After 20 years of creeping annexation, Israel is approaching the point of no return.  What was previously illegal is being whitewashed through hasty, retroactive legislation. The 2021 elections are a time of decision: time to save Israel’s democracy, Jewish majority.

By Matan Vilnai | 31.12.2020 | Ynet

The start of a new election season is high time to demand that people standing for office state their position on the one issue that is missing from the agenda but will decide this country’s fate: what will they do to prevent the collapse of Israel’s Jewish majority and democracy, when we annex the territories?

Before we allow annexation to seal our fate, we must demand of those seeking office to explain how they see our relationship with three million Palestinians on the West Bank and another two million in the Gaza Strip, who, like us, are not going anywhere.

Naturally, our attention is focused on COVID19. However, once free from the dread of the pandemic, we will realize that the existential threat to the Zionist vision is still here: integrating millions of Palestinians either by choice — as we press ahead with annexation, or by default — with the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces (who are credited by our security agencies with saving Israeli lives and maintained stability), obliging the IDF to fill the ensuing security and governance vacuum.

De-facto annexation, which has been proceeding for decades, approaches the point of no return. What had been creeping has recently accelerated. What was anecdotal has turned comprehensive. What was declared illegal by successive governments is being whitewashed through hasty, retroactive legislation. What previously happened in broad daylight is now taking place below the radar of public scrutiny.

Whether those (like myself) who believe that conditions are not ripe for a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians are correct, or whether they are wrong, Israel cannot leave its fate in the hands of the messianic-annexationist minority that exploits public apathy, political instability, the transition between US administrations or any other circumstance to create a reality whereby it will be impossible to separate ourselves from millions of Palestinians.

A separation process, designed to lead to an eventual two state solution, is not risks-free. A responsible government, however, can and must make it happen based on four foundations: Israel’s strength, greater than that of all adversaries, allows us to take calculated risks; regional opportunities afford us the assistance of potent and influential Arab countries; a new US administration, which seems willing and able to assist in the process, including by mobilizing others and their resources; and the future of the Zionist enterprise, which requires that we implement this national strategy.

Commanders for Israel’s Security [CIS], the organization I am proud to chair, has submitted to the government and made available to the public its “Security First”, a detailed plan for separation. The plan specifies security, civil-economic, and diplomatic measures in pursuit of the following principles: civilian separation and a reduction in friction between Israelis and Palestinians; enhancing the governance of the Palestinian Authority and the capacity of its security forces; improving quality of life in the territories; maintaining Israeli security responsibility for the West Bank until robust security arrangements are put in place as part of a future agreement; all while maintaining, and improving conditions for an eventual negotiated two-state agreement. Candidates for office should be asked for their reaction to this plan and our next government should consider embracing it.

As a democrat, I will accept the decision of the majority if it votes in favor of annexation. As a Zionist who devoted much of my adult life to defending our country – mostly in uniform and on battle fields, but also in a suit, on the political and diplomatic arena — I will do everything I can to prevent such a calamitous decision and the ensuing tragedy of a binational state.

I believe in the fundamental wisdom of the Israeli public, and in the age-old survival instinct of the Jewish People. Both, as well as careful surveys of current trends in Israeli society, lead me to the conviction that placing this existential decision at the heart of the election campaign is essential in order to end the bizarre disconnect between majority position on this issue and its voting patterns. Once on the agenda, two results can be expected: an unequivocal decision against annexation, and the formation of a stable government that can pursue a cautious policy of separation from the Palestinians.

The outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic was beyond our control. A decision to strengthen the State of Israel as the democratic home of the Jewish People by blocking all annexation measures is in our hands.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Matan Vilani is Chairman of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS). He is a former Deputy Chief of Staff of the IDF, cabinet minister and ambassador to China.