Amid criticism of Trump plan by leaders in Judea and Samaria, others see ‘historic opportunity’ despite flaws

June 5, 2020 by Josh Hasten - JNS
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As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing to lay the groundwork to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria, a debate has emerged among leaders in those Jewish communities over the ramifications of the Trump Administration’s so-called “Deal of the Century.”

David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council attends a protest for Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, Judea and Samaria in Jerusalem on February 13, 2020. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

This week, tensions within this community boiled over when Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani (the leader of the umbrella group representing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria) told Ha’aretz that the concessions Israel would have to make show that President Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner “are not friends of the State of Israel.”

The statement by Elhayani, who was alluding to Trump administration’s call for the eventual creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state, was condemned by Netanyahu and other mayors within the Yesha Council.

David Ha’ivri a Councilman in the Shomron (Samaria) disagrees with Elhayani and says that Trump is a great friend of Israel. However, he applauds Elhayani for speaking up against the dangers of the plan, even if he wasn’t being politically correct.

He told JNS that “In my opinion, Trump is a great friend of Israel, but based on the plan and map that his team released, he doesn’t seem to care about the future of the Israeli towns and residents in Judea and Samaria, which is sad and disappointing.”

Yet others within Judea and Samaria disagreed with Elhayani’s remarks. In a statement put out by a group of citizen leaders and activists, they noted that “President Trump’s vision for peace recognizes the undeniable truth that Israel has legitimate and rightful claims to Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. While we share concerns over the details of the plan and how it will affect our day to day lives, we are cautiously optimistic about the application of sovereignty. We look forward to seeing the final plan and will express our thoughts in a constructive way at that time.”

In addition, Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi is one of several Yesha Council members who believe that Israel should not squander the opportunity to accept what some are calling the most pro-Israel peace framework launched by a U.S. administration.

He explained to JNS that “the plan serves as a very good opportunity to achieve things we have been trying to get for years. First of all, major parts of Judea and Samaria, where the vast majority of Jewish people live, is going to be part of the State of Israel, with absolutely no legal differences between those areas and the current State of Israel.”

He added that “If the Palestinians want to actually go into peace negotiations they need to take upon themselves 10 conditions, which include a lot of the things we have been asking for many years – for example recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, dropping the claim for the right of return, stopping funding to families of terrorists and disarming the whole of Judea and Samaria. Some say those conditions will never be fulfilled. But these conditions are preliminary to actually going into any negotiations with them.”

A Palestinian state is a ‘non-starter’

Under the framework of the Trump plan, Israel and the U.S. have established a mapping committee that is currently working on developing the parameters for a possible application of sovereignty to part of Judea and Samaria, which could begin as early as July 1.

While the mapping process hasn’t been finalized, the current document shows that Israel would be able to extend sovereignty over 30 per cent of the territory (around half of ‘Area C’ from the Oslo Accords), while 70 per cent would be reserved for a future Palestinian State should the Palestinian Authority meet a long list of eligibility criteria towards statehood over a four-year time frame.

Some say that the establishment of a Palestinian State, albeit demilitarized, is a non-starter. Sceptics also feel that the 15 isolated community clusters slated to remain in Israeli hands per the plan would be vulnerable to attack by terrorists, and thus would be abandoned by residents unable to live under such conditions.

Nadia Matar, co-founder of the Sovereignty Movement, told JNS that her organization has launched a campaign against the Trump plan this week. As part of the campaign, hundreds of posters and signs were hung in different areas around the country warning of the agreement’s potential dangers.

Matar says, “We are still saying yes to Israeli sovereignty, but without linking this to the so-called ‘Deal of the Century.’ The plan is built on the premise that both Israelis and Palestinians have rights to this land, which contradicts wonderful statements made by Trump, Pompeo [Secretary of State], and others indicating that the Jews have rights to their entire Biblical heartland and that the communities in Judea and Samaria are completely legal.”

Matar says that, “there is great danger is creating isolated Jewish enclaves, and cutting off major highways and transportation arteries and putting them under PA control.”

A statement by the movement explains, “The main danger in the plan is the very conceptual agreement to establish a foreign state or entity in our land. To us, this is no less than a grave blow to the Zionist vision of the return of the people of Israel to their Biblical Heartland.”

Matar suggests that Prime Minister Netanyahu do what’s best for Israeli interests even if it’s not part of an agreement with the United States.

‘Strengthening our hold over Judea and Samaria’

Israel Gantz, Binyamin Council Regional Head, (an area in southern Samaria), who was part of the delegation at the White House in January when the Trump plan was announced to great fanfare, spelled out the mixed feelings shared by many.

After a briefing given by Prime Minister Netanyahu this week alongside other community leaders, Gantz said, “We say to the Prime Minister, we want sovereignty, but will not accept it if it comes alongside the endangerment of communities in Judea and Samaria and the State.”

He added, “We won’t accept assurances [from the Prime Minister] of ‘just trust me.’ We know that various maps are circulating which represent a grave danger. If we go with sovereignty, it will be with maps which strengthen our hold over all of Judea and Samaria, and not the opposite [maps which weaken them]. We will be the first to support the Prime Minister if that is the case.”

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