Yes to the Occupation, No to the Settlements

As long as Israel proves its willingness to divide the land, a military occupation is justified until the other side proves the same.

By Einat Wilf
Published in Haaretz

The developments have been many: the UN Security Council resolution declaring that the settlements have “no legal validity,” the collapse of the Arab world, the rise of the right in Europe, and the election of Donald Trump in the United States, which has spurred on Israel’s settler right wing. As a result, a golden opportunity has been created to secure Zionism’s achievements for generations. This can be done through a policy of “yes to the occupation, no to the settlements,” and with a bit of annexation, too.

This is the moment for anyone who wants to lead Israel, now or in the future, to draw a map, not mumble something about “two states,” “settlement blocs,” “the separation barrier” or “the 1967 lines with adjustments.” Rather, we need a clear map showing Israel’s eastern border and the limits of its territorial demands. West of the border will include annexed land where full citizenship is granted. To the east we need a policy of “yes to the occupation, no to the settlements.”

The eastern border must be based on the required minimum to allow a significant number of settlers to join Israel, but no more than necessary. We must give up Ariel and correct the big mistake of annexing dozens of Palestinian villages to East Jerusalem after 1967; only Jewish neighborhoods would be included. This is only about 2 percent to 4 percent of the West Bank.

Anyone who publishes such a map must declare that the Jewish people and the State of Israel have a historical, legal and emotional right to the entire land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, but this right is not supreme and exclusive.

It must be made clear that the Zionist movement recognizes the existence of another people that also views the land as its homeland. It has a right to this land, so we are willing to limit the fulfillment of our right to this territory. It must be stressed that the Zionist movement expects that at some stage the other side must also limit the fulfillment of its right to the land, and that this right is not supreme or exclusive either.

The Arab Palestinian people must eventually lay down their arms against the Zionist movement, and in doing so recognize that the Jewish people have a right to a homeland in the Land of Israel. The Palestinians must therefore put limits on their demands for return or any other demand whose meaning is “Greater Palestine.” Until this stage, Israel will continue to militarily hold territory east of the border.

Israel will accept any Palestinian entity that arises to the east of the border, whether a state or “autonomy on steroids” (as Education Minister Naftali Bennett has proposed). But only the Israeli army will be present on the ground. The occupation will continue.

Military occupation is an essential system of government in territories that are not intended to be annexed − until the end of a war. As long as Israel adopts a clear policy that proves its willingness to divide the land, the military occupation of these territories is justified until the other side proves a similar willingness.

So along with “yes to occupation,” a policy of “no to settlements” will be declared. The military occupation east of the border can be justified, the continuation of the settlements cannot. There is no need for Security Council Resolution 2334 to understand that. A willingness to divide the land and recognize the right of another people to the land cannot exist alongside the settlement enterprise.

The “no” to the settlements must be unambiguous. There is no need to evacuate them, and there is no need for a compensation plan for those who leave. The settlements beyond the border should be left to wither economically and be deprived of support. Anyone who wants to live in these areas will do so without the support or protection of the Jewish sovereignty within its borders.

The result of this policy of “yes to occupation, no to settlements” will be the military occupation of the territory that will have a single legal system and a single population subordinate to this rule of law, without Israeli territorial demands and with a clear statement of the requirements to end the military occupation. Such a policy will achieve maximum separation between the two peoples and minimum friction.

To the west of the border a policy of full annexation and citizenship rights for everyone must be declared. The result will be a single system of justice − Israeli and equal for all. It will be clear who’s inside and who’s outside, who belongs and who doesn’t.

A policy that sets a fair border with citizenship rights within this border is the political alternative to the messianic right. This policy recognizes the existence of another people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea but also recognizes that a long time will pass until this people agrees to the division of the land with the Jewish people.

This policy understands that land must be left for the other side, but Israel must remain militarily in the territory until its adversaries lay down their arms.  This is a classic Zionist policy of exploiting geopolitical opportunities to forge major achievements, without the danger of messianic greed.

This is a return to Zionism’s basic principles; people who take responsibility for their fate without waiting for the Messiah or God to solve their problems. It’s the fulfillment of the Zionist tradition, the integration of a stirring vision and a pragmatic policy that operates according to the ancient Talmudic wisdom: If you grab too much you’ve grabbed nothing.