The security cabinet has started studying unilateral measures in light of the newly unified Fatah-Hamas government, including annexation plans, an Israeli source told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
In a meeting last Sunday night ahead of Monday’s formal swearing-in ceremony for the new Palestinian unity government, the security cabinet heard a presentation from Economy Minister Naftali Bennett about the possibility of applying sovereignty to portions of Area C in the West Bank, the source said.
Among the possibilities is an initial annexation of the Gush Etzion bloc, south of Jerusalem.
In a second meeting on Monday afternoon, the security cabinet issued five decisions, including the creation of a team to study future options.
In a statement the security cabinet issued after the meeting, it said it had “formed a team to consider plans of action given the new reality that has been created and ahead of diplomatic and security situations that will be created in the future.”
The team is expected to look at annexation and withdrawal options, the source said.
At present, there is not enough support in the government for an annexation plan, and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has pledged to block any such efforts. The government is not expected to make any decisions about annexation in the next six months while the focus is on Palestinian elections.
Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis, who is the government’s liaison to the Knesset, told the plenum last week that the government opposed such a move. However, Akunis said he personally supported annexation plans.
Bennett met with Netanyahu in the last two weeks, and the Post reported at the time that the two men would discuss the possible annexation of Area C. But Bennett’s office would not discuss details of the meeting.
But on Monday, Bennett renewed his call to annex all of Area C.
“The sovereignty program that I proposed is the only available option today [for dealing with] the Palestinian rejection of peace [with Israel] and the [Israeli] Left’s refusal to accept this solution,” he said.
The time has come to go on the offensive, rather than act defensively and “do what is good for Israel,” Bennett declared.
The swearing-in ceremony for the unity government in Ramallah occurred more than two decades after the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, and nine years after the 2005 Gaza withdrawal.
Hamas has a charter that calls for Jews to be killed, Bennett went on, and as a result, he said, the government of Israel decided unanimously not to recognize it or maintain contact with it.
He warned that Israel must act on his annexation plan, “because time is not working in its favor.”
“Every day that passes in which we do not take initiative and act endangers Israeli citizens and broadcasts to the world that there is no price for terrorism against Jews,” Bennett said.
Netanyahu has said the best option for Israel is to negotiate a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, but that such talks are impossible if Fatah aligns itself with Hamas. The moment Fatah announced that the unity government was pending, Israel suspended talks with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu is waiting until it is clear to him that negotiations with the Palestinians are impossible before weighing alternative options.
However, in an interview he gave reporter Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg View last month, he indicated that he would not support any unilateral plan that called for territorial withdrawal.
His comments made it seem as if he could be open to some sort of annexation plan, but he never explicitly stated that.
“The idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground, from the center-left to the center-right,” Netanyahu said in the Goldberg interview.