JTA — For years, Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua has been fighting for a Palestinian state. For years, right-wing Israeli politician Naftali Bennett has been fighting against one.
But now they agree.
Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio on Monday, Yehoshua made a shocking shift after nearly 50 years of peace activism: “It doesn’t make sense to talk about two states.”
“This solution is made more and more difficult, more and more problematic, and after 50 years it has become even harder because of what’s happening on the ground,” Yehoshua said in an interview marking his 80th birthday. “The solution was made impossible first because of the huge settlements that now require evacuating 450,000 people, which is completely delusional.”
Instead, Yehoshua took a page from the playbook of the Jewish Home party, the most hawkish in the Knesset. Bennett, the party’s chairman, vehemently opposes a two-state solution. He has pushed Israel to annex the portion of the West Bank that includes all Israeli settlements and some 100,000 Palestinians. Called Area C, the region makes up about 60 percent of West Bank land. Bennett’s plan would offer Israeli citizenship to Area C Palestinians.
Unlike Bennett, Yehoshua did not call for annexing the area. But he did suggest giving full or partial citizenship to the 100,000 Palestinians who live there.
Given that Jews who live in Area C already are full Israeli citizens, Yehoshua’s proposal ends up sounding a lot like Bennett’s.
“They conflict day and night with the settlers, and they suffer the issue of occupation in the hardest way,” Yehoshua said of Area C Palestinians. “I say to give them residency, like the [Arab] residents of Jerusalem…or even citizenship. That way, you upgrade their position. From the perspective of Israel’s demographics, there’s no problem.”
Yehoshua said his about-face “is not despair. It’s a specific solution to a substantial problem.” He said granting increased rights to Area C Palestinians means giving them benefits like unemployment insurance, Social Security and Israeli wages. Yehoshua sees it as an immediate improvement for some Palestinians, as long as a Palestinian state remains a distant aspiration.
Bennett responded on Twitter, claiming in Hebrew that “A.B. Yehoshua has adopted, in practice, the sovereignty plan I proposed in 2010.”
“This again shows that also the Israeli left are looking for alternatives to the failed idea of a two-state solution,” his spokesperson said in a statement.