By GIL HOFFMAN, JPOST
Hawkish Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely is surprisingly putting the finishing touches to a plan for “one state for two peoples.”
While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in Washington meeting with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s summit with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely was in Ariel talking to Likud central committee members about her plan to annex the West Bank and give full Israeli citizenship to all its residents, Jewish and Arab.
The fact that Hotovely is starting to make her plan public now is not coincidental. She wants Netanyahu and the world to know that there is a viable alternative to the creation of a Palestinian state, so it will be on the table when – as she and many others expect – yet another effort to reach an agreement with the Palestinians fails.
To that end, Hotovely has spent her summer vacation not relaxing on European beaches like many of her Knesset colleagues but meeting with top experts on demography and security and drafting an in-depth initiative for what she calls “one state for two peoples.”
She intends to complete the draft by the time the Knesset’s extended summer recess ends in October and publish it in hopes of having the same impact on Netanyahu from the Right that the Geneva Initiative did from the Left on former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who, some say, was pressured to withdraw from Gaza by that plan.
She first heard a presentation on the one-state option from Netanyahu’s former bureau chief and current Makor Rishon deputy editor Uri Elitzur at a conference she organized at the Knesset in May 2009 entitled “Alternatives to the two-state solution.”
Hotovely invited many thinkers on the Right to present their plans, and she at first did not like any of them but eventually decided Elitzur’s idea had the most potential, and she endorsed it at the Jerusalem Conference in February.
Former defense minister Moshe Arens, who also spoke at Hotovely’s event, was similarly persuaded by Elitzur’s argument and came out in favor of it in June.
Among current politicians other than Hotovely, only Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has been quoted as endorsing a one-state solution. But Rivlin only refers to it as the lesser of two evils when compared to dividing the land of Israel, and he does not see it as a practical solution ready to be implemented that is better than the status quo.
Hotovely, by contrast, believes the Right must have a practical plan now that can be presented to the world to alleviate international pressure at a time when Israel’s right to exist and defend itself is being questioned.
Unlike many on the Right, she agrees with Obama’s assessment that the status quo is unsustainable, but for very different reasons than his.
“The world will continue pushing us,” Hotovely said in an interview in Jerusalem. “The Goldstone report and flotilla incident proved that even though Israel left Gaza, we still must defend every step we take there. We are in the worst situation, whereby we are being delegitimized and no matter what we do, we will still be responsible for the Palestinians. Most Israelis are afraid of the demographic threat and want to be away from the Arabs. They don’t realize we can’t pretend that they are not there.”
She says she does not believe a two-state solution can succeed, because past peace processes have proven that the maximum territory that Israel can give is less than the minimum that the Palestinians would accept, and the issues of Jerusalem and refugees similarly cannot be resolved.
She also fears the Palestinian problem will continue even if there would be two states, because the Palestinians would continue provoking Israel to respond to attacks in hopes of additional investigations that could help them defeat it in the international battle for public opinion.
“David beating Goliath is no longer the exception to the rule,” Hotovely said. “The stronger army is not in the best position anymore. Our strength has become a burden. Israel cannot beat the Palestinians, because the world won’t accept inevitable pictures of dead children.
“The Left always said that if we reached an accord and they attacked us over sovereign borders, we would respond with full force, but that view doesn’t take into account Israel’s public relations failures over the past decade.”
AFTER EXPLAINING WHY both the status quo and two states are unacceptable, Hotovely said the onestate solution can be palatable because it would enable Israel to maintain control over all of Judea and Samaria, which is important to her for Jewish and Zionist reasons, and no one would have to move.
“There has been a cloud hanging over Judea and Samaria for far too long,” she said. “We need to stop thinking that they can be given up in one deal or another. Israelis oppose giving up the Golan, because they have been there. They support giving up Judea and Samaria because they haven’t been there. If we annexed it, it would bring them closer.”
Hotovely suggests annexing the West Bank in stages, starting with the settlement blocs and Jordan Valley in which there are few Palestinians. She would annex the rest after building the “infrastructure” for accepting a million and a half Palestinians.
By infrastructure, she means a constitution or bills guaranteeing Israel’s future as a Jewish state. The bills would encourage aliya in a serious way and require all citizens to perform national service, which could be done in their communities. Israel would return to policing Ramallah and Jenin and would control the Palestinian education system to ensure that it encourages coexistence.
Following discussions with demographers, Hotovely believes Israel can maintain a 70 percent to 30% Jewish majority if aliya was encouraged as a national priority.
She bases this on there currently being nearly 6 million Israeli Jews and 1.5 million Israeli Arabs. There is a debate among demographers whether there are 1.5 million or 2.5 million Arabs in the West Bank. She would not annex Gaza, which she would like to see come under Egyptian control.
Hotovely would not call the result a binational state, because that would necessitate equality in symbols, language, education and historical narratives. That’s what separates her from Israelis on the extreme left who want a one-state solution.
“I call it a Jewish state with a large Arab minority,” she said. “I know the one-state solution has problems and I am thinking about how to solve them, but in the Middle East, every solution has a price. I prefer to fight the Palestinians in parliament and not with tanks, and I would rather have speeches by Ahmed Tibi and Saeb Erekat in the Knesset than missiles on Ashkelon.”
Hotovely said her plan has three main challenges: persuading Israelis, convincing the international community and selling it to the Palestinians. She believes the first would be the hardest of the three, but she said that just as support for a Palestinian state went from the fringes of the extreme left to mainstream in a short period, the reverse can also happen quickly.
She has presented the plan to congressmen in the US and politicians in Europe and Australia. She said they were surprisingly open to it, especially those who realize the two-state solution was doomed. She predicted that the world would accept the plan if the Palestinians did.
A poll of 1,010 Palestinians published in The Jerusalem Post this week that was conducted by the Bethlehem-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion proves that this quest would not be easy.
The poll found that 86% of Palestinians opposed the annexation of the West Bank to Israel and granting its residents Israeli citizenship, while only 10% favored the idea. Nearly 55% favored a two-state solution, while 26% said they preferred a binational state as part of a one-state solution.
But Hotovely is undeterred. She intends to present the plan to Netanyahu in the near future, despite his newly launched negotiations with the Palestinians.
“Israel must have a Plan B after Plan A blows up,” she said. “We have been through Camp David, disengagement, Olmert’s offer and we are on the way to another failure. Netanyahu is making another effort in Washington, but he knows it will fail. Israel doesn’t have a rabbit in its hat, but this could be it.”