Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich is offering Palestinians a choice: staying in Israel and making peace, being paid to emigrate, or ultimately losing a war against the IDF • What they will never have, he says, is a state of their own in Israel.
The ongoing alienation of political correctness from the Bible is having an effect. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely saw that first-hand two years ago when she suggested that her ministry’s senior diplomatic personnel adopt the writings of 11th-century biblical commentator Rashi as a PR weapon to demonstrate that the Jewish people are the rightful owners of the land of Israel.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) experienced the same thing when he sought to apply the three edicts that the biblical Joshua (as the story recounts) sent to the denizens of the land just before he entered it as a guide for how we should treat the Palestinians today: “Whoever desires to make peace, let him make peace; whoever desires to leave, let him leave; and whoever desires to make war, let him make war.”
Smotrich, like Hotovely, caught it for that proposal, mainly from the radical Left. But in his case, it was the response that left people gape-jawed. One, published in Haaretz by leftist historian Professor Daniel Blatman, opined that “Smotrich’s admiration for the biblical genocidaire Joshua … leads him to adopt values that resemble those of the German SS.”
Next week, the National Unity conference is expected to adopt Smotrich’s “plan for victory.” Everyone can calm down. It does not include values reminiscent of the SS. The plan is due to be published in its full, 7,500-word manifesto form in the respected policy journal Hashiloach.
It includes Joshua’s three messages, at least in spirit. Before the document is published, Smotrich shares the main points of his plan with Israel Hayom.
“First and foremost,” he stresses, the victory must be one of “consciousness.”
According to Smotrich, there will be no peace here “until the starting perception that Israel is fated to include two collectives with contradictory nationalist aspirations is eradicated.”
Smotrich is not only shelving the idea of a Palestinian state; he wants to make sure it’s dead in the water: “There is only room her for one people to define and implement national aspirations — the Jewish people. It’s just. It’s moral. That’s what will be, and it’s not open for negotiation. I’m killing this hope of theirs. National aspirations? Palestinians? Not here. Not at our expense.”
Ben-Gurion gave them less
Smotrich wants to achieve his “victory of consciousness” mainly through action. Israel sovereignty will be applied throughout all of Judea and Samaria (and not only in Area C, as head of his Habayit Hayehudi party Naftali Bennett suggests). Israel will launch a wave of settlement designed to send hundreds of thousands more Jews to live in Judea and Samaria.
Smotrich describes future cities the size of Maaleh Adumim that will rise in Samaria and in the South Hebron Hills region. He wants to see construction on much of the state-owned land and create irreversible facts on the ground.
The Civil Administration, which he calls “an unnecessary entity,” would be dismantled through legislation.
“We’re working on that,” he says. The Palestinian Authority would likewise be undone. In their place, Israel would establish a system of self-governance for the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, which would be divided into six democratically elected regional councils: Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus and Jenin.
Smotrich is essentially offering the Palestinian population a version of Joshua’s three options. The first is to stay and accept Israeli rule. “Anyone who chooses to stay here as a private individual, will enjoy a much better life than his friends and relatives in Arab countries or what he could expect under the corrupt Palestinian Authority government,” he says.
In the first stage of this plan, Smotrich would offer the Arab municipal districts and their residents a range of rights, except the right to vote in Knesset elections. We’ll revisit that point later.
His version of Joshua’s second choice — let them leave — sets up a system to encourage emigration for any Arab residents of Judea and Samaria who want to give up their hopes of a country of their own here.
Q: Isn’t that a nice way of saying “transfer”?
“Not at all. It isn’t an expulsion. We won’t flood other countries with penniless refugees. The emigration I’m talking about would be voluntary and in the hope of a better future. This wouldn’t be emigration in creaky boats, but the very common modern phenomenon of getting on a plane for a well-arranged future, a relocation to countries that offer better opportunities and can absorb [them] in an environment that is mostly made up of immigrants from a similar background.”
Smotrich notes that some 20,000 Palestinians are leaving Judea and Samaria each year for other countries as it is, and emphasizes that “surveys the Palestinians conduct show that 30% of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and 50% of Palestinians in Gaza want to emigrate.”
