'Israel shouldn’t wait for Trump to set West Bank policy'

January 22, 2017 16:15

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks in the midst of a fierce debate with regard to the possibility that Israel might advance or even pass legislation to annex Ma'aleh Adumim.

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Ayelet Shaked, nouvelle ministre de la Justice

Ayelet Shaked, nouvelle ministre de la Justice. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Israel has to tell the US government what it wants and not wait for the new Trump administration to set policy in the West Bank, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked [Bayit Yehudi] told Army Radio on Sunday in advance of an anticipated debate on the annexation of Ma’aleh Adumim.

“We have to say to the American government what we want and not wait for orders from them,” Shaked told Army Radio.

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“This is a sympathetic administration. They want to know what we want to do,” she said.

She spoke in the midst of a fierce debate with regard to the possibility that Israel might advance or even pass legislation to annex the Jewish city of close to 38,000 people that is located over the pre-1967 lines just outside of Jerusalem.

The annexation move would include the contentious unbuilt area of E1, which all past US administrations have urged Israel not to touch.

Palestinians have argued that the area is necessary for the viability of their future state, but Israel has argued that construction in that area and development of Ma’aleh Adumim in general has no bearing on any future diplomatic arrangements with the Palestinians.

There is broad consensus in Israel that in any future two-state agreement with the Palestinians, Ma’aleh Adumim would be within Israel’s final borders.

“Even if [Meretz Party head, MK] Zehava Gal-on was to become prime minister one day and come to an agreement [for two states] with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen it’s clear that this agreement would include Ma’aleh Adumim,” Shaked said.

She noted that the Palestinians were taking unilateral steps against Israel, such as the initiation of the UN Security Council resolution against settlements that passed last month.

“There is no reason why we can’t take unilateral steps that will be right for Israel,” she said.

Now that President Donald Trump has taken office, right-wing lawmakers and settler leaders expect to see a new policy in Washington that is supportive of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

“The rules of the game have changed and you can’t play according to the old rules,” Shaked said.

Her party favors annexing all of Area C of the West Bank and also opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. It has urged Netanyahu to rescind his support for a Palestinian state.

It would be important for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come to his conversation with Trump and, or, meeting and explain what his desired position is, she said.

“We have to decide what is right for us,” Shaked said.

She and the head of her party, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, have pushed Netanyahu to advance the annexation bill, which is due to be debated Sunday evening by the Ministerial Legislative Committee.

The security cabinet plans to meet this afternoon to discuss Israel’s policy with regard to West Bank settlements, given the change in the US administration.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz [Likud] is expected to present the cabinet with the Greater Jerusalem Bill, which he drafted. It would expand the capitol’s municipal boundaries to include settlements in the greater Jerusalem area, including Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim.

Based on the outcome of that discussion the legislative committee would decide whether to move forward with the Ma’aleh Adumim annexation bill this evening, either by debating or voting on the matter. The legislation is a private members bill put forward by the co-chairs of the Knesset Land of Israel caucus, MK Yoavl Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi.)

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