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Settlers warn of dangers in Trump plan

What happened: The Israeli Right is doubling down on its efforts to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from agreeing to the Trump plan in full.

  • The settler led Sovereignty movement is pushing the message: “Israel must apply its sovereignty over the entire land, unrelated to the Trump plan, which is an existential threat to Israel’s future and which mortally undermines the Zionist vision and the Jewish people’s historic belonging to the Land of Israel.”
  • The Sovereignty movement has launched a large-scale billboard campaign throughout Israel warning against “the dangers of the Palestinian state in the Trump plan”. In Jerusalem signs read that “Jerusalem will be partitioned;” on the fences of settlements in the West Bank signs were hung saying “Palestine is just beyond the fence,” and signs on roads in the Negev said, “Palestine will be built here”.
  • Yesterday Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani refused to retract his comment in which he said that the deal of the century proved that US President Donald Trump was not a true friend of Israel. He said in an interview to Army Radio: “Ultimately, he presented a plan that endangers the existence of the State of Israel and, in that case, you’re no friend of mine. If someone comes at me with a cake and puts a gun to my head, will I take the cake and say to them, ‘thank you?’ The plan contains existential dangers.”
  • Other leaders in the Yesha Council are taking a more pragmatic approach by seeking answers from the Prime Minister over the exact details about how far he intends to apply Israeli law in the West Bank. Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan said: “The map is critical for the country’s future, for its security, and for holding onto the tens of thousands of residents liable to find themselves in remote settlements”.
  • Etzion Bloc Regional Council Chairman Shlomo Neeman spoke in a similar vein and addressed the Prime Minister: “please—what are the details of the plan? What will be the fate of the settlements outside the ‘new Green Line?’ and mainly, please tell us, how do you envision the future of our land?”

Context: The heated debate over annexation has forced the Israeli President to issue a statement calling for calm.

  • “We do not flinch at the critics or the questioners, but we must beware of those who silence the conversation. We must not prevent questions, doubts or criticism from any political side. Disagree – yes. Argue – absolutely. But the verbal violence, the name-calling, the ridiculing, and the contempt must stop. I, who remember well the attempts to silence the critics at the time of Oslo and the disengagement and remember how hard we worked to recover from that shut-down, make this request of you – enough.”
  • Rivlin added: “Discussing fateful questions – and the question of annexation is indeed a fateful one – must take place. It must take place in every country that wants the best for its people. Each person has their own view of the world. This is the stuff of Israeli democracy.”
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has responded to a letter from MP Crispin Blunt and signed by 126 MPs that claimed applying Israeli law to areas in the West Bank would be a violation of international law. He wrote: “The UK position is clear: any unilateral moves toward annexation by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and contrary to international law”.
  • The Prime Minister continued: “We firmly believe a just and lasting resolution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians in long overdue. We will continue to press Israel and the Palestinians strongly on the need to refrain from taking actions which make peace more difficult.”
  • Meanwhile, 39 leading members of the UK Jewish community have told Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, their fears of the impact of annexation on Diaspora Jewry. In a letter they write: “We proudly advocate for Israel but have been helped in doing so by Israel’s status as a liberal democracy, defending itself as necessary but committed to maintaining both its Jewish and democratic status. A policy of annexation would call that into question, polarising Jewish communities and increasing the divisive toxicity of debate within them, but also alienating large numbers of Diaspora Jews from engaging with Israel at all. Under these circumstances, the commitment to Israel that has been such a vital glue in sustaining and uniting Jewish communities, as well an asset for Israel, will decline.”
  • The Palestinian Authority (PA) has said it will no longer accept the taxes that Israel collects on its behalf, which accounts for 60 per cent of the Palestinian budget. Palestinian Civil Affairs Commission director Hussein al-Sheikh said the PA refuses “the delivery of the tax revenues in adherence to the decision of the Palestinian leadership that we are absolved of all understandings and agreements with Israel.”

Looking ahead: Defence Minister Gantz has instructed the security establishment to prepare contingency plans, but have still not seen the maps of the Israeli-US committee.

  • It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu will ultimately decide to pursue annexing areas of the West Bank as soon as as 1 July.
  • Over 30 left-wing organisations intent to hold demonstration on Saturday night in Rabin Square over the annexation plan, despite objections from the police due to Health Ministry’s social distancing restrictions.
  • It is difficult to see how the PA can refuse the Israeli tax transfer at such a difficult economic time due to coronavirus pandemic, as well as the drying up of domestic tax revenues.