Will Jews be able to live in a Palestinian state?

February 5, 2014
Sarah Benton

Reports from Palestine Pulse 1), Times of Israel 2), JPost 3) and The Atlantic (2012) 4)

How to tell a sheep from a goat: an Israeli settler takes his horned goat for a walk in the Tzufim outpost near the Palestinian town of Qalqilya in the West Bank, October 31, 2012. Palestinians say they will distinguish between illegal Israeli settlers from Jews as such. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

Jews could be welcomed in future Palestinian state

By Daoud Kuttab, Palestine Pulse / Al Monitor
February 03, 2014

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially suggested the possibility of Jewish settlers remaining as citizens of the Palestinian state, it was not clear whether this was a bluff or a serious proposal. While Palestinian negotiators were quick to reject the idea, it was members of the Israeli cabinet themselves who revealed the true intention of Netanyahu’s proposal.

Israel’s right-wing Minister of Economy and Trade Naftali Bennett described Netanyahu’s statement as “very dangerous.” Israeli newspapers said that a trap intended for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas exploded in the face of Netanyahu’s own government.

The main idea behind this apparent trial balloon was to expose what Israelis consider a racist Palestinian position of not wanting any Israeli to stay in the state of Palestine after the possible Israeli withdrawal. Evoking 20th century anti-Semitism and Jewish-free communities in Europe, Netanyahu wanted to paint the picture of the demands by Abbas that all illegal Israeli settlers must leave as anti-Semitic.

Irrespective of the motivation behind this apparent Israeli bluff, there stand two harsh facts that have been rarely discussed.

Settlements built with force by Israel in the occupied territories are illegal.

The Fourth Geneva Convention was added to other conventions that make up today’s humanitarian law in outlawing Israeli settlements in occupied areas.

Furthermore, when asked, the International Court of Justice confirmed this illegality regarding settlements, including the Israeli wall that is built deep into Palestinian territory. The court in The Hague reaffirmed that occupying powers are not allowed to take property or move their people to areas under occupation.

Also, the idea of Judenrein, a term created by Nazis to refer to areas “cleansed of Jews,” has no practical application in this regard unless one equates the term Jewish with Israeli. When Palestinian leaders rejected the presence of settlers in Palestine, they are not saying that no Jews can live in Palestine, but that no illegal settlers from the occupying power can do so.

Palestinian political literature makes the difference quite clear. In practice, the PLO’s leading faction, Fatah, elected in its 2009 congress a Jew, Uri Davis, into the Revolutionary Council, its highest body.

This Israeli attempt to mold Jewish and Israeli into one is perhaps one more reason why Palestinians are opposed to Israeli demands that Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

But despite the politics of the issue, the idea of Israelis or Jews living in the future Palestinian state is not totally rejected by Palestinians. Those who accept the idea insist that it cannot be seen as legitimizing illegal settlements and accepting de facto land confiscation. Nor should Israelis or Jews living in Palestine be given any special privileges over and above all other citizens.

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has publicly said that there is no principled reason why Jews or Israelis cannot live in an independent state, as long as they abide by Palestinian laws.

Historically, Palestinians have been open to the idea of a shared state in Palestine. The PLO covenant and early PLO leaders always referred to the idea of a secular democratic state in which Jews can live alongside Muslims, Christians and nonreligious Palestinians.

True, Palestinian leaders who opposed Zionist ideology that allowed Jews anywhere in the world to emigrate to Palestine were vague as to which Jews would be allowed to live in this secular state. But the concept of a multireligious state of Palestine has always been part of the historic Palestinian narrative.

Palestinians favoring the one-state solution, in which Israeli Jews would be citizens in a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, would certainly accept this eventuality.

If this eventuality happens, it would require some emotional breakthroughs and a welcoming environment. The anger and rejection of such an idea means that a much deeper and more courageous reconciliation process will be required to heal the decades of pain.

Some Palestinians have suggested a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission might be needed if indeed some Israeli settlers who have directly or indirectly caused harm to Palestinians would be permitted to continue to live in a future state of Palestine.

