Deal (Or Dud) Of The Century?

Trump’s vision for Israeli-Palestinian co-existence is unrealistic, according to residents of Judea and Samaria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with US President Donald Trump at the White House in March 2019 | Photo: White House Handout

In January, when U.S. President Trump announced what he referred to as “the deal of the century” – a map of his vision of Israel and a future Palestine living side-by-side – there were as many kudos as there were a chorus of critiques.

A contentious part of the deal would see Israel gain control of more than 30 per cent of Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron in Hebrew, and popularly known as the West Bank).

In the last few weeks, the plan has faced resistance from Israel’s political left. Surprisingly, however, the most vocal resistance has come from Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, on the right.

One of those voices on the right is long-time Kfar Tapuach resident, David Ha’Ivri, the former Shomron Regional Council spokesperson, and a member of the Samaria Regional Council. In this interview for TheJ.ca, Ha’ivri explains his distrust of Palestinian leadership and his displeasure with Trump’s plan.

Why are you and so many other leaders from Judea and Samaria opposed to Trump’s “deal of the century”?

Ha’Ivri: We are concerned with all of the aspects of the plan empowering the Palestinian Authority. My position is opposed to those who are thrilled with the plan, based on the fact that the Palestinian Authority would never comply with the terms.

Palestinians are not so stupid. They have a strategy. They have never, in all of the stages of negotiation, compromised on any of their positions. They will wait another 10 or 20 years. But when they sit down at the table again, they are going to say, “President Trump, the greatest friend of Israel, said these lines are fine. Prime Minister Netanyahu, the most extreme right-wing PM, said these lines are fine. This is where we start negotiating.”

So, you’re afraid this isn’t going to be the end goal, but rather the beginning of actual negotiations?

Ha’ivri: Of course, it will be the beginning. We’ve been in this Oslo process for over 25 years. The Palestinian negotiators have never compromised on their positions. We are empowering the PLO. To this day, they are paying generous salaries to terrorists who kill people. They are using international funds to pay these terrorists. They’ve never stopped. When Israel pulled out of Gaza and all of the security and generals said, “There is nothing to worry about, because if they dare shoot a rocket at us, we’ll go in there and wipe them out.” But they’ve been shooting rockets at us since we pulled out.

David Haivri, member of the Samaria Regional Council | Photo: Facebook

What’s the alternative? You have a very supportive American administration, which might not be the case in the future.

Ha’ivri: The alternative is to start by recognizing the reality. The reality that has emerged over the past 53 years since Israel has controlled this area, and Israel has built up the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria. This is a fact. For those people who like to quote numbers and statistics and say, “There are half a million Israelis who live over the green line,” Israeli communities exist in Judea and Samaria. This is a fact. They aren’t going to go away.

There are two to three million Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria as well. That’s also a reality.

Ha’ivri: That is a reality. The administration of the Palestinian Authority, which is the backbone of the PLO, was brought in from Tunis, not here, by the international community, by (former prime minister) Shimon Peres and (Member of Knesset)Yossi Beilin, and were placed as the government of the Palestinian people. The international community and even the Trump administration, to this day, have not given room to any other option of local Palestinian leadership.

David Haivri in Shomron | Photo: Facebook

What other options can you offer? An ongoing conflict?

Ha’ivri: There doesn’t have to be an ongoing conflict. The international community has decided those are the leaders of the Palestinian population, and have given this group of thugs the means to terrorize their own people. The international community has given no room for other voices in that community who may say, “You know what? We’d like to cooperate with Israel.”

You’re tip-toeing around the main question. Are we talking about another state? A bi-national state? Does that mean a Palestinian state?

Ha’ivri: Igal, you are pressing for details that need to work themselves out. The main questions you are asking – there are three or four hot issues in this discussion. If Israel absorbs the West Bank as part of the State of Israel, will the Palestinian people have the right to vote for the Prime Minister of this confederation? Yes or no? Maybe yes, or maybe no.

If they vote, will they have to serve in the armed forces? Do you trust them? Will they be loyal to the state? Can you give them guns? Well, you’ve already given them guns, but they are using them against us.

Can you absorb them within the State of Israel, as Israel has absorbed minorities on the western side of the Green Line? Maybe that’s a model for what we are discussing, to examine Israel in the democratic format of the United States or Canada and say, “We as Canadians expect this type of society and political structure, this makes sense to us and is fair.” But if you compare any of the 130 democracies in the world, you’ll see that each democracy is unique in its own way. Each country has its own flavour or unique situation. Israel’s situation is very unique and we will need to work out the formula that is best for us.

Map of proposed Israeli-Palestinian borders in Trump’s peace plan

This looks like it lead to a confederation of some sort. Do you think that within a confederation, peace can actually be achieved, or will it lead to other problems down the line?

Ha’ivri: I think that mutual respect and understanding can be achieved. I think that in order to achieve that, prizes for killing Jews need to be eliminated.

The idea of seeing Jewish existence in this place as illegitimate must come to an end.

Again, I base my thoughts not only on theory, but on dialogue that I have with people in the Palestinian community. The team who drew up Trump’s “deal of the century” made a huge mistake of not having an open dialogue with the leadership of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. That’s one reason why the leadership in Judea and Samaria is now voicing strong opposition to this plan. They were never invited to the table.

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