Bennett: US election period is ‘opportunity’ to annex parts of West Bank

Every time Israel has ceded land it the past it has brought violence not peace, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said.

September 26, 2016 19:08
3 minute read.
Ma’aleh Adumim

Ma’aleh Adumim.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Israel should use the upheaval around the US presidential election period to annex West Bank settlements, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in a number of radio interviews on Monday.

“I see this as a period of opportunity to take action with regard to the future of Judea and Samaria,” he told Israel Radio. “We should impose Israeli law on settlements in Judea and Samaria, like Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Gush Etzion and Ofra.”

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Bennett, who heads the Bayit Yehudi party, has long called for Israel to annex Area C of the West Bank. He conducted the interviews just one day after a number of videos were released that showed David Friedman, a top Israeli adviser to Donald Trump, pledging in a closed-door meeting that the Republican presidential candidate would fight for the rights of Jews to remain in Judea and Samaria.

Speaking of the Republican party’s platform, Friedman said: “There is no longer any reference to a two-state solution. There is an affirmative statement that Israel is not an occupier with respect to Judea and Samaria.”

He also took issue with the conventional demographic wisdom that said a two-state solution was necessary to maintain Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
David Friedman taking issue with the conventional demographic wisdom that a two-state solution was necessary to maintain Israel as a Jewish and democratic state

Bennett said irrespective of who entered the White House, annexation was something that had to happen.

“We can’t expect the world to be more Zionist than we are,” he said. “We have to do what is right for us.”

It would be a “massive mistake” to create a Palestinian state along the pre- 1967 lines, with minor land swaps, Bennett said. It’s “no secret,” he said, that this is his belief.

“If it were up to me, I would deliver a speech, ‘Bar-Ilan II,’ in which I would say: Let’s not create a Palestinian state here,” Bennett told Army Radio.

“We have a political chance to get out of this hole into which we have climbed, [in which we are] stuck for so many years in this dead end that is called ‘building a Palestinian state on territory that belongs to Israel,’” he said.

People refuse to accept that Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem are in Israeli hands,” Bennett said. “But that doesn’t mean “that we are about to divide Jerusalem. It doesn’t work that way.”

Every time Israel has ceded land in the past it has brought violence not peace, he said, adding: “Peace comes only when you are very strong. When everyone in the region will know that we are determined not to give even one inch of territory to our enemies, respect for us will grow and we will see less conflict.”

Earlier this year, Bayit Yehudi, together with the Land of Israel Knesset caucus, embarked on a campaign to annex Ma’aleh Adumim as the first step toward unilaterally including all of the settlements within Israel’s sovereign borders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in the past opposed annexation drives. But he has been harshly criticized by major international actors such as the United States, the European Union and the United Nations for taking steps in Area C, which they said was tantamount to “creeping annexation.”

Bennett also promised to put forward a solution to the issue of 2,000 unauthorized settler homes in the West Bank, including the Amona outpost.

The High Court of Justice has ruled that Amona must be razed by December 25. Most of the Likud faction and many politicians in Bayit Yehudi have called for passage of a Knesset bill, called the Regulations Act, that would retroactively legalize the homes, including Amona.

Bennett has been loath to support that bill, but he pledged he would do everything possible to prevent Amona’s demolition. Among the steps that must happen, he said, is for the government to overturn its 2011 policy that homes built on private Palestinian property must be demolished.

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