W.Bank mayor attempts to push annexation bill ahead of Trump inauguration

"Obama's policy of not one brick is gone," Ma'aleh Adumim mayor Kashriel said regarding the annexation bill, which includes E1.

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January 20, 2017 13:38
3 minute read.
Jerusalem

A Star of David decorates a lamp post in Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel will be seeking congressional support for the Israeli annexation of the West Bank city during his visit to Washington DC for the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

“The policy of [US Presdient Barack] Obama of not even a brick has gone from the world,” Kashriel said as he spoke with The Jerusalem Post by telephone upon his arrival in America.

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He is one of three settler leaders, including Efrat Council head Oded Revivi and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Daganwho, who traveled to the US to witness the entry of a new administration in Washington which will potentially be supportive of Jewish building over the 67 line in both Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria even made baseball hats for the event, with the slogan “Build Israel, Great Again.”

But Kashriel, who is a member of the Likud party, said he was very clear that the person who truly responsible for building in Judea and Samaria was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He urged Netanyahu to follow in the footsteps of former prime minister Menachem Begin, who imposed Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights.

In Israel right wing lawmakers are losing no time in moving forward to secure West Bank settlements, beginning with Ma’aleh Adumim, which is located just outside of Jerusalem.

On Sunday the Ministerial Legislative Committee is scheduled to debate a private members bill to annex Ma’aleh Adumim, including the contentious area of E1, which has been a red-line for the international community. Watch the UN debate: Are West Bank settlements a stumbling block to peace?

A spokesman for the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus said there were enough votes to pass the bill, which would then need Knesset approval.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in the past rejected such legislative attempts, particularly in light of the Obama administration’s harsh stance on any settlement activity.

The Prime Minister’s Office had no comment on the matter, but the Caucus said it would be hard for him to oppose the bill given the broad support that exists for including the city within Israel’s final borders.

But not all politicians within Netanyahu’s government believe that the time is right for this step.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday night cautioned Knesset members and ministers to wait until  the Trump administration has had time to settle into Washington before pushing forward with annexation bills or the settlement’s bill, which has passed a first reading in the Knesset. The bill retroactively legalizes 4,000 settler homes on private Palestinian property.

“I think that it is possible to come to an agreement with the US on Israeli sovereignty over the settlements blocs,” Liberman said during a speech he gave at the Netanya Academic College.

“Those who think that applying sovereignty on Judea and Samaria is a function of Knesset legislation is wrong,” Liberman said. “It’s a function of agreements between us and the United States.”

“We have to give [the Trump Administration] a chance to enter [their offices] and sit down on their chairs and then we can start a dialogue with them. They are coming in with the best intentions and we have to start to speak with them. We shouldn’t surprise them or present them with done deals, certainly not with regard to strategy. This isn’t a tactical issue, this is a strategic issue,” Liberman said.

It could be that in the end Israel would have to take this step without US approval, but Israel should first make an honest attempt to do it together with the Trump administration, he said.

Such steps, he said, are best done quietly, rather than with conferences and statements to the media.

Liberman also recalled how Begin had applied sovereignty to the Golan Heights by bringing the issue to the Knesset suddenly and approving legislation to that effect within one day.

Those who push the idea of annexation forward prematurely and too loudly, he said, would harm Israel’s chances of successfully applying sovereignty to the blocs.

“It is clear that at the end of the day, in one way or another, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, will be part of Israel,” Liberman said.

Ma’aleh Adumim has a population of close to 38,000 people and is the third largest West Bank settlement.


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