The idea of occupiers living in a Palestinian state draws raw anger from many sides. Netanyahu might have thrown this trial balloon as part of his own negotiating tactic. The issue, however, is serious. Palestinians must think through and try to see if they can find a national consensus on it.

EXCLUSIVE: ‘The prime minister doesn’t see why Palestine can’t have a Jewish minority’

PM would let all settlers remain in West Bank, official says; Netanyahu will not force any Jews living in what would become ‘Palestine’ to leave, and would insist they get the option to stay where they are under peace deal

By Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel.
January 26, 2014

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not intend to uproot Jewish settlements anywhere in the West Bank, and will not force any settlers to leave, even under a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians, a well-placed official in the Prime Minister’s Office told The Times of Israel on Sunday. Rather, the prime minister will insist that settlers be given the free choice of remaining in place and living under Palestinian rule, or relocating to areas under Israeli sovereign rule, the official said.

That requirement seems certain to constitute a significant obstacle in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has categorically rejected the idea of any Israeli — soldier or civilian — remaining in a Palestinian state.

The official was explaining and elaborating on comments made Friday by Netanyahu during a press conference in Davos, Switzerland. “I have said in the past, and I repeat today: I do not intend to remove a single settlement, [and] I do not intend to displace a single Israeli,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister was answering a question relating to the Jordan Valley, and it was not entirely clear from his remarks whether he was relating solely to the Jordan Valley or the entire West Bank, and whether he was speaking about his stance in the short-term or his permanent position. Sunday’s comments to The Times of Israel by the official in his office resolved those questions: The prime minister was referring to the entire West Bank, the official made clear, and his refusal to require any settlers to leave applies in the long-term, even after the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While the official said Sunday that Netanyahu’s stance on the issue was “longstanding,” Friday’s press conference marked the first time since peace talks began in August that the prime minister had explicitly articulated this position in public.

“His consistent position has been that those settlements that will be on the Palestinian side of the border should not be uprooted,” the official told The Times of Israel. “Just as Israel has an Arab minority, the prime minister doesn’t see why Palestine can’t have a Jewish minority. The Jews living on their side should have a choice whether they want to stay or not.”

Netanyahu first hinted at this position in his May 2011 speech to the US Congress in Washington, the official noted. “The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations,” Netanyahu said at the time. “In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders.” During that speech, he did not make explicit that settlers located east of the border must be given the option to stay, but he has said so in several meetings in recent weeks, the official said.

While in Davos, Netanyahu meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry three times to discuss the current peace talks. Kerry said he would soon present a position paper that would “achieve a framework for the negotiations that will define the endgame and all the core issues, and provide guidelines for the negotiators in their efforts to achieve a final-status peace agreement.”

The settlements are one of the core issues that will be addressed by the framework agreement, the Israeli official said. He declined however, to specify what the paper would say about the future of Israeli settlers in parts of the West Bank designated for the future Palestinian state. It is highly unlikely that Washington would adopt Netanyahu’s demand to allow all settlers, notably including those situated outside the main settlement blocs, to remain in their homes. Kerry said in Davos that all IDF soldiers would ultimately have to leave a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians categorically reject the idea of any settlers remaining on the territory of their future state. “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands,” Abbas said in July, just before the current peace talks were launched.

The idea of letting settlers choose whether they want to return to Israel proper or remain living in Palestine was first suggested in 2006 by then-prime minister Ehud Olmert. “Each and every one of the settlers who live in territories that stand to be evacuated will need to decide whether to live in a Jewish state, the State of Israel, or in a Palestinian state,” Olmert said, in response to a question about whether he intended to uproot tens of thousands of people from their homes in a future peace deal.

Netanyahu was and remains a fierce critic of the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, under which prime minister Ariel Sharon forced the evacuation of all Gaza settlers and the demolition of their settlements.

Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon, right-wing demagogue who ‘would not wish for my worst enemy to live under Palestinian control’. And we thought the Palestinians were his worst enemy. Apparently not. Photo by Gershon Elinson/FLASH90.

