The 'annexation' scare
October 18, 2019
(JNS)—What would a Jewish holiday be, without an op-ed in The New York Times demanding that Israel make more concessions to the Palestinian Arabs?
On Rosh Hashanah, the Times published “Shrinking the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” by the Israeli journalist Micah Goodman. In it, he called for five new concessions by Israel: “paving a network of roads connecting all the Palestinian autonomous areas”; turning over control of the roads to the Palestinian Authority; “eliminating Israeli checkpoints”; giving the P.A. “more land for development”; and providing “support [for] the construction of new Palestinian towns.”
If acted upon, these steps would go a long way toward turning the current P.A. autonomy regime into a de facto state. Since that state would obviously include Tulkarm and Qalqilyah, which are on the western edge of the P.A. areas, it means Israel will be just nine miles wide at its mid-section. That’s not even as wide as Washington, D.C. Or the Bronx.
What would Israel receive in exchange for making such risky concessions? Nothing, apparently. Goodman does not make a single demand for any action by the P.A.
The P.A. wouldn’t have to disarm or even outlaw terrorist groups that operate in its territory. It wouldn’t have to stop paying monetary rewards to terrorists and their families. It could allow terrorist groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—the terror group behind the deadly attack at a West Bank natural spring that took the life of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb—to continue serving as members in good standing of the P.A. and the PLO.
In short, Goodman’s plan to “shrink the conflict” turns out to be just another plan to shrink Israel. There is no shortage of those plans around.
The one-sidedness of Goodman’s plan is made worse by his tricky method of arguing. He uses an unsavory old tactic: If you can’t defeat your opponent’s argument, change his words so that they sound more extreme or unreasonable, and then argue against the new version.
Here’s how he did it. He wrote in the Times that “the Israeli right” is pushing “annexation of swaths of the West Bank.” Then he said doing that would be awful because “annexing the territories would jeopardize [Israel’s Jewish] majority.”
But the “swaths” that everyone is talking about are the areas that include very few Arabs and thus would not affect Israel’s Jewish majority. Goodman conflated the two issues: annexation of the Jewish areas and annexation in general. Apparently, the idea was to make Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent comments on the subject seem like something they are not.
In pre-election comments, Netanyahu said he favors applying “Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.” Those areas have only a very small Arab population. Netanyahu also said he would like to “extend Jewish sovereignty to all the settlements.” That would not impact any Palestinian Arabs.
Questions about whether or not Israeli sovereignty should be applied to the Jordan Valley or whether Israeli law should be extended to Jewish communities in Judea-Samaria are serious issues. They should be debated on their merits—not with scare tactics about demographic “dangers” that do not exist.
No significant Israeli political leader is proposing a blanket “annexation” of “the territories.” Nobody is talking about incorporating large numbers of Palestinian Arabs into Israel. Whether you agree or disagree with Netanyahu’s position, let’s discuss what he actually said—and not be intimidated by scare tactics and phony arguments.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”