MK Shelah: 'How have we gotten to July 1 without an annexation map?'

State Control Committee slams lack of governmental, security preparation

Ofer Shelah
Israel is about to launch a major initiative – the annexation of West Bank settlements – without properly debating the security and foreign-relations impact, Comptroller Committee chairman Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) warned Wednesday.
“How have we gotten to July 1 without an annexation map?” he asked during a committee debate on the matter in the Knesset.
Among the larger questions that need to be examined are the impact of the creation of a Palestinian state and the effect on some of Israel’s larger security issues, such as Iran.
“It is unclear what we need to prepare for,” Shelah said. “No one knows on what date [annexation] will happen or in which manner – only that it can happen any day.”
“There is an important public aspect here,” he said. “So from here a call goes out to conduct the process in the clearest, most thorough and most transparent way possible. An important decision is about to be reached, and it is crucial that all the elements voice their consolidated position so that the public may judge.”
Rani Peled, head of the National Security Council’s intelligence department, downplayed the situation, saying his organization had been part of the dialogue from the start, including with the US.
The NSC has also presented a document on the matter to the prime minister and to a number of security officials, he said, adding that a more in-depth conversation would be held on the topic.
Shelah said he was bothered by an Army Radio interview Wednesday morning in which Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White) said he had no information about whether annexation was happening later in the day.
Based on the coalition agreement between the Likud and Blue and White parties, Israel can apply annexation as early as July 1. But the day dawned without any declaration of sovereignty, any clear sense of a plan or a substantive debate on the matter among professionals, ministers and parliamentarians.
Peled said that conversation had occurred based on the map provided in January within the context of the Trump administration’s peace plan. It included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and security officials he said.
But Shelah said the conversations could only be theoretical at best because there was no final map. According to some reports, the plan could also be a limited one that applies only to the settlement blocs.
“Even if you claim that the Trump plan was published and is known to all for the purpose of preparation, clearly there is a big difference between applying sovereignty to 30% of the [West Bank] territory and applying sovereignty only to Gush Etzion or... the Jordan Valley. How can a decision be reached on this basis?” Shelah said.
Noam Katz, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director of public diplomacy, said a team has been formed to explore different scenarios, and a position paper had been given to the National Security Council.
But emissaries abroad have only previously supplied general talking points, he said. When holding meetings with foreign dignitaries, the emissaries listen and then speak generally of Israeli security and diplomatic concerns, he added.
A Justice Ministry representative said his office had discussed the legal ramifications of the application of Israeli law to portions of the West Bank, but it had not been in communication with the NSC about the matter.
As of Wednesday, “Israel was heading into the unknown,” MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said.
Israel is about to engage “in a dramatic process” that will make its citizens culpable for war crimes, that goes against international law and will transform the country into one known for “apartheid,” she said.
The whole world is talking about Israel, and only its own government is silent, Zandberg said. Experts in the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry have to sound the alarm to warn Israel that it is heading to disaster, she said.
Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz said Israel already was paying a diplomatic price over the conversation about annexation, even before anything had happened.