Netanyahu’s Proposal to Annex West Bank Kills Delusion About Two-State Solution
Rabbi Mivasair discusses the implications of Netanyahu's probable reelection and his last-ditch effort to appease the far-right in Israel, by declaring his willingness to annex the West Bank
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's support for the annexation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is the death knell for talk surrounding a two-state solution, Rabbi David Mivasair told The Real News Network's Sharmini Peries.
Exit polls suggest Netanyahu will be reelected for a fifth term despite corruption charges, and in no small part thanks to his announcement over the weekend that he supports the annexation of West Bank settlements. The Real News Network's Sharmini Peries spoke to Rabbi David Mivasair about what a Netanyahu reelection means for the future of Palestine.
“I think it's the end of the illusion, it's the end of the pretense, and hopefully will be the end of this kind of false talk about a two-state solution. A two-state solution hasn't been a realistic consideration for decades,” Mivasair said.
The two-state solution conversation, though, has been, he observed, “used to deflect and to distract” as Israel obtained more land. Netanyahu's annexation comments follow Trump's decision to support Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights and the Trump administration’s particularly fervid pro-Israel stance.
Official Israeli policy, Mivasair explained, was not to support annexation in order to maintain the promises of the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians. The Oslo Accords, which were intended to bring about the two-state solution, divided the West Bank into three areas, two of which will be annexed if Netanyahu wins.
“Area A is very densely populated Palestinian cities that Israel doesn't want to deal with,” Mivasair said. “They don't want to provide municipal services. They don't want to have to patrol them or or deal with security. So the big cities like Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, that's Area A. I can't imagine anybody in Israel trying to annex those.”
Area B is far less populated, and Israel controls it but does not provide municipal services.
“I can easily imagine that being annexed,” Mivasair said. “And then 60 percent of the West Bank is called Area C. It's sparsely populated by Palestinian people. It has hundreds of thousands of Jews living in it by now. And Israel has totally controlled it—I would say it's de facto been annexed for more than 50 years.”
Once Areas B and C are annexed, Mivasair explained, serious questions surrounding Palestinians rights arise.
“A question is after they annex it, are they going to extend citizenship to the Palestinians who live there? How will they be treated? Will they have equal human rights, political rights, civil rights? I would assume when you annex a place the people who live there become citizens,” Mivasair said. “If that does happen—big if—but if that does happen, the Palestinians who live there will end up with more rights and more access to influence over their own lives than they've had for the last 52 years.”
That “big if” is present because of Netanyahu's rhetoric and right-wing strongman reputation, Mivasair explained.
“Jews in Israel, who make up about 80 percent of the population, I think are very focused on claiming the land, holding the land, and their own security,” Mivasair said. “And I think there's been a lot of, I could say, indoctrination, propaganda, or just a lot of information, misinformation, put out persuading them that the safest thing they can do is have such a powerful strongman protecting them. That's what they've gone for.”
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News, and I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
As we go on air, exit polls in Israel are predicting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be reelected for a fifth term as prime minister in spite of the fact the prime minister has three indictments on charges of corruption against him. Netanyahu caused a stir on Saturday when he announced that he supports the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Now, for decades it had been official policy not to support annexation in order to maintain the promises of the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians. The Oslo Accords were supposed to bring about a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine, which meant that all of the West Bank would be a part of a future Palestinian country. However, emboldened by Trump’s decision to support Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan, Netanyahu decided to push the envelope further and appeal to right-wing voters by promising annexation of the West Bank settlement.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I said I would apply Israeli law, or annex, if you will, the Israeli–the Jewish communities, the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. That’s different. And I want to do it as far as I can with American support. I’ve said time and time again that I would not remove a single Israeli settlement or a single Israeli forcibly. I’m against this whole notion of ethnic cleansing. I just don’t believe in it.
SHARMINI PERIES: Now on to talk about all of this with me today is Rabbi David Mivasair. He is a rabbi emeritus at Ahavat Olam in Vancouver and a member of the Jewish Voices for Peace. Rabbi, thanks for joining us today.
DAVID MIVASAIR: Thank you.
SHARMINI PERIES: Rabbi, the world has been abuzz waiting for this election, waiting for the results, saying that this kind of talk about annexation is actually an end as far as the two-state solution is concerned. So will this move on the part of Netanyahu assist him to get over the finish line here as we see election results coming out over the next few days, and is it the end of the two-state solution, as analysts predict?
