Shaked touts ‘confederation’ of Jordan, Gaza, and parts of West Bank
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Shaked touts ‘confederation’ of Jordan, Gaza, and parts of West Bank

In foreign press briefing, justice minister calls for annexation of Area C, claims Palestinians may in the future agree to her plan

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the Maariv Conference in Jerusalem on October 15, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the Maariv Conference in Jerusalem on October 15, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has proposed a “confederation” between parts of the West Bank, Jordan, and Gaza.

“Our plan is to apply Israeli sovereignty on Area C and give the Palestinians living there full citizenship. Areas A and B will be part of a confederation, together with Jordan and Gaza,” she told journalists Wednesday in Jerusalem.

“There’s a large Palestinian population in Jordan and the Palestinians already have a state in Gaza. In the distant future, a confederation of these three entities will be the right way forward,” she added.

Responding to a reporter’s question about how she envisions the “end-game” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Shaked, a member of the nationalist Jewish Home party, seemed to endorse party chairman Naftali Bennett’s so-called Stability Plan.

First published in 2012, that plan calls for Israeli annexation of the West Bank’s Area C, where most of the Jewish settlers live. According to the Oslo Accords, Israel has full military and administrative control over Area C, which comprises about 60 percent of the West Bank’s territory.

According to the plan, the Palestinians who reside in Area C would be offered Israeli citizenship or residency, while those living in areas A and B — which are under full Palestinian or joint Palestinian-Israel control — would govern themselves, though they would not have a sovereign state.

Bennett, whose party is categorically opposed to Palestinian statehood, has in recent months repeatedly spoken of “a Palestinian autonomy on steroids” in areas A and B.

In June, he once more dismissed the two-state solution, saying in an interview that he is “open to other ideas, like a Jordanian confederation,” though it was unclear what exactly he was referring to.

Shaked, speaking at a foreign press briefing organized by The Israel Project, acknowledged that the Palestinians currently vociferously oppose Bennett’s plan, insisting on an independent state based on the 1967 lines, but argued that their position may change over time.

“Today, they don’t agree; it may look like science fiction. But not too long ago, Israelis were sent to prison for talking to [Yasser] Arafat,” she said, referring to a time during which contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization were illegal in Israel.

“Things change,” she added. “In the international community, they like to say that Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] are under occupation — they’re not. They’re areas under dispute. Right now the Palestinians are opposed to our plan, but maybe in the future they will agree to a confederation.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with Jason Greenblatt, the US president’s assistant and special representative for international negotiations, at Abbas’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (WAFA)

The idea of a confederation, though in a different form, has been floated in recent months in the context of the US administration’s much-awaited peace proposal.

In September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said President Donald Trump’s senior peace envoys had asked him what he thinks of a confederation between Palestine and Jordan.

“I said [to the envoys, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt]: Yes, I want a three-way confederation with Jordan and Israel,” Abbas said at the time.

But Greenblatt denied that a confederation was part of the plan. “We’re not looking at a confederation model,” he told The Times of Israel in September.

Last week, Shaked, a member of the security cabinet, predicted Trump’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace would fail.

“I think that the gap between the Palestinians and the Israelis is much too big to be bridged,” she said in an English-language interview on stage at the Jerusalem Post diplomatic conference.

“I think personally it’s a waste of time,” she added. “Although I want peace like anyone else, I think I’m just more realistic. And I know that in the current future, it is impossible.”

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