Opinion |

My Fellow Settlers Are Wrong to Oppose Trump’s Annexation Plan

Efrat mayor: To gain U.S. recognition, we settlers must compromise on our dreams for complete control of Judea and Samaria – or risk losing what we have already achieved

Oded Ravivi, head of the Efrat Regional Council.
Oded Revivi
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A boy with an Israeli flag attached to his neck ascends a climbing wall after the annual Jordan Valley parade in the settlements of the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. Feb. 21, 2020
A boy with an Israeli flag attached to his neck ascends a climbing wall after the annual Jordan Valley parade in the settlements of the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. Feb. 21, 2020Credit: Ariel Schalit,AP
Oded Ravivi, head of the Efrat Regional Council.
Oded Revivi

The State of Israel faces a dramatic decision. Should we accept the Trump Mideast Vision for Peace, thereby applying Israeli law to large parts of Judea and Samaria for the first time in thousands of years? Or, should we refuse to apply Israeli law, meaning we reject the recognition of our right to large sections of this country granted by the world's strongest power?

The settlement movement does not make this decision alone. The settlers journeyed into Judea and Samaria as "the pillar of fire before the camp." They went on behalf of the people of Israel. If we do not learn how to embrace the Trump plan, the "pillar of fire" risks being extinguished, and a sword will once again be placed on the neck of the settlements.

That the UN partition plan of 1947 did not resolve the conflict between two national movements that desire to be recognized as the owners of this land. That lack of resolution stems from the unwillingness of the Arabs to accept the principle of partition.

The belief that "this land is all mine" pushed them in 1948 to go to war, not only against Israel, but against the decision of the United Nations. Even now, the Arabs and Palestinians of the region refuse to acknowledge their mistake. In contrast, the willingness of the Zionists to accept the division was a major factor in obtaining international support for the establishment of the State of Israel.

I believe that we are once again required to take this stance. Should we accept just a part of what we have dreamed of, or should we choose to continue to fight and risk losing what we already have?

The argument for "The Entire Land of Israel" – to insist on it all, to broker no compromise – is a debate that has been part of Zionism since its founding, as can be seen in the Zionist response to the Peel Commission in 1937, and to the adoption of the 1947 partition plan.

Aerial view of the Israeli West Bank settlement of Efrat in the Gush Etzion settlement block, with the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the background, in 2020Credit: Ronen Zvulun/ REUTERS

It can be stated with certainty that the side that chose to compromise, even though the plan posed security and spiritual challenges, is the side that ultimately secured the establishment of the Jewish home in Israel and won international recognition, which is crucial in the modern world.

A 2012 survey conducted by the Walter Lebach Institute at Tel Aviv University revealed that 91 percent of the religious population believed that the settlements are the bedrock of Israel, while only 35 percent of the secular public believed so. We disagreed with successive Israeli governments and with a large section of Israeli society about the necessity of settling in Judea and Samaria.

Over the past 30 years, that disagreement and lack of synchrony led to the Madrid Conference, the Oslo Accords, the Wye Accords, the Camp David Accords, the disengagement from Gaza, the settlement construction freeze, and more. But meanwhile, we continued to build, to grow, to establish settlements, and to raise a second and even a third generation in the historic Jewish heartland.

Now, Israeli society is ripe to broadly adopt what we have built. A unity government, in which members of Likud, Labor, and Kachol Lavan seek to apply Israeli law in Efrat, Beit El, Shiloh, Elon More and more. An absolute majority in the Knesset is ready to vote in favor of applying Israeli law. A recent survey showed that 73.5 percent of Israelis favor Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to apply Israeli sovereignty.

Outside the prime minister's residence, leaders of the Yesha Council call for a West Bank annexation and argue against a Palestinian state, February 4, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Can we turn our backs on the unity of the people? To this consensus that has, at last, emerged? Have we forgotten the great rift that erupted when Gush Katif [the Gaza settlement bloc] was uprooted? The fear of a civil war? We have a responsibility to preserve the unity of the people. Who gave us permission to abandon the slogan, "We must settle in Israelis’ hearts"?

This is a watershed moment for the nation and the settlement movement.

After the United Nations accepted partition, the maximalist underground group, Lehi, announced that it "welcomes the UN's recognition of the right of the Jewish people to independence in its homeland, but condemns the partition of the Land of Israel, which is a crime against the geographical, economic, and historical truth of the country, and plunders the Jewish people. The Hebrew Nation does not and will not accept the dissection of its homeland."

I, too, welcome the American proposal to recognize Israeli law in the existing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. I welcome the direct connection that President Trump has recognized between the Jewish people and the land of the Bible. I am also pained by the dissection of our homeland.

But I am a public leader, and I am compelled to assure my community that they will not be displaced from their home, that settlements won’t be considered lower status than the rest of the State of Israel, and that they will not have to continue living under military law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu checks a map of the area during a visit to the Ariel settlement in the West Bank. Feb. 24, 2020Credit: Sebastian Scheiner,AP

I am a part of the people of Israel who are experiencing a moment of unity and broad consensus. I am part of the State of Israel, a state which faces many challenges and which needs the support of the United States.

For the first time ever, we are not talking about our border being the ceasefirelines of 1948 or 1967. We are talking about ensuring and securing what is already ours. What can the settlements guarantee our children? Have we forgotten the recent national campaigns by settltment leaders to apply sovereignty over just Ma’ale Adumim? And later, the calls to apply sovereignty calls over Gush Etzion, and only much later to other regions? Those were attempts to secure only "settlement blocs," one at a time, with no liklihood of international recognition.

But Trump's plan allows us to achieve sovereignty for every town in Judea and Samaria – and right away.

We can debate the merits of the Trump plan's parameters for negotiating towards a Palestinian state, but like it or not, the Palestinians are not going anywhere. We must now take a look inside, at ourselves.

We, as settlers, have achieved great things. We, settlers, are part of Israeli society. We, settlers, understand the importance of international recognition.

This self-introspection reveals how far we have come, and why it is now our responsibility to embrace the Trump program – and apply Israeli law according to its framework throughout Judea and Samaria.

‏Oded Revivi is Mayor of Efrat and former chief foreign envoy of the YESHA Council, an umbrella group of settlement councils.Twitter: @odedrevivi



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