Netanyahu: We will move forward with annexation in July

Map committee member Levin denies Yesha Council complaint thatUS rejected settler changes to sovereignty map

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Jordan Valley community of Mevo’ot Yericho in February 2020 (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Jordan Valley community of Mevo’ot Yericho in February 2020

(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Israel must seize the opportunity to apply sovereignty to portions of the West Bank in July, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Likud faction meeting Monday, as the settler leadership intensified its campaign against a US-supported annexation process.

“For the first time since 1948, there is a historic opportunity to apply sovereignty in an agreed-upon fashion [with the US] as a diplomatic, sovereign act of the State of Israel in Judea and Samaria,” he said. “This is an opportunity that should not be missed.”

Netanyahu told Likud MKs he has “a goal date in July, and we won’t change it.”

The prime minister also said he is constantly working on the map with Trump administration representatives, including on Monday.

The coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White stipulates that July 1 is the earliest date Netanyahu can bring settlement annexation to a vote.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman strongly supports the Trump plan and has told interlocutors on the Right to pressure Netanyahu to stick to his summer deadline.

“If we don’t do it now, it won’t happen,” he said.

Netanyahu’s comments were likely a response to opposition to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan from the Israeli Right, especially the settler leadership in the Yesha Council.

Yesha Council director-general Yigal Dilmoni said the US has rejected attempts by the settler leadership to modify Trump’s annexation map, which allocates to Israel 30% of the West Bank.

US and Israeli officials are now in the middle of mapping out that territory in Area C. But an initial map of the territory, which includes all the West Bank settlements, was already published with the Trump peace plan in January.

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, one of the Israeli members of the mapping committee, denied Dilmoni’s claim, saying “the Americans have not conveyed any stance on the matter.”

“We asked the Prime Minister’s Office if we could be part of the mapping process,” Dilmoni said.

The request was refused, but the Prime Minister’s Office said it would accept materials from Yesha with regard to the plan, he said.

Once the material was submitted, they were told the US would not accept their input and that “there would be no changes to the map,” Dilmoni added.

An American source with knowledge of the mapping committee would not confirm or deny the Yesha Council’s claim.

The purpose of the mapping committee is to make the plan’s map “less conceptual and more factual,” the source said.

But the Yesha Council said it wants to offer assistance precisely with these factual details. Yesha Council chairman David Elhayani said settlers have created three alternative sovereignty maps that correct the problems with the Trump map. Those maps offer a sovereignty blueprint for territory comprising 32.5%, 35% or 38.5% of the West Bank.

The US refusal to consider any of their proposals or to make what the settlers believe are easy fixes to the map has only fueled their suspicions about the process.

Throughout the process the US has described the map attached to the Trump plan as a “conceptual one,” but that has turned out to be a “bold-faced lie” because the US “refuses to be flexible with regard to the map,” Elhayani said.

The US response was confirmed to him a week ago by someone close to the mapping process who told him the US would “not budge by one millimeter” with regard to the map, he said.

The Yesha Council has since intensified its campaign against the map, meeting with as many Knesset members and ministers as possible to sway them to support sovereignty in Area C, but not under Trump’s terms.

Among the hidden misconceptions in the Trump map is the extent of the territory, which Elhayani said is only 25% and not 30% as referenced in the Trump plan.

The US “fooled us” because 5% of that territory includes the waters of the Dead Sea, he said. “What do I need the Dead Sea waters for? I can’t put a road or a settlement there, why include it?”

In speaking with some MKs and ministers, Elhayani has said the Trump map endangers the security of the State of Israel and its citizens.

After some of the meetings, MKs have posted photos of the maps and pictures of Yesha representatives speaking with them.

At issue, in particular, is the settlers’ concern that the map creates a burdensome traffic pattern that blocks them from major urban centers. They also are concerned that there are hidden details in the plan that would create de facto building freezes and lead to the destruction of at least 15 settlements.

Under the Trump plan, those settlements would be transformed into enclaves within a future Palestinian state, with only one exit pattern and no room to expand the communities’ boundaries.

The Yesha Council has also opposed the portion of the plan that calls for a Palestinian state. But its focus at the moment has been the map.

Former justice minister Ayelet Shaked posted after meeting with the Yesha Council that Yamina also has opposed the Trump peace plan and had asked to be part of the mapping process.

After the meeting, Shaked tweeted that Netanyahu “refused us [Yamina] access to the mapping committee. Even Yesha he rejected. It appears that the map is the American map without any changes by settlement representatives.”

Not all settler leaders agree with the Yesha Council. An opposition movement in favor of the Trump plan has formed, spearheaded by Efrat Council head Oded Revivi, who was the former Yesha foreign envoy. Efrat is among the locations that would not be harmed by the Trump map.

Revivi has argued that Israel should accept the Trump plan in the same way its pre-state leadership accepted the 1947 UN partition plan, even though it did not like all the details.

“The current US government is the most friendly administration to Israel that we have ever witnessed,” he said. “The evidence for this is that they have moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem, they have canceled agreements with Iran, they have recognized the rights of Jews in Judea and Samaria, and they have recognized Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights.”

“It is the responsibility of the settlers to hold open discourse with the US government,” Revivi said. “To create such discourse, one must be respectful and avoid phrases like ‘they tricked us.’ I believe in open discourse. I believe in the attentive ear of the ambassador and the White House, and I call on the leadership of the Yesha Council to believe in it and to act accordingly.”

Israeli annexations plans have generated immense international opposition, including from neighboring Jordan.

Jordan’s King Abdullah did not address annexation in his Independence Day speech, contrary to expectations. He is a staunch opponent of Israel applying its laws in the West Bank, especially the Jordan Valley, and has said if Israel does so, it could imperil the peace treaty with Jordan.

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