He proposes establishing a system of hefty monetary compensation, “generous grants for leaving,” and is willing to “purchase the Palestinians’ homes for high, fair prices.”
According to Smotrich, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, gave the Arabs much less after they were defeated in the 1948 War of Independence. Smotrich also promises that his plan will make financial sense for the state: “It’s expensive, but much cheaper than paying the price of war and military operations, with all they cost the economy.”
And the third Joshua point — regarding those who want to make war? “We will fight the Palestinians who opt to continue the armed struggle against Israel, and like in any war, we can and must win. We will collect their weapons, down to the last bullet. We will restore Israeli citizens’ security. Once an unequivocal policy directive is issued, the IDF will know without any doubt how to defeat the enemy in a short time.”
Q: There hasn’t been an unequivocal policy directive yet?
“Of course not. There was and still is the opposite directive. The political echelon tells the military echelon: Keep the PA intact. It’s a partner for a Palestinian state. We are keeping their hope alive. That hope is the motive for terrorism. It’s not desperation that motivates terrorism.
“The policy directive currently in place for the IDF is impossible: We tell the army, you have a bonfire — put some oil on it and put some water on it. That can’t be. The IDF can’t contain terrorism in a space where it preserves the hope that keeps it constantly lit up. That’s over. We need to snuff out that hope.”
Morality measured by results
Smotrich is in it to go the distance and believes that in the end, even if it’s far off, his plan will come to pass. He has an impressive reputation for overcoming supposedly impassable political hurdles.
Recent examples of that are the Outpost Regulation Bill (which he co-authored with Likud MK Yoav Kisch) and a law that arranges for government funds to be funneled to the Settlement Division [of the World Zionist Organization], “which makes it clear that the government, not legal advisors, are leading the country,” he says.
Before he was elected to the Knesset, Smotrich positioned the Regavim movement as a heavyweight player that could counter left-wing groups that were using legal tactics to cut down the Jewish hold on state-owned lands, both in Judea and Samaria and within the Green Line.
He has proven that he is not just an ideologue, but a political player who can get things done. Could his “plan for victory” be too high a hurdle even for him? Smotrich talks about a process: “First, consciousness, and then practical [steps], with a lot of steps in between that will help us all change the record.”
He calls the current reality “insanity.”
“The Left is going back to familiar solutions for ending the conflict. My plan for victory offers a thorough, comprehensive solution. It’s optimistic, not innocent; it doesn’t wave off the difficulties, but carries faith in the God of Israel, that our path is just, and that we are the only ones who belong here.”
Q: It this a religious or a realistic manifesto?
“The force behind it is one of religious faith, but you won’t find a thing in this document that is based on those beliefs. It’s a realistic, geopolitical, strategic plan, the result of an analysis of the reality and its roots and is based on factual and historic assumptions.
“It rests on the assumption that the ‘Palestinian people’ is nothing more than a countermovement to the Zionist movement. That’s why it exists. The Palestinian nationalist movement is the negative image of Zionism, and as such cannot make peace with it. This is why the Palestinians refuse Israel’s minimal demand to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. This is where the Palestinian story is different from the conflict with the Arab nations.”
Smotrich is convinced that the Palestinian desire to see their nationalist aspirations for Israel come true can be quashed: “It worked very well with the Arabs of Israel when the state was established, and it should work the same way in Judea and Samaria.
“For Israeli Arabs, the great disaster was the ‘Nakba,’ the War of Independence in 1948, not the ‘occupation’ of the  Six-Day War. Despite that, Israeli Arabs — as long as they didn’t have any nationalist hopes — lived in peace under Israeli rule for decades. They were almost uninvolved in terrorism.
“Only when the government stupidly brought the PLO terrorists to Judea and Samaria from Tunisia and started fostering hope of a nation of their own among the Arabs in Judea and Samaria did nationalist sentiment and terrorism appear among Israeli Arabs,” he says.
Q: The Left is casting doubt on the morality of your ideas.
“The morality of an action is measured by its results, and not at first glance. Reality teaches us that when we are responsible for a territory and manage it, we get the best moral reality for both sides, and when we leave territory, we get the opposite. We so wanted to be moral and not rule a ‘foreign people’ that we left the Gaza Strip, and since then, the lives of the Arabs there have ‘improved’ wonderfully. No doubt about it. Everything there is much less moral and good and humane, for both sides, than the reality in Gaza when the IDF was in control of it. There is no reason to assume it would be any different if an Arab state were established in Judea and Samaria.”
