Thursday, August 1, 2019


Annexing the West Bank “could lead to needless bloodshed,” former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Yoram Cohen warned on Thursday.

He urged the government to take steps “to minimize the [impact] of the occupation in Judea and Samaria.”
Cohen told Army Radio his warning also included any sovereignty attempts in Area C, which is under full Israeli control and where all of the settlements are located.

“The annexation of Judea and Samaria is the central topic that the Israeli public needs to discuss” so it can weigh the options it wants, he said.

Judea and Samaria presents a challenge to Israel that is a hundred times greater than the threat from Gaza. This is from security, strategic, economic and international relations perspectives, he said.

The problem for Israel is that both a one-state solution and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict present security challenges.

In the first option, Israel would have to deal with a hostile population. In the second option, there is the risk of a failed, hostile Hamas-led state, Cohen explained.

He said he favored a two-state solution to the conflict, but such an option is not relevant now.

“We can’t give over the keys of Israel’s security to the Palestinian leadership,” he said.

The maximum solution that can be achieved at this time for the Palestinians is “autonomy plus,” where Israel retains security control of the West Bank.

To ensure such an option is successful, Israel must “minimize [the impact of] the occupation,” such as improving transportation and employment options for Palestinians.

Israel should even consider redrawing the map of the West Bank, so portions of Area C could be given to the Palestinian Authority, which has full and partial control over areas A and B, respectively.

Cohen spoke as US envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt visited Jordan and Israel as part of a regional trip to promote President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

Their efforts to push the plan forward come as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from right-wing voters to annex Area C, irrespective of Trump’s plan.

Before the last election, Netanyahu promised to apply sovereignty to the settlements, but did not speak of doing so for all of Area C, which is home to 300,000 Palestinians.

The prime minister traveled on Wednesday to Efrat, where he reiterated his pledge not to uproot any settler or settlements. Right-wingers are hopeful Trump’s plan places the settlements under Israeli sovereignty, particularly in light of seemingly supportive statements previously made by both Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Friedman told CNN on Tuesday that “Israel has not presented to us [the Trump administration] any plan to retain or annex any portion of the West Bank, and we have no view on it at all right now.”

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