While the application of sovereignty can become a defining moment in the conflict, it is not paradigm-changing.
The territories that Israel seeks to annex are already controlled by Israel and hold hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who are not likely to be moved from their homes in the foreseeable future. The application of sovereignty might change the legal status of these territories, but it will not change one iota the reality on the ground.
The Israeli citizens that live in the settlements will suddenly live in sovereign Israeli territory, but they are currently bound by Israeli laws as individuals, so no wave of the magic annexation wand will change this reality. While it might make it more difficult to relinquish these territories in the future, there is no ironclad legal obstruction to doing so.
The Palestinians will continue to claim these territories despite their new situation, just as they still seek half of Jerusalem – which was already annexed in 1980 – frequently violently and at the cost of Israeli lives.
TO ENSURE this window is properly utilized, Israel should be seeking an end to the conflict with a victory over enduring Palestinian rejectionism.
It is clear to all honest watchers of this conflict that it has never been about territory, borders, settlements or Jerusalem. It began over 100 years ago, before the establishment of the State of Israel and before a single Israeli stepped foot over the Green Line in 1967.
It was always about the Palestinian denial of the rights of the Jewish people to sovereignty in any parts of the Land of Israel. This is what motivated the start of the conflict in the early parts of the 20th century and has inspired a century of violent rejectionism and violence ever since.
This rejectionism has been amply demonstrated by the refusal of successive Palestinian leaders to agree to extremely generous terms to end the conflict and create, for the first time in history, a Palestinian state. If it were about territory or statehood, then Yasser Arafat would have said yes to prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer in 2001 and Mahmoud Abbas would have agreed to prime minister Ehud Olmert’s even more far-reaching offer in 2008.
Thus, the conflict continues, and many have paid with their lives in the intervening years for its continuance on all sides.
While it is certainly not the bloodiest of international conflicts by far, especially in recent years, it always retains the possibility of a surge of violence. It hampers Israel’s relations with friends in the West and potential friends in the East, and costs the Israeli taxpayers in exorbitant security and defense costs.
Israel needs the conflict to end, and negotiations will not be successful as long as the Palestinian leadership believes that it will eventually win. It sends this message in its educational, political, religious and social infrastructure. It constantly tells its people that eventually Israel will be destroyed or disappear.
As an example, only a few days ago, Palestinian Authority-controlled TV broadcast a song in which PA religious official Mahmoud al-Habbash, who serves as supreme Sharia judge, prophesies a final war in which Israel will be destroyed.
If Israel sees in its relations with the Palestinians something less than a conflict, the Palestinians see it as existential, obligatory, national and religious, and will not give up their dream until they are forced to do so.
That is why Israel should take this unique opportunity and seek an Israeli victory over the Palestinians until they are made to understand that Israel is permanent and recognize it as the national homeland of the Jewish people. They must be convinced, through military, economic, political and diplomatic means, within legal and moral bounds, that their war aims will not be reached and that they have lost.
If this would be achieved, it would have massively positive and far-reaching ramifications for Israel. The conflict would be over, and it would free both Israelis and Palestinians to seek a better future. Israel’s international relations would finally be unbound with the Palestinian question, and both sides could use the available budgets for social and development projects and initiatives.
The time is ripe for the boldest of steps to finally end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The writer is a member of the board of directors of the Middle East Forum Israel, which leads the Israel Victory Project, and a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.