SEARCH BLOG: ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Settlements on West Bank to stay, says Netanyahu
MARK WEISS in Jerusalem
ISRAELI PRIME minister Benjamin Netanyahu planted trees at two West Bank settlements yesterday, vowing that the large Jewish settlement blocs would remain part of Israel forever.
In his first visit to the West Bank since becoming prime minister in March, Mr Netanyahu planted trees in the Etzion bloc, south of Bethlehem, and at Ma’ale Adumim, a large West Bank settlement between Jerusalem and Jericho.
“Our message is clear: We are planting trees here and we are here to stay,” he said, after planting a tree ahead of the Jewish festival of Tu B’shvat, the New Year for Trees.
The prime minister said there was a national consensus that these areas were “an integral part of Israel” and this position was “slowly permeating the international community.” An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas criticised the tree-planting as undermining peace efforts.
Last June, this post appeared here: Creating Palestine.
The West Bank may serve as a general geography for any future Palestine, but there may be some territorial concession to Israel to swing that deal. Finally, the Gaza Strip is wholly untenable as part of a new Palestine. It is isolated between two forces that have little love for a Palestinian presence: Israel and Egypt. [map source]It may be that Netanyahu is beginning the negotiating dance.
It is likely that Gaza will have to become part of Israel and that the present occupants will have to be resettled into the West Bank or agree to Israeli rule. Israel would probably prefer that the Palestinians in Gaza move out. There may be a remote possibility that an agreement can be worked out with Egypt to create a "neutral zone" administered by Egypt with Israeli military rights.
The Golan Heights will probably remain as Israeli-occupied and a separate agreement worked out at some future point when Arab and Iranian actions show Israel that any agreement can be trusted. This would include a repudiation of the "destruction of Israel" mantra by the Palestinians and Iranians.