December 14, 2020

TO:  Members of Knesset, Cabinet
FM:  Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Matan Vilnai
Re:  The Palestinian Arena and the Normalization Agreements

Last weekend we were informed of the normalization agreement with Morocco and the establishment of diplomatic relations with Bhutan.  This growing trend towards normalization, in our region and elsewhere, has the potential to significantly enhance Israel’s regional and international standing, and thus to strengthen our national security in the broader sense of the term.

Expanding normalization also brings with it multiple opportunities, including integration in regional security structures, coordination in the face of common threats, as well as considerable economic benefits.  However, to maximize advantages from these developments, to expand them to additional states and to facilitate the emergence of a new regional system, it is vital that we remove, to the greatest extent possible, the encumbrance of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

To do this we must stop the slide towards a single state reality between the Jordan and the sea. This alarming development has accelerated to an unprecedented degree in recent days due to legislative initiatives that bring about annexation in all but name.  Instead, we must block these measures and change direction in promoting security-based civilian separation on the West Bank.

Such an Israeli initiative would enable us to fully exploit the opportunities presented by those regional developments and, above all, would foster a process of separation from the Palestinians that would enhance security and stability between the Jordan and the sea.  At the end of the day, only separation into two states will prevent the disaster of a single state that is neither Jewish nor democratic nor reflects the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

It goes without saying that every initiative entails risk.  However, Israel’s strength enables, regional opportunities justify, and the need to separate from the Palestinians requires — that we take the initiative now.  We must act promptly to ensure our vital national interests: a calm security environment, reduced friction between the two peoples, enhanced governance capacity for the Palestinian Authority and security cooperation between the PA and Israeli forces, while preserving the conditions that will allow for a comprehensive, two-state separation in the future.

The early phases of the important process of forming a new regional system makes it ever more urgent to move away from the illusion of managing the conflict with the Palestinians towards a cautious, security-based process of managing its solution.  In both contexts, the dangers inherent in irresponsible moves towards “stealth annexation” are clear.

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