September 29, 2020

Dear Knesset Members;

Re: Leveraging regional transformations to changing course with the Palestinians

On Tuesday, Sept 15, we followed with appreciation the White House signing ceremony of Israel’s normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain. These agreements reflect the depth of regional transformations and the opportunities therein to enhance Israel’s national security.

The concurrent removal from the agenda of plans to unilaterally annex West Bank territory indicates a correct prioritization of Israel’s national security requirements. Certainly, the potential contribution of regional cooperation to meeting cross-border challenges trumps any rationale for annexation. Annexation contributes nothing to security; rather, it harms our security and threatens our regional and international standing, our economy and national well-being.

This regional initiative holds the promise of advancing Israel’s objectives in the Palestinian context as well.

Separating from the Palestinians and an eventual two-state solution, which are essential for our ability to maintain a solid Jewish majority in a democratic and secure Israel, are also shared objectives of most players on the regional and international scenes.

The signed normalization agreements, like possible future ones, can serve either as a bypass of our conflict with the Palestinians or as a bridge for its resolution. To an important extent, the decision is ours. Israel must decide whether it continues the slide toward a bi-national state and the ensuing end of the Zionist enterprise, or does it wish to mobilize regional states to help in changing direction: from managing and perpetuating the conflict to solving it.

Whether those who argue that conditions are not ripe for an ultimate settlement are right or wrong, it will be a mistake to stick with managing the conflict, which is based on the illusion of a status quo. This strategy leads to only one outcome: one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which is neither Jewish, nor democratic, conflicted from within, and thus not secure.

Given the new regional opportunities, the government of Israel must act to change direction regarding the Palestinians: from a continuous slide toward one state, to advancing calculated steps of secure separation leading to a two-state outcome, all in a regional context.

Shana tova, ktiva vachatima tova;

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