Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to annex some 60 percent of the West Bank in response to the Palestinians’ stopping talks with Israel and turning to the UN.
All 350,000 of the Jews in Judea and Samaria live in Area C, some 60% of the area. Of the Palestinians in the West Bank, 97% live in Area A, which is under full Palestinian control, and Area B, which is under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control.
“It is clear that the diplomatic process has run its course and that we are entering a new era,” Bennett wrote Netanyahu. “We have been hitting our heads against the wall of negotiations over and over again for years and we kept getting surprised when the wall did not break. The time has come for new thinking.”
Bennett launched a public relations initiative Wednesday for his “Settlement Blocs First” plan, which calls for annexing blocs such as Ariel, Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim, Beit El-Ofra and communities that overlook Ben-Gurion Airport. He explained his plan on CNN Wednesday night and intends to push it to the international community.
A Hebrew video with subtitles in multiple languages that the Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs minister released explained why the plan could be practical. It says that the international community does not recognize Israel’s annexation of eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, so annexing part of the West Bank would just add another thing for the world to complain about.
The three-staged plan starts with annexing Area C and offering citizenship to its Palestinians.
It calls for giving the Palestinians upgraded autonomy in Areas A and B. The third stage is massive investment in Palestinian areas to improve their quality of life and improve their lives.
“We should be taking a bottom- up strategy rather than creating an artificial state in the heart of Israel,” a source close to Bennett said.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz blamed Bayit Yehudi Wednesday for the stalemate in diplomatic talks. Unlike his Hatnua colleague, MK Amram Mitzna, he did not call for leaving the coalition.
He said he supports staying in the government, because he believes his party leader, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, can still advance the diplomatic process.
Peretz told Army Radio that he did not see any other possible coalition being built in the current Knesset.