MK OFIR AKUNIS looks out over the Old City of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The government opposes plans to annex Area C of the West Bank as does the Likud party, Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis [Likud] told the Knesset on Wednesday. Should such plans be raised in the government, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni [Hatnua] pledged to block them, as long as she remained a member of its coalition.
Both politicians spoke during a Knesset debate on a series of proposals to fully apply Israeli law to Area C of the West Bank.
“It’s been said here that the government’s position at this stage is not to apply sovereignty to [Area C]. That will remain the government’s position as long as I am a member of it,” she said.
The matter was raised in the plenum on Wednesday by Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin [Likud] and MK Orit Struck [Bayit Yehudi]. They want to advance legislation to impose Israeli sovereignty
on the region of the West Bank where Jewish settlements are situated.
The plan is similar to one that has already been raised by Economic Affairs Minister and Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett
. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has in the past rejected such plans. But in an interview he gave to Bloomberg View the prime minister hinted that if direct talks with the Palestinians were doomed, he might consider weighing such plans.
Deputy Minister Ofir Akuni (Likud) told the Knesset that he personally supported such plans, but that on this issue, he was at odds with his party’s formal position.
“We’re not there yet,” he said of his party. Both he and Struck explained that such a move would not harm the nature of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, because it dealt solely with Area C, where only a small number of Palestinians lived.
Struck added that the real demographic threat came from a Palestinian state, which would draw in refugees from neighboring countries and vastly increase the number of Palestinians in the West Bank.
Levin said that during the Six Day War in 1967, Israel was able to liberate portions of its homeland from Jordan, but failed to apply sovereignty.
“The leaders back then led the country to a great military victory, but lacked long term vision,” Levin said.
MK Yehiel Hilik Bar (Labor) said, however, that he opposed any unilateral action whether it was annexation or withdrawal from territory. If Israel wants to take a unilateral action, it should recognize a Palestinian state, he said. This should happen before any discussion about borders, he added.
“First and foremost they should have a state and there should be a situation of two states,” Bar said.
The civil war in Syria should be a warning signal as to why the vision of one state is a disaster, he said.
Livni said it was impossible to only partially annex the West Bank and that such action would grant some 2.5 million Palestinians living in Areas A and B of the West Bank voting rights in Israel.
Earlier in the day at a Bizportal conference she said, “those who say annexing settlement blocs make them ours are deceiving us.”
She called on Israel to stop investments and other activity in isolated settlements that in any event, would not be part of Israel in any final status agreement with the Palestinians.