‘We Won’t Commit National Suicide’

Knesset Candidate Jeremy Gimpel. Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Gimpel.

The unexpected star-party in the 2013 Israeli elections, Habayit Hayehudi—or The Jewish Home in English—has a plan to handle conflict in the Middle East that doesn’t involve a Palestinian state in Israeli territory. And according to Jeremy Gimpel, a candidate for The Jewish Home party who spoke with The Mideast Update on Sunday, that approach is already showing signs of working.

“Last year, there was not a single Israeli, not a civilian, not a soldier, that was killed in Judea and Samaria. And we look at the disaster of Gaza, and we saw there was the [Turkish] flotilla and there was [Operation] Cast Lead and now there was [Operation] Pillar of Defense, and Gaza has turned into this impossible situation,” said Gimpel, number 14 on The Jewish Home candidate list who also with Ari Abramowitz runs TheLandofIsrael.com.

“It’s specifically where the Jewish people held on to the Land of Israel and the State of Israel held on to Judea and Samaria, there’s relative quiet… So we see that there really are other options other than retreating and giving up. Which in turn, of course, obviously only strengthens the terrorism on the other side.”

Rather than continue the so-called “land for peace” strategy, Gimpel said his party’s vision for the situation with the Palestinian Arabs takes a long-range approach. First, they would annex the territory where Jews live in Judea and Samaria—the Biblical name for the West Bank—a region known as Area C. The Arabs who live there would be granted Israeli citizenship with full democratic rights.

Areas A and B, which are essentially Arab zones in Judea and Samaria, would be left in the status quo, where the Palestinian Arabs basically govern themselves but the IDF still has access for counterterrorism operations.

After that, Gimpel believes patience is a virtue. “I think that it’s quite clear at this point that there is no immediate solution, sometimes problems don’t always have immediate solutions. So the question really is, ‘How do we deal with the situation that we have and make our lives as good as possible and make the lives of the Arabs in the area as easy as possible?,” said Gimpel.

He said that the region and Israel are “so dynamic” and therefore “we don’t need to make any wild decisions now that would ultimately bring our national suicide on us. What we could do is wait, wait and see.”

He notes that it’s possible that new Palestinian leadership could emerge to find a better solution or the Arab Spring could create a future situation in which the predominantly Palestinian nation of Jordan would create a confederacy of sorts with the Palestinians in the West Bank. He also mentioned potentially dialoging with local Palestinian leaders rather than “propped-up government leaders.”

Naftali Bennett, the chairman for The Jewish Home Party and whom Gimpel believes is a key a reason for the party’s success, noted in the plan for the Palestinian situation presented on the My Israel website that ground-level cooperation is an important tool with which to build peace. He has therefore called for economic improvements that benefit the Palestinian Arabs.

Hear the audio from The Mideast Update’s interview with Knesset Candidate Jeremy Gimpel, or read more of the discussion here.

There are certainly a number of people who disagree that such a plan could work, but Gimpel isn’t the only one worried about the alternatives. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has endorsed a two-state approach to the Palestinian situation, nonetheless wants to maintain security control of a Palestinian state’s borders, at least at first, to try and prevent the arms smuggling that has so characterized Gaza.

In the current security front, the ongoing presence of IDF counterterrorism operations in Judea and Samaria has played an important role in preventing terrorism, as has the extensive security barrier around the Jewish areas. In addition, the security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians is believed to have helped keep some of the quiet as well. It should be noted that despite the overall security success some riot-like violence has continued and even recently increased, and non-lethal terrorism remains a problem.

There are some concerns that the current situation is liable to explode into renewed violence as was seen in the two Intifada terror wars, although the quiet has been kept fairly effectively in light of the 2003 Defensive Shield counterterrorism operation and the building of the security fence. Furthermore, Gimpel believes that creating a Palestinian state inside Israeli territory in the West Bank would cause a host of long-range dangers.

“20 years we have been trying this ‘land for peace’ process and it hasn’t worked. It’s only brought us more Kassam rockets, more terrorism, the Hamas government in Gaza,” said Gimpel, who later noted that a Palestinian state would also bring in an influx of millions of Palestinians and their descendants claiming refugee status.

“That would be a mistake for which we would never be able to turn back the clock. We would have three million new Arabs that would then be pushing on the borders towards the West of Israel.”

Said Gimpel, “We will not commit national suicide to appease President Obama or to appease the European Union or to appease anyone. We have the right to live as a free people in our land, and it’s time that we say it loud and clear.”

According to six different media polls in Israel re-published by Haaretz’s website, The Jewish Home party would gain the third-most seats in the next Knesset (parliament), behind the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu joint ticket, which leads the current government under Netanyahu, and the leftist Labor party. Gimpel believes that Bennet and The Jewish Home’s approach towards the Palestinian situation are key reasons for the party’s surprise success.

Currently The Jewish Home party has just three seats in the Knesset, but a number of polls show them earning 13 or 14 seats in the next election, to be held on January 22. That could give The Jewish Home party important clout in helping to direct a Netanyahu-led coalition more towards the right, according to Gimpel.

And if you’re wondering what the future holds for Israel’s political future, Gimpel believes the current surge by The Jewish Home party is much more than a flash in the pan.

Said Gimpel, “Polls show that if elections were held only between the years of 18-years-old and 45-years-old, meaning the younger generation in Israel, The Jewish Home party would be the largest party in all of Israel and [party chairman] Naftali Bennet would be the prime minister.”

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 13, 2013)