Netanyahu pledges to apply sovereignty to all West Bank settlements

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashwari warned that if Netanyahu really carried out his promise, it would be “a war crime under the Rome statute and a grave violation of the UN charter.”

September 2, 2019 00:06
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Elkana municipality head Asaf Mintser, 2019.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Elkana municipality head Asaf Mintser for the beginning of the new school year along with first-grade students.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Israel will apply sovereignty to all West Bank settlements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday morning as he celebrated the first day of school with first graders in the Elkana settlement.

“There will be no more uprooting [of settlements],” Netanyahu said. “With God’s help we will apply Jewish sovereignty over all communities as part of the land of Israel and the State of Israel.”

“We are building new homes here,” he said. “This is a new home that is an old home. This is the old, original home of the Jewish people and we will build more in Elkana. We will not uproot anyone here.”

“There will be no more Gush Katif,” he added in reference to the 2005 Disengagement plan in which Israel destroyed 21 settlements in Gaza and four in northern Samaria.

He issued his statement in Elkana, where the Yamina Party held a press conference last month and hammered him on the issue of sovereignty.

Netanyahu’s reluctance to speak of annexing any or all of the West Bank settlements has made him particularly vulnerable politically.

While the bulk of the politicians in his party and in the Yamina Party often speak of annexing the settlements, such statements from Netanyahu are rare.

The closest he came in this election cycle was a comment he made on August 8 while visiting the Beit El settlement in which he said, “Our mission is to establish the Jewish people in its land and to ensure our sovereignty in our historical homeland.”

He last spoke of it during the final days of the last electoral campaign in April, when he told Channel 12 he would apply sovereignty – but the statement was more vague and did not clarify as this one did that it would include all of the settlements.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashwari warned that if Netanyahu really carried out his promise, it would be “a war crime under the Rome statute and a grave violation of the UN charter.”

“Netanyahu’s pledge is an obvious attempt to score political points and secure votes from the extremist right-wing in the upcoming Israeli legislative elections while continuing the implementation of his policies to superimpose ‘Greater Israel’ on all of historical Palestine,” she added.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh, said that Israel’s continued attempt to create an unacceptable “fait accompli” on the ground would not lead to peace, security or stability.

Yesha Council head Hananel Durani immediately applauded Netanyahu’s words.

“This is another step on the road to the application of sovereignty,” said Durani, adding that he expected the prime minister to make good on his word. “Sovereignty is the settlement vision, one that we have dreamed of for years and which would be happy to see come to fruition as soon as possible.”

The Sovereignty Movement, however, warned that Netanyahu’s words do not go far enough and leave room for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank because he spoke only of the settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Sovereignty Movement leaders Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katzover warned that “such an entity would pose a security and strategic threat to the heart of the State of Israel, and in particular would be a serious blow to the Zionist-Jewish vision to which Israel has yearned for in its years of exile, i.e., the restoration of Israeli sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel.”

MK Ofer Cassif of the United Arab List clarified that “Netanyahu did not talk about Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in the Occupied Territories, but about Jewish sovereignty.”

Cassif added, “Make no mistake about his intentions. The prime minister has publicly declared that he is interested in apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said Netanyahu’s priorities were skewed.

“Instead of promising education about tolerance and against racism... the prime minister chooses on the first day of school to pledged to annex the settlements,” she wrote. “Anyone who wants to see Elkana become part of the State of Israel must support negotiations for a diplomatic arrangement that will include the exchange of agreed territories and not make promises that will only guarantee that we will live by the sword without any solution.”

Netanyahu’s statement comes in advance of US President Donald Trump’s pending publication of his peace plan after the Israeli elections, known as the “Deal of the Century.”

It’s unclear if Trump’s peace plan places the West Bank settlements within Israel’s final borders. Trump has said that he won’t publish details of the political portions of his plan until after the September 17 election.

Netanyahu said on Friday that he believes Trump will publish details of it very soon after the election.

Time and again, Netanyahu said, the Palestinians have refused every attempt to reach resolve the conflict with Israel.

“Even now, Trump has yet to publish his plan, but they have already rejected it,” Netanyahu said.

At the Ort Samaria High School for Girls in Elkana, Netanyahu said “the Palestinians, in their refusal to recognize Zionism, are the root of the conflict, as is their refusal to recognize the rights of the Jews to settle in any part of the land of Israel and their repeated rejection of every possible solution.

“Even now, the Trump plan, he has not even made it known, and they have already rejected it. They are not prepared to recognize the right of the Jews to exist here in a sovereign state on any territory,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state must be the  “first – but not the last – component of any solution,” he said.

“There has to be one more small detail – security in our hands, west of the Jordan [River],” Netanyahu added.

Upon taking office in 2009, Netanyahu pledged to support a two-state solution to the conflict, with the understanding that the Palestinian state would be a demilitarized one. He laid out that vision in his Bar-Ilan speech and has not retreated from it.

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