A group of former top Israeli security officials issued a full-page Arabic-language ad in two of Israel’s leading newspapers Sunday morning calling for an immediate political separation from the Palestinians living in the West Bank.
The publication of the ad, which was taken out by Commanders for Israel’s Security, a group that describes itself as a nonpartisan body of more than 200 retired officers, came as a conference in which representatives from some 70 countries will attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was set to kick off in Paris.
The group is led by Amnon Reshef, a fabled war hero and former commander of the armored corps, and includes among others former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz, former police chief Assaf Hefetz, former head of the Mossad Shabtai Shavit and former head of the Shin Bet security service Ami Ayalon.
The ad, which appeared in the Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz dailies, has “Soon we will be the majority” written in Arabic on it and “Palestine: One state for two people” written in English, both references to the West Bank’s growing Palestinian population, which proponents of a two-state solution warn will destroy Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state if a separate Palestinian state is not established alongside Israel.
Also on the ad is a telephone number, which if dialed plays a recording of former GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi saying: “Are the billboards bothering you? They will disappear in a few days. Those who won’t disappear are two and a half million Palestinians in the West Bank. They want to be the majority — and this is who we want to annex? If we don’t separate from the Palestinians, Israel will be less Jewish and less secure. We need to separate from the Palestinians now.”
The group has previously run public campaigns encouraging Israeli policymakers to work toward a two-state solution, including a report it issued last May calling on Israel to “preserve conditions” for negotiations with the Palestinians by freezing settlement construction in the West Bank, accepting the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for peace talks and recognizing that East Jerusalem will be part of a future Palestinian state.
Despite stressing its nonpartisan bona fides, Commanders for Israel’s Security has previously been highly critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his policies, having accused him of “destroying the covenant with the United States” over his speech in Congress opposing the nuclear deal with Iran led by the Obama administration, as well as siding against the prime minister during a public spat he had with former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon last May.
The publication of the ad on Sunday came ahead of the planned Paris peace conference later in the day, in which the states in attendance are expected to call for the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the establishment of conditions and initiatives that will lead to a peace deal.
The Palestinians have welcomed the conference and hope it will build on December’s UN Security Council declaring settlements illegal and John Kerry’s speech a week later in which he labeled settlements as the main obstacle to a peace deal.
Israeli leaders have condemned the conference, with Netanyahu saying on Thursday that it was “rigged” and emphasizing Israel’s belief that only bilateral talks between the sides will lead to a peace deal.
AP contributed to this report.