November 2, 2011

To: Members of Knesset and Cabinet
Fm: Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Matan Vilnai
Re:  Whoever wins the U.S. presidential election, the Palestinian issue will not go away

Tomorrow, Americans will elect their president, House of Representatives and a third of their Senate.  Without detracting from the centrality of our strategic alliance with the U.S., decisions about the security and future of the State of Israel are taken here, in Jerusalem.

Whether President Trump is elected to a second term or whether democratic challenger Joe Biden comes out on top, neither they nor any other American citizen shoulder responsibility for addressing Israel’s most profound challenge: our relations with millions of West Bank Palestinians and the perilous drift towards a binational state, that would be neither Jewish nor democratic.

Creeping annexation threatens to shut the door on a future two-state separation from the Palestinians.  Recent efforts to accelerate this process, in the form of both legislation and extensive housing construction, put Israel’s Jewish majority at risk.  If these efforts are not blocked immediately, they will undermine the security and wellbeing of every Israeli and the future of our younger generation.

Neither the states currently normalizing relations with Israel nor the White House – be it under Trump or Biden – will have to contend with West Bank security and governance vacuum once the Palestinian Authority ceases to function.

The continued erosion of the capacity and motivation of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces to carry out their respective missions could reach a point when Israel is obliged to assert complete authority over Palestinian population centers in order to prevent hostile elements – the Hamas above all – from taking control.

Annexing the main settlement blocs, along with Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, must be a fundamental element of any future agreement. However, what is a legitimate demand in negotiations is likely to prove detrimental to the security, indeed the very future of Israel, when imposed unilaterally.

The decision about our future relations with millions of Palestinians – whether we separate from each other in a two-state agreement or join in a binational state – will not be taken in Washington, Manama or Abu Dhabi. The decision is ours alone.

Rather than further undermining the Palestinian Authority’s capacity for governance by annexing territory, Israel must make a concerted effort to strengthen the PA.  A prudent and well planned process of separation will not only prevent Israel’s slide towards a non-Zionist, one state solution.  It may also persuade Palestinians of the legitimacy of the PA and the value of supporting it – as well as its security coordination with us.

The bottom line is this:  A safe and meticulously planned separation from the Palestinians is not a matter of contention between right and left.  It is a vital, Zionist interest, and a necessary condition to ensure the sustainability of the Jewish national home we have built and defended at such great cost.

On behalf of the hundreds of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) members, I call upon you to:

  • Put an immediate halt to the process of annexation, be it limited or extensive;
  • Take advantage of regional developments in changing the trajectory of our relations with the Palestinians; and
  • Promote separation en route to a future two-state solution.

All, in order to assure the security, democracy and Jewish majority of the State of Israel for generations to come.

Maj. Gen (Ret.) Matan Vilnai
Commanders for Israel’s Security