Israeli settlers raise concerns over US map of West Bank annexation

What happened: At the Likud faction meeting in the Knesset yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his intention to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.

  • Netanyahu said: “For the first time since 1948, there is a historic opportunity to apply sovereignty in an agreed-upon fashion as a diplomatic, sovereign act of the State of Israel in Judea and Samaria … this is an opportunity that should not be missed.”
  • MK Gideon Saar asked Netanyahu, “What is the timetable for the application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria? Is it as was agreed with President Trump?” Netanyahu replied: “We have a target date for July, and we don’t intend to change that. We will act wisely and with joined forces.”
  • The settler’s Yesha Council began a public information campaign yesterday targeting the cabinet ministers and MKs. Settler leaders are anxious about the American position regarding the “annexation map”. Members of the Yesha Council said: “We need to act to persuade the decision-makers that they have to support the sovereignty map of the settler leaders — and not the one by Trump administration representatives.” According to Yesha Council Director General Yigal Dilmoni, the US has rejected attempts by the settler leadership to modify Trump’s annexation map.
  • Various right-wing politicians have recently met settler leaders. Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked is quoted in Ma’ariv saying: “In my meeting with the leaders of the Yesha Council it became evident that the prime minister hasn’t yet accepted a single change in the map that they’ve requested. It turns out that the map is the map that the Americans dictated, without revisions from representatives of the settlement enterprise. We demand to see the map, and we will certainly oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state in the rest of the territory.”
  • Conversely, Efrat Local Council Chairman Oded Revivi, who belongs to the minority group within the Yesha Council that supports endorsing the Trump plan, said yesterday: “The current administration is the friendliest to Israel. We need to engage in open dialogue, we settlers and the US administration. In order to create a dialogue of that kind, we need to act respectfully.”

Context: 1 July is the earliest date Netanyahu can bring the annexation issue to a vote.

  • According to the coalition agreement, the new government will “engage in dialogue” with the international community over annexation, “with the aim of preserving security and strategic interests including regional security, preserving existing peace agreements and working towards future peace agreements”.
  • The settlers are concerned that the US conceptual map will leave dozens of settlements in enclaves, with only one access route, surrounded by a future Palestinian state, and no room to expand.
  • The Trump administration has reportedly conditioned its support on:
  1. The completion of a map by the joint US-Israel committee;
  2. Israel agreeing to suspend construction in parts of the West Bank that are not designated to fall under Israeli sovereignty;
  3.  The Prime Minister communicating to the Palestinians that he will negotiate, in good faith, on the basis of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan;
  • The deadline set by Netanyahu is “not sacred” to the Trump administration.
  • Last week, responding to the threat of annexation Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared an end to agreements with the US and Israel, including stopping all levels of security coordination.
  • Israel’s new Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkanazi said on entering the position, “The plan will be advanced responsibly, in full coordination with the United States and maintaining all of the State of Israel’s peace agreements and strategic interests.”

Looking ahead: With the mapping team still working, it remains to be seen how deep the US will permit Israel to apply sovereignty in the West Bank without prejudicing the overall objective of the Trump plan. There is also concern over the reaction by Jordan with whom Israel shares a border and security cooperation.

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