DAVID MIVASAIR: I think it’s the end of the illusion, it’s the end of the pretense, and hopefully will be the end of this kind of false talk about a two-state solution. A two-state solution hasn’t been a realistic consideration for decades. Back in the 1980s it was declared to be basically dead on arrival. I personally remember when the vice mayor of Jerusalem named Meron Benvenisti, 1983–1983–said that as much as he wanted there to be a Palestinian state, it couldn’t be, because the Israelis had so taken over the West Bank, integrated themself into it, taken over the infrastructure, built roads, taken the land, completely dismantled the previous electrical system, and so on and so on.
So the talk about a two state solution isn’t real talk. It’s used to deflect and to distract and to enable Israel to do what it has done over the last 50 years, which is just take more and more land and make an irreversible situation.
SHARMINI PERIES: Now, if Netanyahu actually delivers on this promise and starts to annex, as he says, this will obviously bring about further unrest in a country that’s already very volatile politically and in terms of safety for both Palestinians and Jews that are living in Israel. Now, what do you think? How will this unfold over the next little while in terms of the election? Because it looks like it’s going in the direction of another fifth term for Netanyahu.
DAVID MIVASAIR: Well, it’s hard to make predictions. But as you said in the introduction, I think Netanyahu has been given implicit indications that the U.S. will not interfere if he forms a government, and his government moves toward annexing parts of the West Bank. I think it’s clear that the Trump administration won’t interfere with that. Most analysts think that Trump’s big plan for solving the problem is to allow Israel to do that. And that’s been promoted by Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, the two key people in his administration who deal with Palestine and Israel. That’s what they’re pushing for. And I think it’s likely to go ahead. And I think more the question is not whether that will happen but more the details of how it will happen.
And I could say very briefly, you know, that the Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three areas: Area A is very densely populated Palestinian cities that Israel doesn’t want to deal with. They don’t want to provide municipal services. They don’t want to have to patrol them or or deal with security. So the big cities like Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, that’s Area A. I can’t imagine anybody in Israel trying to annex those. That would just be totally insane. So I expect those will be left, like little, teeny, we could say Bantustans. That’s called Area A. Has hundreds of thousands, well over a million people in it altogether. And then Area B is less densely populated, and Israel has maintained control over it, but not provided the municipal services. I can easily imagine that being annexed. And then 60 percent of the West Bank is called Area C. It’s sparsely populated by Palestinian people. It has hundreds of thousands of Jews living in it by now. And Israel has totally controlled it–I would say it’s de facto been annexed for more than 50 years. Israel does whatever it wants. It applies Israeli law. It does everything.
So I’m just saying, the details I expect, from what I’ve heard, they may annex Area A and Area B, but not–excuse me, Area C and Area B, but not Area A. And then a question is after they annex it, are they going to extend citizenship to the Palestinians who live there? How will they be treated? Will they have equal human rights, political rights, civil rights? I would assume when you annex a place the people who live there become citizens. So in fact, if that does happen–big if–but if that does happen, the Palestinians who live there will end up with more rights and more access to influence over their own lives than they’ve had for the last 52 years.
So there are a lot of big questions up in the air. I don’t know how we can predict it. But those are some of the things to watch for in the coming weeks and months.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right. Rabbi, one last question to you. Before we got started we were chatting, and we were so surprised that this election is going in this direction. And you said, well, we have Trump in the United States, we have Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Netanyahu. How do you explain that this kind of right-wing shift in spite of the corruption allegations and indictments against Netanyahu? How do you explain this in Israel?
DAVID MIVASAIR: In Israel in particular? I think people–when I say people, excuse me–Jews in Israel, who make up about 80 percent of the population, I think are very focused on claiming the land, holding the land, and their own security. And I think there’s been a lot of, I could say, like, indoctrination, propaganda, or just a lot of information, misinformation, put out persuading them that the safest thing they can do is have such a powerful strongman protecting them. That that’s what they’ve gone for.
SHARMINI PERIES: In all these countries. Thank you so much for joining us today, Rabbi.
DAVID MIVASAIR: Thank you.
SHARMINI PERIES: And we’ll have you back as the results of the election unfold.
DAVID MIVASAIR: Well, thank you very much.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.