What's Israel's Plan B as Peace Talks Look Doomed?

Annexation, Unilateral Action, Status Quo Have Drawbacks

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By Nathan Guttman and Nathan Jeffay

Published April 10, 2014, issue of April 18, 2014.

(page 2 of 3)

The White House and the State Department are also trying to block congressional moves to cut American funding for international organizations that accept Palestine, as it will be called, as a state. Stopping such support, Kerry warned, could simply result in the loss of America’s right to vote in these organizations. “Who will pay the price?” if Congress takes such an action, he asked. “The United States of America. We won’t be able to vote.”

In comparison to the largely reactive and defensive moves the administration anticipates taking, Israel is rife with proactive ideas for responding to a possible peace process collapse.

The right wing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which harshly criticized Kerry’s mission from the start, sees an opportunity to strengthen Israel’s hold on the West Bank.

Danny Danon, a top leader of Netanyahu’s own Likud party, told the Forward on April 7 that the moment that Palestinians unilaterally ask the United Nations for full statehood recognition, Israel should unilaterally declare sovereignty over part of the West Bank — in other words, annex territory. It’s the kind of move that has just won Russia widespread world condemnation and Western sanctions in the case of Crimea. But according to Danon, “If the Palestinians act unilaterally, then we will have to act unilaterally.”

Danon, who is chairman of the Likud party’s Central Committee, claimed that in the event of unilateral action by the Palestinians, “I would be able to get the [support of a] majority of Likud Knesset members” to support annexation. The area he is targeting is within the so-called Area C of the West Bank, which is already under full Israeli control and home to most settlers.

Others on the right see a collapse of the peace process, if it occurs, as an opportunity for Israel to officially withdraw from the process’s basic goal of a two-state solution.

“What is clear is that a Palestinian state is not a solution,” Tourism Minister Uzi Landau said at an April 6 conference in New York, sponsored by The Jerusalem Post. “With the absence of solution, this is a conflict that has to be managed.”

Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington who is considered to be a Likud authority on foreign policy, proposed unilateral withdrawal by Israel from parts of the West Bank, to be carried out in tacit coordination with the Americans and the Palestinians, though without a formal agreement. He described this approach as “bilateral unilateralism.”

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