Here are a number of responses or follow-up comments to the discussion of my post yesterday, about how Israel should leave most of the West Bank, and disengage from the Palestinians. I have no way of knowing what most readers thought of all this, but the ones who commented tended to be critical of the idea.
1. It occurs to me that I didn't say explicitly what should have been obvious. The entire project of leaving the West Bank will require significant legislation on many topics, which cannot be passed by the current coalition (though it could be by a different coalition in the present Knesset). Therefore, the project will need to be sanctioned by the electorate long before it happens. Having closely watched Israeli politics for almost 40 years, since my late teens, I'm convinced such a proposition, formulated correctly, would be a winning platform for any large political party, though Kadima is currently the best positioned to run with it since it was essentially invented for this purpose. But Likud, Lieberman's party or even the almost defunct Labor party could also run with it, and were any of them to do so, they'd probably win the elections. (The formulation would be important).
Such a move wouldn't be a putsch by Leftists, it would be the expression of the Israeli will as formulated through the political process. As such, it would be accepted by a majority of the settlers.
2. An early part of the legislation, the proposition to assist settlers to move, has already been under discussion for a number of years; surprisingly - or not at all, depending how much you know about the reality - many settlers themselves are eager to have such a law passed. At the moment, many thousands of non-ideological settler families who moved to acquire cheap housing, cannot move out since their homes cannot be sold at reasonable prices. Were the government to alleviate this in some manner, they would move immediately. This piece of legislation alone would noticeably reduce the number of settlers, it would send a message to our friends abroad that we're serious, and would have no impact at all on the Palestinians' ability to harm Israelis. (On the contrary: there would be fewer Israelis on the West Bank to be harmed).
3. Water, aquifers and so on are not relevant in the mid- or long-term. As I wrote recently, Israel is already on the road to supplying its needs by desalination and purification of used water. This isn't because of the West Bank, it's because we've already exhausted the natural resources. Moreover, Israel supplies water to the Palestinians, not the other way around.
4. The line to be moved back to - I offhand said it would be the line of the security fence - is not the same as the line of 1967, though it isn't very far from it, either. So of course the state of war with the Palestinians would continue, and anyone who loves to damn us for any inch of occupation will be able to continue to do so. I never said otherwise. This is inevitable in any case, since reaching an agreed line of partition with the Palestinians is not possible, as I explained yesterday and many times previously. On the other hand, Barack Obama himself seemed in his recent speech to be suggesting the same thing, or at least something resembling it; so far as I understand the dynamics of international relations, such a move, or even merely its initial steps, would significantly improve Israel's relations with foreign politicians who are not automatically anti-Israel. Such figures would include, at the moment, people like Angela Merkel, Nicholas Sarkozy, Silvio Berlusconi, and as I said, Barack Obama. I don't see how this would be bad for Israel.
5. Canny Israeli leaders should indeed be able to get some political gains from America and even Europe for such a policy. There is no doubt about it.
6. Palestinians and Israelis in the remaining narrow parts of Israeli-occupied West Bank: I don't know what would happen to them. Were Israel to annex the areas, the local Palestinians would be offered Israeli citizenship, and all Israeli laws would apply to anyone living there, Jew or Arab. However, I rather doubt they'd be annexed. There are good reasons why Israel hasn't ever annexed these areas, and they'd still be in place.
7. Gilad Shalit doesn't fit into this discussion. Lots of things don't. It's not a suggestion to correct the world's ills, rather to deal with a specific part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
8. Regarding the objection that I'm advocating fleeing under fire, and that the missiles will rain down on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (where I live): Guilty as charged, only in the opposite way. Yes, I'm suggesting we leave the West Bank without any expectation of peace with the Palestinians - because such an expectation can't be fulfilled anyway. No, I'm not suggesting that Israel then live with a rain of missiles on Tel Aviv etc etc. I don't regard myself as a fool, nor will the Israeli majority that votes for this project be made up of more fools than any regular electorate. I know all about Gaza (some of you may remember that I had a son fighting there in 2009), and Southern Lebanon, and the mistakes of Oslo, and the Second Intifada, and all those things. I look at all those cases, and see general calm on all fronts, and I deduce that the calm is no coincidence. Hizballah, many West Bank Palestinians, and Hamas in Gaza all hate us as much now as they did previously, and yet over the past few years they've all decided to stop most of their violence against us for the time being. As did the Syrians, Jordanians, and Egyptians before them. At the moment, the weakest link in the chain are the settlers on the West Bank, who are the hardest to protect, just as the settlers in Gaza were effectively impossible to protect before 2005 - a matter never mentioned, somehow, in all the rhetoric about how awful it was that Israel left Gaza.
Unlike Hizballah, the Palestinians are susceptible to various types of Israeli pressure. Their economy is essentially dependent on Israel's, while Israel isn't dependent on them. They're dependent on Israel for water, electricity, and indeed their very currency (they use ours, for reasons of their own). The thing is, Israel has never had a policy of full disengagement from its control of the Palestinians, and thus has never been in the position to claim that it owes them nothing. Were there to be such a policy, the entire equation would change. True, Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians would remain part of the equation, but only one part among many. I don't see why Israel's cards in that game would be weaker than the Palestinian hand.
Anyway, as I've repeatedly written, the Israeli occupation of Palestine has become the Palestinians' worst weapon against Israel, worse than any military threat they might pose. It's time for Israel to disarm that weapon. That is the base of my position, and all the talk about missiles on Tel Aviv doesn't change it.