Last week, MK Bezalel Smotrich celebrated Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s January speech with his article “Victory is Needed, Not a Draw.” According to Smotrich, the aggressive speech was reason to celebrate because it gave Israel a PR victory on a silver platter – leading to, a series of different outcomes – including Israel’s path to annexing Judea and Samaria and placing those territories under Israeli sovereignty.
In his piece, Smotrich speaks of Israel putting its hand out in peace and again and again receiving Palestinian terror and violence in return. However, that is a repetition of an old and baseless argument which, coming from Smotrich, is hypocritical. Even if a Palestinian leader was an ardent Zionist, offering his hand in peace, willing to make a compromise and recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Smotrich would still not compromise because his ultimate goal is Greater Israel. Ideologically, Smotrich’s views mirror the Palestinians as he describes them – not recognizing another nation’s right to self-determination, not willing to make any territorial compromise, and believing it is a either us or them. In other words, an Israeli victory requires a Palestinian defeat.
The problem with Smotrich’s piece is not the common worn-out “no partner” argument. After all, there is no Zionist Palestinian leader in front of us ready to make concessions. The problem is hidden in ignoring the existence of millions of Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria. This is the black hole in his messianic plans where the Zionist national movement defeats the Palestinian national movement and kills the idea of two states. Smotrich asks the public to forget that today, according to optimistic right-wing estimates, 1.8 million Palestinians live in Judea and Samaria, and according to the civil administration 2.8 million.
The bottom line of Smotrich’s “victory” is the opposite of that of the founders of Zionism: instead of drawing out borders around a strong Jewish majority, the Smotrich plan draws borders around an area wherein the most optimistic analysis, there are four times as many Palestinians as Jews in the future.
According to the Smotrich plan, Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and other Palestinian cities will become under Israeli sovereignty. The Palestinians that live there will not be given voting rights, according to the plan, but they will be given social security and other benefits: welfare, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and employment. Even garbage disposal. All of these things will become Israel’s problem. A drastic drop in our global socioeconomic standing, a financial crisis, a security crisis, a moral crisis, and on top of that a wave of violence that will certainly erupt between the parties in this one-state reality. And all this from within, in the plan, Smotrich wants to annex into our country the people who he calls our better enemies because he believes we can null their national aspirations by annexing theme. All this, to solidify sovereignty on an area that for the past 50 years Israel has been able to settle only 100,000 settlers (not including the settlement blocs).
In his article, Smotrich attacks Netanyahu, and on other opportunities he attack his party’s leader, Naftali Bennett, claiming that they are failing to implement a clear right-wing policy, which in his mind is full annexation of Judea and Samaria.
It is no coincidence that this right-wing government has avoided annexation. Bennett and Netanyahu understand what Smotrich is trying to hide: annexing Judea and Samaria is not possible as it would jeopardize Israel and the entire Zionist enterprise. The day of annexation of the Judea and Samaria will become the day of celebration for the P.L.O. and the day Israel will be defeated, not the other way around.
Smotrich is right about one thing: an Israeli initiative is needed. Israel is strong, and needs to use the advantages that Smotrich highlights – U.S. support, strong individual European allies, and the regional opportunity, to advance separation from the Palestinians on our conditions, that protect our interests. In the long term, only separation from the Palestinians will keep Israel secure, Jewish, and democratic in clear defensible borders. The separation is not a prize for the Palestinians, it is a prize for us. It is securing the future of our homeland for generations.