THE JERUSALEM POST
Bennett: Apply Israeli sovereignty over Area CBayit Yehudi head says idea of creating a Palestinian state is over: "We have to move from solving the problem to living with the problem."
Annex Area C of the West Bank now because the idea of creating a Palestinian state there is over, said Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) on Monday.
“This our home. We are the tenants here, not occupiers. The story of establishing a Palestinian state within our country, that story is over,” Bennett said at a public relations conference in Jerusalem sponsored by the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
His comments were consistent with his party’s platform and the position he has espoused before, during and after the national election in January that placed his party in the government’s coalition.
But his utterance of this statement in the midst of a renewed push by US Secretary of State John Kerry to rekindle the direct negotiations for a two-state solution, struck a political and diplomatic nerve.
On Monday both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who is in charge of the peace process, reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution, in which a portion of Area C would be given to the Palestinians.
But Bennett said that such ideas, which were propagated under the 1993 Oslo Accord and the 2007 Annapolis process, no longer made any sense.
“Anyone who moves around in Judea and Samaria knows that what they are saying in the corridors of Annapolis and Oslo is detached from reality,” he said.“We have to go from solving the problem, to living with the problem,” Bennett said.There isn’t a perfect solution to the situation, he said.
He made use of a war story to draw an analogy between the presence of Palestinians in Area C and a piece of shrapnel that was lodged in his friend Yoav’s buttocks.
Yoav chose to live with the shrapnel after the doctor warned him that surgical removal could leave him disabled, Bennett said.
Similarly, he noted, Israel could live with a Palestinian presence in Area C.
“There are situations in which striving for perfection can cause more harm than good,” Bennett said.
The important thing now, he said, “is to build, build and build. It is important to have an Israeli presence everywhere.”
Israel has come to the situation, he said, where the world expects it to withdraw from Area C, because it has stopped understanding that this land belongs to the Jewish people.
“The central problem is the failure of the Israeli leadership to simply state that the land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,” he said.
Israel’s reliance on security arguments for holding onto the West Bank and its failure to claim its historic and just right to the land is the reason that a reporter like Helen Thomas could say that Jews should return to the Europe.
“That is because we do not say that the land is ours,” he said.
“We have to say this to ourselves on Channel 2 and on CNN, that Israel belongs to the Jews,” he said.
“We have to tell ourselves and the whole world that his land has belonged to us for 3,000 years. The most certain path to defeat is for Israel to forget its sense of justice. This is true historically and legally. There has never been a Palestinian state here,” he said.
But, he warned, this position comes with an obligation to present a future plan for Area C, that includes a Palestinian presence.
Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank, is under Israeli military control. All settlements, with a total population of approximately 340,000 Israelis, are located in Area C.
In the past Bennett has estimated that there are some 90,000 Palestinians also living in Area C.
The bulk of the Palestinian West Bank population is in Areas A and B, which includes the major cities.
Bennett said that the government, he said, should immediately impose full sovereignty on Area C and come up with a plan B for the Palestinians.
This should include an aggressive economic program to improve life for both Palestinians and Jews in the West Bank, he said.
The same money that has been spent on international conferences about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict should be reallocated to build better roads and industrial parks, Bennett said.
Investment should be made in coexistence and peace between people, he said.
He added that Palestinians should govern their own civil affairs.
“Our opinion has not been accepted,” Bennett said, “but we will return to it again and again.”
But Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) who spoke after Bennett warned the he did not believe it was a fait accompli that the idea of a Palestinian state in Area C had disappeared.
This will only happen, he said, if the State of Israel changes it tactic and embarks on a public relations campaign to change international opinion.
He said that while he agreed with Bennett, Europeans would disagree with 90 percent of it.
Part of Israel’s problem, Elkin said, is that it lacks the funds to fight such a public relations battle.
The Foreign Ministry budget for public relations, he said, is NIS 9 million compared to the Palestinian Authority budget of $200,000 million.
“We are like David, facing Goliath,” he said.