PM blocks bill to annex West Bank settlements

MK Miri Regev's bill, which would have effectively annexed large portions of Area C, defeated at the Ministerial Committee.

Israeli flag hangs off pole in Migron 370 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli flag hangs off pole in Migron 370 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning blocked a bill to fully extend Israeli law to West Bank settlements, which are now under Israeli military rule.
MK Miri Regev (Likud) proposed the bill, which was defeated by 9 votes at the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
Only Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Yisrael Beytenu) voted in favor of the legislation, which would have effectively annexed portions of Area C in the West Bank.
The bill’s fate, however, was sealed even before the vote was cast, when Netanyahu opposed the matter in the Likud ministerial meeting earlier that day.
“I am sorry that the government chose not to set clear policy [in Judea and Samaria] by rejecting the bill,” Regev said.
She added that she had spoken with Netanyahu last week and told him that with his newly expanded coalition, now was the moment to pass such a measure.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation rejected her bill after a confusing meeting, in which the legislation initially appeared to garner enough support to ensure its passage.
Based on reports from those present at the meeting, two narratives have emerged as to how events transpired in the 20-member committee that ultimately led to the bill’s defeat.
In the first version, a majority of ministers present in the room indicated their support for the bill.
According to a source, a Justice Ministry representative said the bill was problematic from a diplomatic perspective because its execution meant an almost complete annexation of Area C in the West Bank.
Someone else suggested that the committee was not the proper forum to debate the matter.
Among those who opposed the bill were Likud ministers Bennie Begin and Dan Meridor.
At a certain point in the debate, the committee chairman, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, suggested a onemonth delay in light of comments made in the room and the discrepancy between Netanyahu’s wishes and that of the ministers, sources said.
When it turned out that Regev had not been briefed about the possibility of a delay, the meeting was adjourned so that she could be updated.
According to sources, Begin was asked to go out to speak to her but refused, stating, “It was easier to deal with Migron than to speak with Miri Regev.”
A representative on behalf of Neeman and Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) finally spoke with her.
Regev asked if the delay would increase the chances of the bill’s passage.
Edelstein responded that he did not think so – at which point Regev rejected the request.
She later explained to The Jerusalem Post that after speaking with Edelstein, she believed that the bill would have been rejected in the end.
Once a bill is rejected it can only be returned to the committee in a half-year. Regev said that the suggested delay would have meant waiting seven months rather than six to return the bill to the committee.
Ministers, however, saw her refusal as a sign that she was not serious, and those who had initially indicated their support changed their minds, according to sources at the meeting. When the meeting was reconvened they voted to reject the bill.
In a second and simpler version of events, after a discussion of the bill, Neeman proposed a month’s delay.
Ministers who had planned to vote against the bill after understanding that Netanyahu opposed it, then indicated their approval of a delay – which they believed had Netanyahu’s backing. Representatives from the meeting were sent to see if Regev supported the suggestion to delay the vote.
Edelstein said he told her he believed the committee would ultimately reject the bill, and that this would likely be true even with a delay.
Once ministers understood the suggestion for a delay came from Neeman, not Netanyahu, they rejected both the request for the delay and the bill.
A number of ministers, such as Edelstein and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi), abstained.
Edelstein later told the Post that he supported the bill in principle but took the middle road when he saw it lacked support.
“We will just have to look for better circumstances and better times,” he said.
Regev told the Post that her bill had been misunderstood.
Its aim, she said, was not to annex Judea and Samaria, but rather to ensure that the settlements there received the same legal treatment as any other Israeli community.
This is particularly important for the issue of settlement construction, which would then be moved from the Defense Ministry to normative planning committees.
A source among the Likud ministers said that the party’s leadership opposes the bill, which would have effectively annexed the settlements.
The Likud party has historically opposed extending Israeli law to the West Bank, the source said.
The source noted that former Likud prime ministers such as Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon had opposed the annexation of Judea and Samaria.
On Sunday evening, Regev posted a note on her Facebook page which said that the Likud party’s regulations state it is obligated to preserve Jewish rights to the land and apply Israeli sovereignty on it.