Whether welike it or not, as a result of the Oslo Accords, the establishment of thePalestinian Authority led to the partition of the Land of Israel.
This is afait accompli and reversing the situation by reestablishing Israeli rule overthe Palestinian cities is widely considered to be a strategic folly. Moreover,the rationale of partition – separation in the Israeli political parlance – isappealing to the majority of the Israelis. The current Israeli government isalso committed to continue the partition and is bargaining hard over the amountof land to be transferred to the PA.
Althoughthe negotiations are within the framework of an interim agreement, we arealready shaping the final contours of Israel’s future map. Under thesecircumstances, Israel should try to divide the land west of the Jordan River inthe wisest way possible.
The firstguiding principle of partition is to maximize the amount of land to beincorporated within Israel and to minimize the number of Palestinians underIsraeli rule. Yet, not every piece of the Holy Land has the same strategicvalue. Indeed, the second guiding principle is the quest for defensibleborders. Security considerations should be paramount in the process of makingchoices about which pieces of the homeland are to be given away.
Despite thefact that the Oslo agreement allows for the delay of the settlement issue untilthe future talks on permanent-status issues, it would be wise, under the currentconstraints, to decide on territorial preferences and not to insist on keepingall settlements under Israeli rule.
The timehas come to make choices for the future. Not every settlement serves importantsecurity needs; keeping each one and the access routes to them may even be atthe expense of barren land which has much more strategic value, parcels of theJordan Valley, for example. The commitment to maintain Israeli control overeach settlement, even one which might become totally surrounded following anadditional withdrawal, is dangerous for the settlers whose lives are at stake.
Moreover,such a scenario increases the points of friction with the Palestinians, whichIsrael should minimize in order to be able to concentrate its resources andenergies on the important areas of struggle, Jerusalem and its eastern border,for example.
Israelshould consider dismantling one or more isolated settlements, something ofgreat value to Yasser Arafat, in exchange for a reduction in the amount of theland transferred, and/or for canceling a third withdrawal.
An attemptshould also be made to bargain away such isolated settlements for the removalof a Palestinian village in an area of importance to us.
Forexample, Beit Iksa next to Jerusalem (a nest of criminal activities) could beexchanged with Netzarim in the Gaza Strip, or Kadim near Jenin. Exchange ofpopulations, cruel as it may sound, is basically a wise policy in a protractedethno-national conflict, such as the one between the Jewish and Arab communitiesin the Land of Israel.
Therefore,consolidating the areas of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria and securingcontiguity with pre-1967 Israel is a sound and sensible goal. Cutting ourlosses at an early stage would improve our bargaining position vis-a-vis the PAand would eventually lead to less land lost in our conflict with thePalestinians.
The Israeligovernment should not be constrained by the problematic commitment,understandable as it may be, to hold on to all settlements.
Somesettlements in particular are presently a disproportionate security burden,which will only increase as result of future withdrawals, while their chancesof maintaining a regular routine and/or being incorporated into Israel areextremely slim. Settlers deserve to be told the truth.
Oppositionto a government decision concerning the removal of such an isolated settlementto a nearby settlement bloc would not elicit much sympathy amongmiddle-of-the-road Israelis. Such a difficult and courageous decision wouldactually be beneficial in terms of domestic politics, as there is a largeconsensus for separation and for minimizing contact with our Palestinianneighbors.
Creating alarge consensus will be of cardinal importance in our future encounters withthe PA and its demands for more land. It is social cohesion which is probablythe most important factor in the ability of Israel’s leadership to mobilize theIsraeli population for the military tests ahead of us.