After three stalemate elections in a year, Israel finally has a government. The most immediate concerns for Israelis are how the new administration will handle the coronavirus outbreak, but for the rest of the world, what matters most is paragraph 29 of Netanyahu and Gantz’s coalition agreement.
Paragraph 29 says Netanyahu can bring forward a bill to apply sovereignty to Israeli settlements in the West Bank as early as July 1. Although Gantz personally opposes this approach, he will not stand in the way. Provided Netanyahu can find the votes, we could be just weeks away from Israel formally asserting itself as the de jure sovereign over the West Bank settlements.
This will of course be met with resistance. Yousel al-Hasaineh has already accused Netanyahu and Gantz of “extremism” and undermining the peace process. Yousel al-Hasaineh is the spokesman for Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Alongside PIJ, expect cold fury from the likes of the UN, the EU, CNN and the BBC. Terms like “annexation”, “colonisation” and “bantustans” will almost certainly be thrown around.
But a sovereignty bill, if it passes into law, will simply begin the process of implementing US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, announced in January. That plan assigns 30% of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria to Israel, and the other 70% to a demilitarised Palestinian state. The United States intends to recognise this Israeli sovereignty provided Jerusalem agrees to map out a Palestinian state with its opposite numbers in Ramallah.
It now falls to the Palestinians to decide whether this is where the Israeli settlement enterprise ends or whether it continues advocating for complete sovereignty.
The Palestinians and their forerunner representatives have refused every offer of statehood made to them. If they refuse this one, they may not get another.
One of the reasons for Palestinian rejectionism is that such behaviour is rewarded by the international community. Israel makes concessions, the Palestinians spurn the concessions, the world demands Israel make more, Israel makes more, the Palestinians again rebuff them, and the world shakes its collective head at those hard-line Israelis who just refuse to give any ground.
Encouraging Palestinian intransigence keeps them stateless and their national fate in the hands of others. Indulging their rejectionism, their payments to terrorists who kill Israelis, and their kindergarten plays where children dress up as suicide bombers, makes it all the harder to achieve a Palestinian state.
The sovereignty bill Netanyahu is likely to bring forward will leave the Palestinians with the vast majority of Judea and Samaria on which to found their state. Any country that considers itself a friend to the Palestinians should beg them to take the deal and end the conflict.