The idea of Jewish settlements under Palestinian rule is ‘dangerous,’ says Bennett

By Gil Hoffman, Herb Keinon, JPost
January 26, 2014

Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett called upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday to rule out letting Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria come under Palestinian control.

An official in Netanyahu’s office was quoted as saying that the prime minister believes that residents of Judea and Samaria should be allowed to remain in a Palestinian state.

“The idea of Jewish settlements under Palestinian sovereignty, as was suggested by someone in the Prime Minister’s Office, is very dangerous and reflects a loss of marbles and values,” Bennett said.

“We did not return to the Land of Israel, after 2,000 years of longing, to live under the government of [President] Mahmoud Abbas.

“Whoever advocates for the idea of Jewish life in Israel under Palestinian rule is undermining our ability to sit in Tel Aviv.”

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon vowed not to abandon the Jews who live over the Green Line to Israel’s enemies.

“I would not wish for my worst enemy to live under Palestinian sovereignty,” Danon said. “Whoever thinks Jews can live under Palestinian control should visit the Gaza Strip. There cannot be security for Jews in areas that are not under IDF control.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said that “only someone deluded enough to believe the lion is ready to lie with the lamb could abandon hundreds of thousands of people to the mercy of those who enabled the lynching in Ramallah.”

He said that whoever was giving Netanyahu such advice was trying to cause problems for him in Likud.

The responses followed Netanyahu’s remark in Davos on Friday that he had no intention of evacuating any settlements or uprooting any Israelis as part of a future agreement with the Palestinians.

Government officials made clear Sunday that Netanyahu has never talked about physically uprooting settlements and their inhabitants from the West Bank, as was done in Gaza in 2005. Rather, he has spoken of the possibility of Jews wanting to live in those settlements being able to do so if they wish.

One official said Netanyahu’s position is that if there is an Arab minority inside Israel, there is no reason why there cannot be a Jewish minority in a future Palestinian state, if those Jews wish to remain there.

One senior government official told The Jerusalem Post some three years ago that a good sign of whether the Palestinians would be able to live in peace next to a Jewish state would be if they would be willing to allow a minority of Jews to live among them.

Earlier Sunday, Likud MKs took credit for Netanyahu’s hawkish statements in Davos.

“It’s an important statement but the battle is clearly not over,” Danon said. “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. We can’t be caught asleep. We have learned that we can’t afford to be complacent. We still don’t know what is in the American document, so we cannot declare victory.”

Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely said she could not be relaxed because US Secretary of State John Kerry was planning to push Israel to withdraw from large portions of Judea and Samaria.

“We might not have a reason to fight him, but we won’t sit silently,” she said.

MK Moshe Feiglin said: “The news made me happy, but I am still worried. Conducting negotiations loses our legitimacy for retaining sovereignty over our land. Begin promised to live in Sinai and Sharon said the fate of Netzarim would be the same as Tel Aviv. With politicians what matters is what they do, not what they say.”

Will Jews be Able to Live in a Future Palestinian State?

Allowing Israeli settlers to remain in the West Bank may ease the burden of drawing a border, but it is not in the interests of Palestinians or Israelis

By Dan Rothem, The Atlantic
January 09, 2012

The Atlantic’s new special report “Is Peace Possible?” is featuring multimedia presentations on the four core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Borders, Security, Refugees, and Jerusalem. These are complex issues, so post your questions in the comments section of each chapter, send them via email (to, or tweet them to us at @IsPeacePossible.

Much of your Borders presentation focuses on how to draw the final borders of Israel in order to evacuate as few Israelis as possible from the West Bank. Why can’t Israelis stay in the West Bank as citizens or residents in the new Palestinian state? Are Palestinians insisting on a Judenrein?

Allowing settlers and settlements to remain in the future state of Palestine, and therefore obviating the need to evacuate them forcefully, would remove one of the biggest obstacles to reaching and implementing an agreement. There are a few different versions of this concept, but most of them involve the idea of leaving those Israeli settlers who wish to remain (and there are many who would not want to) in existing settlements, most likely under Palestinian sovereignty but with some limited autonomous rights.

