Why Did Bibi Freeze the Qalqilya Plan?

The vaunted Qalqilya plan which would have seen a doubling of the size of the Palestinian controlled city of Qalqilya just 10 miles from Tel Aviv appears to be permanently frozen by the security cabinet yesterday.  This was Liberman’s plan. It originated with him and he pushed it, but it ran into a solid brick wall when Bibi Netanyahu decided to freeze when he saw he did not have enough votes to pass it or the story goes.

Liberman vs. Bibi vs. Bennett

The jockeying on the right over the Qalqilya plan began a few weeks ago, Liberman’s move was published with the seeming approval of the Prime Minister. Then it was released that the Prime Minister had no knowledge of the plan. At first this seemed crazy. How could Prime Minister Netanyahu not know of something of this magnitude, but then it was found out that the Civil Administration itself under the guidance of Defense Minister Liberman okayed the plan before it was brought to Netanyahu tossing a hot potato into the government.

It was at that point that the right flank of the Likud led by Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin along with Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) demanded the plan frozen.

Whether or not Bibi Netanyahu planned this, the results are clear. Liberman has become discredited on the right and Bibi has been able by shelving the plan show the base that he is still with them.  This enables the Prime Minister to hold onto the righ tof the Likud, which if the plan went forward he would have lost to Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. He is most certainly still bleeding seats to them, but the damage is contained for now.

What’s Next for Judea and Samaria

Yesterday I wrote on the connection between Mohammed Dahlan and Liberman’s drive to build in Qalqilya.  As much as there is a need for some sort of organizing strategy in Judea and Samaria, its lack of a concrete plan does not take away from the maneuvers by the UAE and Egypt from effectively sending Gaza on its own trajectory through the imposition of Dahlan onto Hamas.  This, like I wrote yesterday is akin to declaring Palestine in Gaza only. It may not be what those of us on the right want, but it appears to be the Sunni axis strategy to resolving the conflict in the near term.

Afterall, everyone from Saudi Arabia to Egypt know and admit behind the scenes that they need Israel far more than the PA. Without Gaza connected to negotiations, the solution in Judea and Samaria is some sort of application of Israeli sovereignty.  There are many options out there such as the Bennett Plan, or the One State Solution Plan offered by Caroline Glick.

Liberman appears to be playing both sides. On one hand trying to show the Americans he is amicable to a deal, while passing that deal off to the cabinet as some sort of need by Israel to take care of the locals within the PA.

Bennett is Pulling the Prime Minister to his Position

The uproar over the Qalqilya plan shows just how strong the Center-Right really is.  This is far more than just Knesset seats.  The Prime Minister acknowledges that there is no real appetite for a handing more of Israel to the Palestinian Authority.  He needs to hold the appearence that he is not battling with Bennett and the Likud over these issues or he will risk splintering his coalition before its time.

According to reports, Bibi has agreed to open a discussion on land usage in Area C (the area Israel has under its full control within Judea and Samaria).  This discussion is the first of its type and will begin the deeper evaluation of how to ensure that it is Israel who ends up the sovereign within Area C if not all of Judea and Samaria.

Dahlan, the Qalqilya Plan and the Coming Two State Solution…It’s Not What You Think

The rumor mill keeps swirling about major changes in the Middle East.  Two major moves seemingly separate indicate a major shift is underway in Israel, specifically in its relationship to Gaza and Judea and Samaria.

Gaza: Turkey and Qatar Out, UAE and Egypt In

As the Qatar-Saudi rift deepens, the Gaza Strip under Hamas continues to suffer under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade.  While Abbas has sought to bring the group to its knees, Egypt and the UAE, two countries that stand with the Saudis against Qatar (and its ally Turkey) have used the situation to impose their will on Hamas in Gaza. According to muliple media reports, the Egyptians and the UAE are pushing for Mohammed Dahlan to take over the Gaza Strip as head of some sort of Gazan leadership council.

With Hamas on the ropes they have little room but to agree to Dahlan returning in a way that makes him the defacto “Head of State” of Gaza.  Dahlan is now the Hamas groups key to opening the strip up to goods and electricity.  Given the animosity between Dahlan and Abbas, it would seem that the Palestinian national movement would be split if Dahlan actually does become leader of the strip.

Qalqilya Building Plan Portends a Coming Israeli Annexation

While Gaza goes its own way, the Israeli government is taking steps to assume more and more direct authority in Judea and Samaria (aka West Bank). Rightwing leaders have been up in arms over the proposed expansion plan of the city of Qalqilya, but perhaps there is another reason for the expansion.  Expanding Qalqilya is only negative for Israel if Qalqilya remains controlled by the PA, but what happens if there is something else going on. Afterall who would be crazy enough to expand a Palestinian city that lies only 10 miles from Tel Aviv unless there was something else going on.

The following comments by Defense Minister Liberman indicates there is:

“6,300 houses will be built.” Lieberman pointed out that “While 19 terrorists have come from Hebron, in the last wave only one ramming attempt came from Qalqilya. These are the sticks and carrots. The housing units are already being marketed, there is no room for debate.”

Speaking of the arrival of Donald Trump’s emissary to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Liberman noted that “Greenblatt is coming to promote an agreement with the Palestinians, but I have my doubts when I look at the Palestinian Authority and its leader, and their refusal to condemn the murder of a policewoman –I ask, where is their good will? With such intentions it is doubtful whether it is possible to advance a [peace] process.”

Lieberman is suggesting that it is the Israelis not the Palestinian leadership who are relieving the plight of Qalqilya. If Israel wants to control Judea and Samaria they seemingly must actually care for the people there. Only if the government is moving to some form of annexation does the Qalqilya expansion plan make sense.

Gazal Equals Palestine, “West Bank” Rolled into Judea and Samaria

The plan that appears to be taking shape is that Dahlan will essentially become the defacto ruler of Gaza.  Supported by the UAE and Egypt he will lead a Gaza that is independent of Fatah and Ramallah. Without Gaza included in a future deal, the ability to annex Judea and Samaria, including all the area where Palestinian Arabs live appear to be doable. Once you subtract the population of Gaza from the total population of Palestinian Arabs West of the Jordan River, Israel will still have a comfortable 70/30 Jewish majority.

The nature of annexation is not clear, but the fact that it is Israel who is determining Area A housing solutions mean the ball has already dropped.  The question will only be if and when Dahlan takes over Gaza, will he be able to cut Hamas’ outsized control down to size or will the Islamist group prevent him from exerting real authority.