A Palestinian state? The opposite of peace
To anyone who might be wondering how Smotrich can count on a prime minister like Benjamin Netanyahu — a serial breaker of promises on issues pertaining to Judea and Samaria construction — the MK admits that the chance of Netanyahu implementing the settlement ‘boom’ he plans is “close to zero.”
However, Smotrich says that a change in public sentiment, “which Netanyahu can sense any movement in,” will lead him to adopt terminology and ideas of the plan.
“Netanyahu has already adopted my determination that it’s not desperation that is driving terrorism, but rather hope. In the next stage, maybe we’ll hear from him that we need to put an end to that hope,” he says.
And when it comes to the practical steps of the plan, “We will lay the groundwork for whoever comes after him. There are enough candidates from the nationalist camp who can see the rationality of the plan — and within five years settle hundreds of thousands of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”
Q: The plan notes the need to examine the true intentions of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria and categorize them based on the options you have sketched out. How do you sort and examine intentions? And what rights would the people who ‘pass’ the test have?
“The arrangement I’m offering them is temporary. Their actions will bring them closer or keep them farther from it. My time period for evaluating their conduct is 30-40 years. The test is simple — if there is no terrorism, it’s a sign of acceptance. If there is terrorism — there is none. I don’t expect them to become Zionists, but I certainly expect them to accept that they will not realize their nationalist goals here.”
Q: And anyone who integrates, or at least accepts, and convinces you of it — what will they get?
“They’ll get a democratic life with nearly all the rights Jews have. In the first state, they won’t be able to vote in Knesset elections. That will allow us to preserve a Jewish majority. It’s not perfect from a civil rights perspective, but the circumstances are complicated. It’s a reasonable reality, even the best possible one.”
“In the long term, we can improve the democratic aspect of the plan through a regional agreement with Jordan to allow the Arabs of Judea and Samaria to vote in Jordan’s parliamentary elections. Another possible improvement that could be examined after some time has passed would be them taking part in the civil decisions made by the Israeli government, in contrast to national decisions, and at some future point it might be possible to consider offering them full citizenship, including voting rights.
“This is conditional on the number of Arab residents who would want to do that, and on a demonstration of absolute loyalty to the Jewish state by them meeting an obligation to serve in the military, like the Druze citizens of Israel, who have tied their fate to that of Israel as a Jewish state.”
Incidentally, Smotrich plans to make his emigration offer available not only to Arab residents of Judea and Samaria, but also to Israeli Arabs.
Q: Opponents on the Left will ask whether you’re creating an apartheid state.
“Rule of liberty doesn’t begin and end with the right to vote or be elected. Today, a democracy includes peace, freedom and rights: the right to life, to dignity, to property, to freedom of religion and freedom of movement and expression. Maybe something is missing in the basket of freedoms, so maybe it’s not a perfect democracy, because reality isn’t perfect.”
Q: Is it politically feasible to implement your plan?
“It’s a fundamental plan. Along the way, we’re going to dismantle the PA, cancel the Civil Administration, prepare a framework plan to double and triple the settlements by 2050. These are interim steps that I will work on with my colleagues, with the same tenacity and talent that helped us pass the Outpost Regulation Bill and do several things that everyone told us had no political chance of passing.”
Q: What time frame do you foresee for your plan?
“Until it’s adopted in its current form — years. Until people realize that a ‘Palestinian state’ is the opposite of any peace and order — months. Here, the victory is one of consciousness. It will go a lot quicker. The public is ready for it.”
Smotrich’s plan makes no mention of the religious roots of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which have become so dominant, or the issue of the Temple Mount. In the meantime, he is seeking to secure “freedom for Jews and Arabs to visit and pray on the Mount,” and will be satisfied with that.
“The roots of the Palestinian nationalist movement are religious. The mufti established it as a tool to promote a religious agenda, but when I put an end to the nationalist movement he set up, I won’t be ending the Islamist wish to annihilate Israel, just removing the nationalist tool that serves it,” he says.