Obviously, the novel part of this proposal is to make it part of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, as Israelis live in settlements right now, but absent the legitimacy of any significant international actor. The only party that could grant Israeli settlers and settlements the legitimacy they need is the Palestinians. So the key question to ask here is whether the Palestinians would accept such a notion.

Palestinians, in short, have resoundingly objected to such a proposal. “If we want an independent state, I will not accept any single Israeli in our territories,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said at a dinner with Jewish leaders in 2010 hosted by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. “We are not against the Jews. We are against the Israeli occupation.”

Why are Palestinians so opposed to this idea? To Palestinians, the settlement enterprise in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and formerly in the Gaza Strip is the most potent symbol of Israeli occupation. In their eyes — and in the eyes of the vast majority of the international community — they embody Israel’s aggressive strategy to chip away at what is left of the 22 percent of their historical homeland that they claim for a state. Politically, the continuation of settlement growth and expansion has signaled to them Israeli insincerity about a viable two state solution. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Palestinians insist that as part of a final resolution of the conflict, all settlements and settlers will be removed from within the borders of the new state of Palestine. For them, it would be the minimal correction to an historic injustice.

Palestinians claim that once they are satisfied that this injustice has been rectified, they would be ready to consider allowing Israeli Jews to become residents or citizens of Palestine in accordance with Palestinian immigration laws and relevant clauses of the peace treaty. “Once we have peace and two states on the ground, we will have to work on the best of the special relationships between Palestinians and Israelis,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Jerusalem Post. “I hope the day will come when Israelis can live freely in the state of Palestine.”

It is difficult to gauge the level of sincerity with which Palestinians endorse such an option. On the one hand, it is the radical elements of the settler population — historically and currently the source of violent aggression against West Bankers — that are most likely to want to live in the new state of Palestine. On the other hand, it would be difficult for Palestinians to enact policies that discriminate on ethnic or religious grounds. “The kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, co-existence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever,” Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in 2009. “Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the State of Israel.” (In turn, it would also be difficult for Israel to demand Palestinian immigration policies that allow Israelis to become residents or citizens if Israel would not allow the same right to Palestinians.)

Even though the idea of Israelis remaining in a future Palestinian state has recently gained traction in right-wing Israeli and international circles, many Israeli officials object to it. Their first concern is the Israeli interest of clarifying that the two-state solution is a two nation-state solution: Israel fulfills the national aspirations of the Jewish people and Palestine fulfills the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. Accordingly, mixture of populations should be kept to the absolute minimum necessary. For years, Israeli officials criticized the Palestinian Liberation Movement for being the only nationalist movement that wanted, in their demand for a return of Palestinian refugees to homes and properties left in 1948 within Israel proper, to settle parts of its people outside their independent state. Now, some Israelis seem to be arguing for a similar trend.

Secondly, allowing settlers and settlements to stay intact in Palestine would undermine the basic Israeli rationale for amending the 1967 lines. If all settlers could stay where they are — why change the 1967 lines to annex some of them at all?

Thirdly, and not least important, is the issue of security. Should violent incidents occur between Israelis living in the new state of Palestine and Palestinian citizens or security forces, the Israeli government would be in a very tough spot — pressed to act in what essentially is a domestic Palestinian matter of law and order. Any incursion could threaten the peace agreement by infringing on Palestinian sovereignty; if it didn’t act, the Israeli government would allow its citizens to come under threat a few kilometers from its borders, within the historical land of Israel. “How can I provide Israelis living in Palestine with security?” asked former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni during the Annapolis negotiations. “I cannot bear the responsibility of their life in case they are exposed to danger and then the army will have to interfere.”

There are many technical challenges to the implementation of such a proposal. Will the settlers be granted Palestinian citizenship or will they be only residents of Palestine? Will dual Israeli-Palestinian citizenship be allowed by Palestine? by Israel? What will be their civil obligations to Palestine and to Israel? Will they be able to vote in either or both places? But the key impediment to its adoption is that, despite its allure in relieving the need to evacuate Israeli settlers, it is in the interests of neither Palestinians nor Israelis.

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