions, then an unexpected opening will present itself for Israel. Our leaders must seize this opportunity and right a historic wrong by annexing parts of our homeland.
By Danny Danon, a member of the Likud Party and a deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset.