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May 15, 2014 1:54 pm

Israel’s Bennett Pushes Plan to Exercise Israeli Sovereignty, Devolve More Autonomy to PA in ‘Post-Oslo’ Era (VIDEO)

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett's plan for a new approach in the "post-Oslo" era. Photo: Screenshot.

A screenshot of Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett's video presentation of a plan for a new approach in the "post-Oslo" era. Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday said he was responding to calls by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “alternative solutions”  in this “post-Oslo” era, after the collapse of U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinian Authority two weeks ago, by pushing a plan he first unveiled in 2012.

On Facebook, Bennett said that in the absence of a peace agreement, Israel should be pro-active in separating the three areas of the West Bank, known as A, B and C, as described in the Oslo II Accord.

The plan Bennett pushed on Thursday would exercise greater Israeli sovereignty over the regions of Judea and Samaria, as the West Bank is known in Israel, now dubbed Area C, where some 400,000 Jews live in what the international community calls “the settlements,” while devolving full autonomy to the PA to manage Area B, home to 440 small Arab villages.

Area A, which includes the main Arab population centers of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, and most of Hebron, is already under full PA control.

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On Facebook, Bennett said, “Oslo is over, now what? Today it was published that in the light of the end of the Oslo era, Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking for alternative solutions.”

“In the coming days I intend to present to the Prime Minister a practical plan for applying Israeli sovereignty over Area C, home to 400,000 Israelis, with an increased autonomy for the Arabs in the PA area,” Bennett said. “They will manage their lives, and we will manage our own lives. This is the right way.”

Bennett said, “Ministers Gilad Erdan and Yisrael Katz and Speaker Edelstein all recently announced they believe we should apply Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. Sovereignty will be applied gradually and carefully.”

“After decades of being on the defensive, it is time for Israel to be the one to initiate,” he said. “It is time we do what is good for Israel.”

Bennett posted a video of his presentation online. He titled the plan, ‘A Practical Program for Managing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.’ He described it as a “stability initiative” and a “partial annexation plan,” with a tagline of “Doing What’s Good for Israel.”

Various plans, developed by Israeli leaders or through international negotiations to reach a peace accord, have proposed land swaps, population transfers and other complexities to make the populations more contiguous. Bennett’s plan focuses on the three sections in their entirety, with the PA controlling Area A and Area B and Israel annexing Area C.

While Area C contains more land than Area B, in terms of total acres, most of it remains uninhabited and undeveloped because its rocky terrain is unfavorable for agriculture. In terms of Israeli security, many of Area C’s “settlements” grew out of its military outposts, established atop hills, versus in valleys, after Israel rebuffed Jordan’s invasion in the 1967 war. Israeli military strategists realized that holding the high country was preferable to the valleys because an invading army would be exposed as it approached, eliminating Israel’s risk for a sneak attack. Area C also includes military forces in the Jordan River Valley, protecting the country from invasion via Jordan.

Bennett’s plan answers the accusation of “occupation” by formally annexing Area C into Israel and devolving full autonomy to the PA to manage Area A and Area B, which contain 97 per cent of their population. Additional highways would be built to connect Area A and Area B that would allow full PA control.

The “loose end” is the 50,000 Arabs living in villages in Area C that would become officially part of Israel. They would be offered full Israeli citizenship, equivalent to the 20% of the Israeli population today who are Arab Muslims and Christians, or from other minority faiths and ethnic groups.

Watch Bennett’s presentation of his plan below.

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