Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Bayit HaYehudi Party head Naftali Bennett on Friday reissued his call for Israel to annex Area C of the West Bank after reading an interview by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu published on Bloomberg View ,in which the prime minister discussed unilateral Israeli options should the peace process fail.
In a note on his Facebook page Bennett said, “We are pushing to unilaterally apply Israeli law to Gush Etzion, Ariel, the Jordan Valley, Ma’aleh Adumim, Ofra, Alfei Menashe, the settlements around Ben Gurion International Airport, Samaria, Judea and all Jewish settlements [Area C].”
He added, “I will continue to push with all my might for this to happen, and it will happen. The age of negotiation has ended. They [The Palestinians] have acted unilaterally. Now its our turn. The time has come to initiate and to do what is best for Israel.”
Bennett has long believed that Israel needs a day-after plan. He has warned that Israel must be prepared for that moment when it becomes clear that a negotiated two-state solution is not possible at this time.
This week he published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in which he explained that that the bulk of the Palestinian live in Areas A and B of the West Bank, which is already under the civic control of the Palestinian Authority.
He has offered to give the 70,000 Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank full Israeli citizenship and to help the Palestinian economy thrive. The United Nations has estimated that there are 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C.
Last Thursday the Jerusalem Post reported that Bennett was scheduled to meet with Netanyahu to discuss this plan. According to Bennett’s office, the two have met since then, but it would not divulge the contents of the meeting.
The US has said that it opposes unilateral measures. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded to Bennett’s plan already on Tuesday and said, “Our position is clear. Final status issues including borders can only be resolved through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and obviously we believe that’s the proper place for addressing them.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday night rejected Bennett’s plan as "the end of Zionism.
But in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg published on Bloomberg View Friday, Netanyahu appeared open to discussing the possibility of annexation. “The idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground, from the center-left to the center-right,” Netanyahu said in the Goldberg interview.
“Many Israelis are asking themselves if there are certain unilateral steps that could theoretically make sense,” said Netanyahu.
He spoke with Goldberg, after a nine-month US led negotiating process ended on April 29th, with no tangible results. Initially when nine-month negotiating period began, the US had hoped to arrive at a final status agreement, but then downgraded that expectation to a framework document of agreed upon principles. Israelis and Palestinians were unable to even agree on those principles. Discussion about simply renewing negotiations came to a screeching halt, however, when Fatah announced that it planned to unite with Hamas to form one government.
In response, Israel suspended talks with Fatah and said that it could not negotiate with an entity that aligned itself with a terrorist group bent on Israel’s destruction. Netanyahu explained that he preferred to solve the issue through negotiations, but did not think that it was possible at this time.