The leader of the Jewish Home party asks Netanyahu to convene the cabinet and discuss the formal annexation of the settlements and 60 percent of the West Bank to Israel. ‘The peace talks are dead and I’m proposing an alternative.’
Formal annexation of all Israeli settlements, as well as selected parts of Area C of the West Bank (under full Israeli control) – this is Naftali Bennett’s response to the Palestinian bid to join 15 UN treaties and institutions. The proposal, based on the plan Bennett publicly championed before running for Knesset (outlined in the video below), claims that annexation would bring under formal Israeli rule some 400,000 settlers and “only several tens of thousands” of Palestinians. Bennett’s proposal is to offer these Palestinians Israeli citizenship, so as to preempt any claims that Israel is engaging in apartheid. It should be noted that in the status quo, Israeli civilian law is, de facto, applied to settlements and settlers wherever they go, while a Kafkaesque mixture of Israeli military, British and Ottoman laws are applied to Palestinians living in the same territories. This means that a Palestinian from the West Bank and a settler will never face the same court for the same offense.
The Minister of Economy - and more importantly, Netanyahu’s single greatest rival on the expansionist right – outlined the proposal in a letter to the prime minister on Wednesday night, suggesting the move be put before the cabinet as early as possible. In a later interview to Ynet, Bennett was casually dismissive about the international fallout that could ensue. “In 1967 [Prime Minister] Eshkol annexed Jerusalem. In 1981 Begin annexed the Golan Heights. The sky didn’t fall,” he said, before adding cautiously that he wouldn’t tell the U.S. to leave Israel alone, but rather advise it to concentrate on other crises, like Syria.
Even though Bennett got some surprising (read: disoriented) support from former Labor stalwart Amir Peretz, who welcomed the fact that his cabinet colleague was finally willing to talk borders, the chances that the cabinet acts on his proposal is small. Netanyahu’s overall approach is easy-does-it, and pushing the Americans even further at this point won’t serve any earthly good. And this is before we even get to Bennett’s dodgy math – the numbers he presents in his proposal are highly contested.
But there are still some...Read More