In the pre-dawn hours on Tuesday, a unit from the elite Golani Brigade had gone into the village of Ya’abad in the northwestern Shomron, to secure the arrest of members of a terror cell.
The mission had been accomplished and the unit was preparing to leave. Staff Sergeant Amit Ben Yigal was standing near a house, unaware that a terrorist was watching him from the third floor, above. When Ben Yigal looked upward, exposing his face, the terrorist saw his opportunity and hurled a sizeable weapon, which accelerated as it descended and crashed through Ben Yigal’s helmet. (Don’t be misled by reports that it was a “rock.” That minimizes what happened. It was a boulder, or a concrete block.)
Ben Yigal, 21, from Ramat Gan, was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was one month from the end of his tour of army service.
A year ago, on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) Amit Ben Yigal had written these incredible words on his Facebook page (emphasis added):
“Every year since I can remember, on the eve of Memorial Day for Fallen IDF Soldiers, something grabs hold of my heart. I cannot remember one occasion on which I have not been moved to tears. Something grabs my heart and squeezes it tight…
“I am Amit Ben Yigal and I am proud to be part of the Golani Brigade, proud to be part of a years-long tradition, to follow in the footsteps of many before me and be a role model for those who will follow.
“In the past two years, I have attended the memorial services in a different role. I am not a civilian, I am a soldier on active duty representing something, and words take on a new meaning and actions have consequences.
“I am relating personally to events and thinking if anything were to happen to me, what would happen?
“And right away the tears come down trickling down my face as I am struck by this thought:
‘Hey, I have a family at home waiting for me, for the noise I bring with me, the laughter at the table, the clothes and a wet towel thrown on the floor, the kiss from my mother, my father’s voice as I tell him I am on my way home and how excited he is even if I am still an hour away, but most of all knowing everything is fine.’
“And then the tears are no longer a trickle – they are a waterfall and I must make them stop, for I am in uniform.’”
Now everything is not fine, and those who loved him do not know how to stop the tears.
His father, Baruch, is inconsolable. “He was my whole world,” he cried. And his mother, Nava, who related that she had woken up at 5:15 a.m. saying “Baruch Dayan Haemet”, (said on hearing news of a death), but then, when she heard the knocks on the door that she had intuited, screamed at them to go away.
Yet it is not just those who loved Amit Ben Yigal who should be aggrieved and outraged, but all of us. Aggrieved and outraged.
A WhatsApp video went viral on Palestinian Arab cell phones after Ben Yigal was murdered: It showed his blood running through the street
The terrorist who killed Ben Yigal fled, but will be caught. Of this I am certain.
But there is talk now of a “peace process” and this incident should not be forgotten because it is not simply an aberration, obscene behavior exhibited by a mere handful of despicable beings. It reflects an attitude that we must factor into any “peace” agreement. Of course it is not a universal attitude, but it is significant enough to give us pause.
I want to devote the rest of this posting to that “peace” agreement, one aspect of which may be imminent.
I refer, of course, to the “Peace to Prosperity” plan (commonly referred to as the Deal of the Century) of the Trump administration. What may be implemented soon is application of sovereignty by Israel over the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, as well as over the Jordan Valley.
As I have explained before, you will frequently see reference in media sources to Israeli “annexation” of these areas, but you will never see it in my writing. “Annexation” legally means incorporation of an area that was not previously part of a political unit (country, state, city) into that political unit.
But legally, by virtue of San Remo and the subsequent Mandate for Palestine, all of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean was established as Jewish homeland in international law.
What we would be doing now is applying Israeli law to areas to which we already have claim.
But the “Peace to Prosperity” plan certainly does not envision application of Israeli law over all of Judea and Samaria. It speaks about a “two state solution” (yes, we’re back to that) in which Israel would be able to apply sovereignty now over 30% of Judea and Samaria, with the remainder held for a Palestinian state to be established within the next four years if certain criteria are met.
It speaks about the fact that the “security requirements” of Israel must have first priority, but I am very dubious as to whether the plan truly addresses this adequately.
A map, referred to as the conceptual map of the vision of the “Peace to Prosperity” plan, was drawn up and released with the plan in January of this year.
In response to several Israeli objections, additional work was being done on the map. In the picture below we see a very serious Netanyahu meeting with Friedman and the mapping committee.
Although the meeting of the Israeli and American teams has been hindered by coronavirus restrictions, I do believe the adjustments to the map are complete. I have no idea if all concerns that were expressed have been fully and adequately addressed, but I would tend to think not.
Objections focused on the fact that certain communities to which sovereignty would be applied were isolated within areas that are envisioned as part of the Palestinian state. There was not territorial contiguity of these different areas, but rather, a “virtual” contiguity via a network of tunnels and bridges. And in at least one instance, a major road that Israelis travel regularly would run through that Palestinian state.
Application of sovereignty can begin, we are being told, in July. Exactly how this will play out within the confines of the unity government (which has yet to be unveiled) is something I cannot predict.
