by Uri Dromi*
If all goes well, or wrong — it depends on where you stand — then on July 1, just a few days away, a most dramatic event will occur in the Middle East: Israel, perhaps with the blessing of the Trump administration, will officially annex 30 percent of the West Bank. For those of us who still believe that Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and prosperity next to each other in their own respective states, this move is nothing less than a death blow to the two-state solution.
To make things worse, Israel is pursuing this Earth-shattering move without any serious debate, because we now are struggling with the health and economic damages of the COVID-19 crisis.
Looking back at the scores of op-eds I have written for the Herald over the past 20 years, in many of them I have advocated the two-state solution, warning against any moves that might doom Israel to become one, bi-national state.
Each time, I brought up a different argument to reinforce my case. Once I wrote that if Israel annexed the West Bank, there would be the same number of Arabs and Jews between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In that case, if there was “ one person, one vote,” Israel would lose its Jewish character. If not, then it loses its democracy, and becomes an apartheid state.
Then came the security argument of having to send IDF soldiers to patrol the alleys of the vicious Kasbah in Nablus again, augmented by threats of the collapse of peace with Jordan and the deterioration of relations with the Arab states, which had just warmed up toward Israel.
This was followed by the economic reasoning of why annexation was crazy. Going to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem frequently and realizing the burden of the overstretched public-health system, I wondered how it would look having to cater for the needs of 2 million more Palestinians from the West Bank.
And I continue to caution against the damage annexation might cause to Israel’s image around the world as a liberal democracy and to our country’s U.S. support, which has always been bipartisan.
Still, much to my horror, my government nevertheless is going through with it on July 1.
Retired generals are warning against the move’s security ramifications, calling it “A Disaster in the Making.” One hundred leading jurists are predicting that it would put Israel in a dire spot in the arena of international law. The European Union is threatening Israel with sanctions. King Abdullah of Jordan and leaders of the Gulf have sounded the alarm. In the United States, presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as staunch supporters of Israel like Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer, Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin appealed to Israel not to annex.
And still, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mesmerized by the Trump deal that even its architect, Jared Kushner, has second thoughts about, is moving ahead with this hazardous enterprise.
Being a sworn optimist, I can’t just resign myself to the fact that the Zionist dream that I inherited from my parents — to live in a Jewish and democratic state in the land of Israel — is going to be crushed next week just like that.
Therefore, here is my alternative scenario, enriched, I confess, with a lot of wishful thinking: Netanyahu announces annexation on July 1, but does nothing beyond the rhetoric (see his vow to disarm Iran of its nuclear capability). Confusion and foot-dragging on the practical issues brins us to November, when Biden is elected and the Trump deal is thrown into the dustbin of history, where it belongs.
*spokesman of the Rabin and Peres governments, 1992-1996
**first published in: www.miamiherald.com