Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it is near certain that Israel will annex 30% of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) including the Jordan Valley. This is in line with the Trump peace plan. What is so important is the realism of the Trump plan. I have noted this in past posts but will repeat. Before the Oslo peace plan, both liberal and conservative governments in Israel supported creating towns in the disputed territories. The main reason was to have more territory controlled by Israel so that Israel’s strategic depth for defense was increased. Yes, the right-wing with P. M. Begin hoped to see a permanent annexation of the territories, but that was not pursued and was politically not feasible. The hope was that the Palestinian areas could be ceded to Jordan or that the Arab residents could be residents in Israel but citizens in Jordan.
With the Oslo peace plan and the idea of a two-state solution being revived (this was the original U. N. plan from 1947) the issue became how to draw the border. Israel’s government, during the time of the hopes of the Oslo plan, was seeking to cede most of the territories for a Palestinian State. In the P. M. Olmert plan, the Palestinian’s would be given 95% of the territories in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Israel 5% to preserve the larger settlements. When the Palestinians walked away from this plan, the left as a power in Israeli politics was destroyed. This is why today we have a large rightwing group of parties, and a centrist group of parties but no significant left-wing power (despite Bibi calling the center parties left-wing!)
The Trump plan still holds out hope for a Palestinian State on the 70% of the land plus Gaza. However, if the Palestinians will not come to negotiate, President Trump has made it known that Israel can then go ahead and annex these territories as long as Israel coordinates mapping with the White House. Bibi is very thankful to President Trump and the President is popular in Israel. He has recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and moved the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital. His peace plan is the only realistic one. Why? Because the other plans require removing some of the towns of the territories. There are over 400,000 Israelis in these towns. Any government that sought to remove even part of them would face stiff resistance, bloodshed, and even civil war! Trump’s plan does not require removing any of the settlements. A Palestinian state is still very unlikely, and quietly some really hope for a return to the Jordanian citizenship idea in the years ahead so as to avoid a Palestinian state and a claim of apartheid. This declaration of annexation, probably in July or August, will probably lead to much world rejection and maybe a new Palestinian uprising (intifada). It may threaten the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt. It would also risk relationships that were growing with other Arab nations. However, Bibi sees this as a once in a lifetime opportunity with Trump as President, and he will take the risk. He has the votes to do it.
However, the leader of the settlement council and the Jordan Valley communities, David Elhaynai, seeks to thwart the plan for two reasons. First, he and his followers will not countenance the idea of a Palestinian state at all. They want all the territory without full rights for the Palestinians (not by the choice of the Palestinians but by Israel’s fiat). They do not want to even say they accept the Trump plan in theory. Bibi wants the loss of a Palestinian state to be blamed on the Palestinians. He, therefore, accepts the Trump plan. He is a realist and politically very savvy. Secondly, Elhaynai is upset that 15 small settlements, some of which were illegal but have been since legalized, will not be in contiguous connection to the new Israeli 30% territory. For this, he also rejects the plan. Why would he be so extreme and zealous? It is hard to know. He is not part of the super right-wing religious though he has to represent them as part of his constituency. These latter folks believe that taking all the Land is a Messianic mandate that precedes the coming of the Messiah. Whatever his reasons, he has to represent them and is himself a maximalist for other reasons. My concern in all of this is that these zealots are of the same spirit that Yeshua warned about and noted that their direction would lead to the destruction of Jerusalem. He said if only they had known the way for peace. We cannot say that Israel today, mostly not committed to Biblical standards and faith, would have the favor of God to reenact the conquering of Joshua. There is no prophetic voice of leadership for this. We cannot hope for or depend on God’s favor for such radical recommendations. We are not a righteous nation though comparatively more righteous than many. This settler leader has even lambasted Trump as not a friend of Israel. He has drawn the rebuke of Bibi for this and rightly so. I believe that this is the same spirit as the radical zealots of the first century, and they must not be allowed to scuttle the progress that has been made due to President Trump. A way for the Palestinians to find justice while Israel realistically can claim the territory of the settlements is the realistic way forward. Netanyahu is taking a terrible risk. I hope it works out. But the settlers are asking him to go beyond risk toward a probable disaster.