A general view of houses in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
The time is right for the government to apply sovereignty to West Bank settlements in light of the Trump administration’s attitude toward Israel, said cabinet ministers, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and other MKs at a Land of Israel Caucus conference on Monday.
The right-wing caucus held the meeting ahead of a ministerial vote on a bill to apply Israeli law to settlements, a move many of its opponents consider annexation. The legislation was proposed by the caucus leaders, MK Yoav Kisch of Likud and MK Bezalel Smotrich of Bayit Yehudi.
Israeli laws do not automatically extend to the West Bank and usually require a military order for them to apply, because the IDF governs the area. Many on the Right see this as discrimination against Israeli citizens based on where they live.
“I’m very optimistic,” Edelstein said. “The timing is excellent. No one will do this for us and we have to push it.”
Citing US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset last month, Edelstein said he mentioned “the deep connection between this nation and this land. He isn’t talking about Gush Dan. He’s talking about all the places the Jewish people have been connected to since the days of the Bible, including Judea and Samaria.”
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Israeli Kenesset (YouTube/US Embassy in Israel)
Kisch said that US President Donald Trump’s election marked a “total change in the White House’s attitude towards Israel.”
“The time has come to make practical moves,” Kisch said.
“We are on the cusp of a historic opportunity that may not return.
We see the historic American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as the first step.”
Smotrich said the bill is not just declarative, and that he thinks it has realistic chances of passing.
“Along with the drastic change in the American government... there is a political dynamic in the coalition that will allow this bill to pass and can develop into a critical mass,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel called for Israel to enact its sovereignty on the Temple Mount.
Technically, Israel is sovereign over the Temple Mount, but it allows the Jordanian Islamic Trust to administer Judaism’s holiest and Islam’s third-holiest site.
“It looks natural to us that we’re discussing sovereignty, but that was not always so,” Ariel said, recounting that the discourse was different after the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. “If you’re determined, you will win. Today the discussion is where to apply the law first.”
Zionist Union MK Michal Biran made a surprise appearance at the conference.
“I came to listen,” she said. “When you talk about annexation with all the Palestinians becoming Israeli citizens, I’m worried about Israel as a Jewish state. If the Palestinians don’t become citizens, I’m worried about Israel as a democracy.
“Jewish and democratic must go together, and I want to understand what you think, so I came to listen,” she said.
Kisch responded that different members of the caucus have different answers to her question.
Likud MK Yehudah Glick said it’s important to take Biran’s question seriously, but for her to consider that they have challenging questions about the two-state formulation.
“I don’t understand how you don’t see how establishing another state puts us all in danger,” Glick argued. “The Palestinians aren’t coming to the table, so we’re moving forward, and moving forward means sovereignty over the whole of Judea and Samaria, and we will find answers to all the difficult questions Michal asked.”
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