The Time to Prepare for Evacuation of the West Bank Is Now

The recommendations of the Matza Commission, which looked into the evacuation of Gaza, need to be implemented immediately.

Gilead Sher
Gilead Sher
Gilead Sher
Gilead Sher

Any border that is drawn between us and the Palestinians, whether arrived at by agreement, as a result of negotiations or set independently by Israel, will require the evacuation of settlements inhabited by tens of thousands of people, while retaining the large enclaves where most of the settlers live. One way or another, the people will have to decide, either in general elections or by referendum.

It is likely that the current round of talks, and maybe more rounds of talks in the future, will not result in an agreement that anchors the national interests of Israel, which will have to take measures on its own to draw the border and promote the two-state solution, in coordination with the United States.

We must absorb these settlers who will be returning to Israel’s borders, whether they are determined by an agreement or the lack of one. We must prepare for the eventuality that the army will remain in places we evacuate and in the Jordan Valley until responsibility for security passes to an entity that is acceptable to us. This means comprehensive, responsible and careful preparedness at the national level - both in planning and on the ground; at the civilian and security levels - and an internal Israeli dialogue for the necessary preparation of the public and of the national infrastructure.

After the disengagement from Gaza in the summer of 2005, the Knesset appointed a state commission of inquiry headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Matza. The commission’s report related to a future evacuation scenario: “The prime minister has the responsibility to prepare in advance, today and not tomorrow, for future events that may require the resettlement and rehabilitation of citizens.... Only meticulous early preparation can reduce significantly the future harm that these citizens will suffer.”

The commission’s findings and recommendations were published in 2010. So far, not even a few of those recommendations have been carried out. The government, political and party systems are not dealing with the issue at all. Investigative journalism, too, whose job it is to expose failures before they occur, is not interested in the question of how the government intends to prepare for the future territorial and demographic changes that arise from the need to mark Israel’s border such that it will contain a solid Jewish majority.

Advance preparation, starting now, is a necessary condition for coping with the complex challenge of bringing the settlers home. Israeli citizens who now live east of the separation fence will be paying a high price, on the personal and community level, in giving up their ideological life’s work. As of now, we need to enable those who live in areas that will not remain within the borders of the State of Israel to return to Israel with fair compensation, if they wish to, even before an agreement is signed. It is the state’s obligation to its citizens, and this moral decision must not be put off any longer.

The government must carry out the Matza Commission’s recommendations immediately, in order to keep future evacuees from being severely harmed, prevent the cost of their absorption from being several times higher than it needs to be and, particularly, to prepare an appropriate national infrastructure and prevent a rift in the nation. We do not need a second Matza Commission. National responsibility and the good judgment of the prime minister and his cabinet in dealing with Tehran’s race to nuclear capability are also required here, closer to home, as we prepare to separate from the Palestinians, for Israel’s own good.

The writer, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, is co-chairman of Blue White Future.

A settler is forcibly moved during the Gaza evacuation.Credit: Nir Kafri

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