April 19, 2019

Gantz, Peace & the West Bank

“Benny Gantz, chair of the new Israel Resilience party, delivered his maiden speech on Jan. 29 and on the occasion avoided uttering “Palestinian state,” a term the political right has turned into a catchphrase for left-wing sympathies verging on treason. Also notably, the new candidate, vying to replace Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister, chose to use the term “separation fence” rather than “security fence,” the official designation of the barrier. He pledged to “maintain security in the entire Land of Israel,” but added, “We will not allow the millions of Palestinians living beyond the separation fence to endanger our security and our identity as a Jewish state.

The choice of words regarding the barrier is not semantic quibbling. Gantz, a former military chief of staff, obviously knows the official name of the structure, a combination of fencing and wall that Israel began building in 2002 on parts of the occupied West Bank and on its own territory around it. In fact, authorities have been so determined to ensure the use of the official terminology to brand the barrier’s purpose that in 2009 the Foreign Ministry forced the national airline, El Al, to stop distributing maps to passengers until it replaced the term “separation wall” with “security fence.”

The demarcation between Israel and the 2.5 million Palestinians on the West Bank is one of the major political challenges that would confront a center-left government if Gantz manages to oust Netanyahu in the April 9 elections. The barrier that such a government would inherit could constitute a solution for separating Israelis from Palestinians, but its route would be a major diplomatic headache.”

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