Israeli annexation of the West Bank’s Area C – where all settlements are located
– received public support from two high-ranking Likud politicians on Tuesday
evening, Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein and MK Ze’ev
“Lack of Israeli sovereignty over Area C means the continuation of
the status quo,” said Edelstein, as he spoke about an area of the country that
is now under Israeli military control. “It strengthens the international
community’s demand for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.”
and Elkin cautioned that annexation was a process that should happen slowly, not
The two men were among a lineup of speakers at a Jerusalem
conference organized by Women in Green, on the “Application of Israeli
Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.” It is the group’s third annual conference
on this topic.
Support for annexation has increased in the aftermath of
the UN’s General Assembly decision in November to upgrade the Palestinian status
to that of non-member observer state.
Former Foreign Ministry legal
adviser Alan Baker warned the conference that annexation was an abrogation of
the 1993 Oslo Accords, in which Israel and the Palestinians committed to resolve
their dispute through negotiations, rather than unilateral
“Israel recognized its right to annex Area C, but has chosen
not to do so for diplomatic reasons,” said Baker, who explained that he did not
support such a move because of its diplomatic implications. “We have committed
ourselves to negotiations in the Oslo Accord, which is still in effect, whether
we like it or not.”
As one of the three legal experts who penned the Levy
Report, which stated that Israel has a legal right under international law to
settle Area C of the West Bank, he said he believed that the government should
focus on strengthening the Jewish right to build over the pre- 1967 lines,
adding that it should “stop apologizing all the time.”
that “no one can deny the Jewish people its place as an indigenous people” on
both sides of the pre-1967 lines. But he noted that international opinion
increasingly refused to recognize this “historical fact.”
politicians, he said, have shifted their language with regard to the West Bank
from “disputed territories” to “occupied Palestinian territories.”
Elkin said he disagreed with Baker. If the Palestinians do not have to adhere to
the Oslo Accords, than neither do Israelis, he said.
MK Yariv Levin
(Likud) said he supported annexation but did not believe it was that feasible.
Instead, he urged politicians to focus on applying individual Israeli laws to
West Bank settlements and its residents, rather than tackling the issue on a
global scale. The same building laws should apply equally to Tel Aviv and to
settlements in Judea and Samaria, he said.
Edelstein said, however, that
it must be clear that Israel is moving toward annexation, or it weakens any
argument it makes about Israel’s right to Judea and Samaria.
that such a step would not end the international debate over Area C, as
evidenced by the storm of controversy that continues to rage over Israeli
sovereignty in east Jerusalem.
“Application of sovereignty does not
automatically resolve the issue of disputed territories, as we say in the
international legal language, but it is an important step that expresses our
approach,” he said.
Failure to make such a strong statement, Edelstein
added, “is like saying [Judea and Samaria] is not the legal wife, but a