Liberman: ‘The US could agree to settlement bloc annexation, but not now’

Liberman has spoken in favor of annexation but is urging restraint.

January 19, 2017 15:26
2 minute read.
Israeli flag

A girl holds an Israeli flag on a hilltop near the Maaleh Adumim settlement. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israeli lawmakers who want to push forward with annexation plans for the settlement blocs should wait until the Trump administration has time to settle into Washington, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Wednesday night.

“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 over 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.”

He spoke in advance of a possible vote Sunday by the Ministerial Legislative Committee to approve a private members bill (legislation initiated by one or more Members of Knesset) to annex Ma’aleh Adumim, including the contentious area of E1, which has been a red-line for the international community.

A spokesman for the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus said they have enough votes to pass the bill, which would then need Knesset approval. It is deliberately putting forward the bill just two-days after the inauguration of President-elect Trump, whose administration is presumed to hold a more favorable view of Israeli settlements that the previous one.

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.

Liberman, who has strong political support from residents of the city, has spoken in favor of annexation but is urging restraint. The same is true with 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.

“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 and not to surprise them or present them with existing facts, 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 recalled how former prime minister Menachem 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 it forward prematurely and too loudly, he said, would harm Israel’s chances of successfully annexing 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.

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

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