The Trump administration will support this application of sovereignty, but only if it is done within the terms of the plan.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (pictured below) says that Israel is on board for this plan, which he sees as an enormously brave venture. Apparently Prime Minister Netanyahu has made verbal commitments already.
In broad terms, as explained by Friedman, the Palestinian Arabs are not remotely in a position to strike an agreement today, and will be given up to four years to do so, without penalty. In the meantime, the area of land that would become their state (including land in Area C) will be held for them.
This means that for four years Israel will freeze all development in Judea and Samaria beyond the 30% in which sovereignty will be applied.
It also means that Israel must agree to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, according to what is laid out in the plan. Verbally our prime minister has already made some such commitment.
You can hear Ambassador Friedman explaining this here:
The requirements laid out in the plan for a Palestinian state are, not to put too fine a point on it, ludicrous: Ludicrous, in the sense of the Palestinian Arabs ever complying with all of it. If Israel reaches an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, it says, Israel only has to implement its obligations if the Palestinian Authority has full control of Gaza, terror organizations are disarmed, and Gaza is fully demilitarized.
The Palestinian people must “reject the ideologies of destruction, terror and conflict…”
See the agreement here:
As I have noted before, one has the feeling that the “peace team,” headed by Jared Kushner, which put this together, approached the project with great sincerity, but with a commensurate degree of naiveté. The hope built into this plan is that the economic portion of it will so attract the Palestinian Arabs that they may yet reverse their current stance.
Friedman certainly gets it, though. In an interview with Israel Hayom, he declared:
“…you don’t have to live with that Palestinian state [a terror-supporting state], you have to live with the Palestinian state when the Palestinians become Canadians.”
It is quite likely that the unity government is going to move ahead on this. And so what we must ask is whether this is a good thing, and what the drawbacks are.
There is an ideological question:
Do we move ahead, committing to a Palestinian state in our midst, although the land is ours? Even if no such state evolves now, won’t we have established a precedent for the future?
On the other hand, the Trump administration is by far the most pro-Israel US government that has existed since we declared independence in 1948. It is prepared to recognize our rights to at least portions of Judea and Samaria. This is an all-time first, a major step forward. And so would it not be foolish and short-sighted not to take what we can, while we can?
We must remember, as well, that, as much as we hope Trump will win re-election, there remains the possibility that he might not. And so, we have a limited window in which to act.
Some on the right here suggest applying sovereignty as it seems appropriate to us, without signing on to the full plan, or recognizing the possibility of a Palestinian state. With this approach, we lose support of the Trump administration. Would that be a wise move now?
There are those – Daniel Pipes primary among them – who say that if we were to move ahead, we would pay too big a price in stoking the animosity of the international community.
But do we pull back because of what the EU and the UN, and other like-minded groups, say? They have never been with us, and will never be with us. To concern ourselves unduly with them seems to me a mistake.
Our history is replete with instances in which we moved despite warnings from the international community. In each instance we did what we had to do, and the world did not collapse. Most famously was this the case when Ben Gurion had the courage to declare independence in spite of dire warnings of what would happen.
I believe we are being given an opportunity to move forward and must take it.
Even with the sovereignty limited to 30% of Judea and Samaria, we would garner some very important gains: in the Jordan Valley, which has enormous implications; in E1, an area outside of Jerusalem that has strategic importance; in Hevron, which must be ours eternally, etc.
See Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, on this:
At each step in our history as a modern state, the area under our control has expanded. Our hope here must be that at the end of the four years, when the Palestinian Arabs have not complied, we will be able to apply sovereignty to the major portion of Judea and Samaria.
But this leads to another concern: What will have happened to the areas that are intended for a Palestinian state during the four years of an Israeli freeze? The Palestinian Arabs are duplicitous and dishonest. They, too, are supposed to refrain from further building during this time. But they will not. They build illegally in Area C now. What will we have at the end of the four years? What will be possible in the way of our continued growth?
This question is just a part of the broader issue of monitoring of the Palestinian Authority, with specific recognized guidelines for what constitutes compliance in all areas. One small instance: There have been demands that the Palestinian Authority cease payments to terrorists in prison and their families. So what do they do? Some fancy accounting, in an attempt to hide those payments in their financial reports.
Or suppose that Hamas decides to hide its most sophisticated weaponry, turn over some rockets, and declare itself demilitarized? Very unlikely, but suppose…
Who checks? This calls for an Israeli government that is diligent and ready to stand strong for Israeli rights.
At the end of the day, all of these issues, which must be raised, are likely moot. For just as I speak about our ideology, so do the Palestinian Arabs have an ideology. It calls for the complete destruction of the Jewish state. They will never sign on to an agreement with Israel. They will never cooperate with a plan that calls for recognition of Israel.
This basic fact has not changed.
We must forge ahead with maximum wisdom and strength.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has informed the president and speaker of the Knesset that he has succeeded in forming a government. More soon…
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.