An official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told AP Sunday that all Jewish settlers should have the right to remain in their homes in a future Palestinian State.
Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, the common assumption has been that those Jewish settlers who find themselves on the wrong side of the new green line under the peace deal would be uprooted. Indeed, when Israeli unilaterally left the Gaza Strip, some 8500 Jewish settlers were not offered the option to stay under what, back then, was still a PLO government.
But Netanyahu now appears to believe, according to his official, that there is no reason for a future Palestinian state to be “ethnically cleansed” of its Jews, the official said.
During his stay in Davos, Switzerland over the weekend, Netanyahu told reporters at the World Economic Forum that he was not going to uproot any Israelis as part of the peace agreement.
Netanyahu has committed last year to keeping a settlement “blocs,” where the vast majority of the estimated 500,000 settlers live, as part of any 2-state deal. The Palestinians, apparently, have been planning to accept this as part of the final deal, in exchange to land swaps with Israel – although this part will prove difficult to carry out, as no Israeli Arab is prepared for his town or village to be handed over to the PA.
It is estimated that at least 100 thousand Jews live outside of the settlement blocs, include two major clusters: Karnei Shomron, Ginot Shomron, and several other bedroom communities near Tel Aviv; and Beit El near Ramallah. Until today, it was unclear where they would go. Even if they did not resist deportation—which is highly unlikely—the cost of offering them fair market value and resettling them inside Israel would be staggering, certainly beyond the ability of the Israeli economy and, these days, beyond what the U.S. and the EU might be able or willing to contribute.
Which may explain why the Israeli official on Sunday told the AP that Netanyahu believes there is no reason to uproot settlers against their will.
“The prime minister believes that in peace, just as Israel has an Arab minority, there is no logical reason why the Palestinian state could not contain a Jewish minority and that Jews living in Judea and Samaria would be given the option to stay,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It should not be accepted a priori that in peace the Palestinian state must be ethnically cleansed.”
Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett on Sunday condemned the message coming out of the prime minister’s office, saying they were born by confused values. Bennett said the Jewish people has not endured 2000 years of yearning for Eretz Israel to live here under the rule of Abu Mazen (PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s nom de guerre).
Bennett told Israel Radio that anyone who even considers Jews living under Palestinian rule in Eretz Israel is pulling the rug from under our living in Tel Aviv as well.