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The Dangers of a Unilateral Israeli Withdrawal from the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem, by Hirsh Goodman (JCPA via Mosaic)

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Jan. 26, 2017

Last year, Israel’s Labor party added to its platform a proposal to cede 80 to 85 percent of the territory beyond the 1949 armistice lines to the Palestinian Authority’s control, absent a negotiated settlement. The plan would involve giving up certain neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, evacuating 80-100,000 Israeli residents of the West Bank, keeping the major settlement blocs, maintaining a military presence in the Jordan Valley, and completing the security barrier between Israel and a now independent Palestine. Deeming this policy one “born out of failure, not ideology [and] frustration, not vision,” Hirsh Goodmanargues that it would solve nothing while creating tremendous problems:

Israel has withdrawn unilaterally twice before: from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005. . . . In the end, the unintended consequences of both . . . included four full-scale wars, thousands of cross-border incidents, and the transformation of tactical problems into strategic ones, all of which have left deep and indelible scars on Israel.

Here, the proposal is for a unilateral and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from 80-85 percent of the West Bank, to which Israel [has substantial legal, historical, and moral claims], to a line recognized by no party other than Israel itself. The proposal gives these vacated territories de-facto recognition as legitimately Palestinian, whereas, in reality, they are still in dispute and held by Israel in accordance with international norms and conventions pending a settlement.

It [also] unilaterally relinquishes, without any quid pro quo and contrary to broad national consensus, the unity of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.

Without an Israeli security presence, the illicit Palestinian arms industry in the West Bank will flourish and terrorism will become legitimized and encouraged. Key strategic Israeli targets, like neighborhoods in Jerusalem . . . and the entire center of Israel, including Ben-Gurion airport, could be menaced and closed down at will by a primitive rocket fired from a hill a few kilometers away or by a shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missile. Recapturing these territories would be problematic, and the re-establishment of a reliable Palestinian Authority would be impossible. . . .

There is also the internal Israeli dimension. It does not take much to imagine the political and social consequences that a unilateral relocation—probably forced—of 100,000 Israeli citizens from their homes would cause in the country. If the Gaza evacuation was a tremor, this would be an earthquake.

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