Bennett: Area C of West Bank belongs to us, we’re waging a battle for it

The defense minister was speaking at the Kohelet Policy Forum conference on Wednesday in Jerusalem.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel is waging a “real battle” against the Palestinians for control of Area C of the West Bank, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday, as he declared “officially" that the territory belongs to Israel.
“Our objective is that within a short amount of time, and we will work for it, we will apply [Israeli] sovereignty to all of Area C, not just the settlements, not just this bloc or another,” Bennett told the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.
Bennett, who heads the New Right party, added that he intended to make that demand part of his coalition agreement to enter the new government after the elections.
The second goal, Bennett said, was to ensure through the promotion of settlement construction to ensure that within a decade a million Jews will live in Judea and Samaria.
In the interim, Bennett said, “We are embarking on a real and immediate battle for the future of the Land of Israel and the future of Area C. It started a month ago and I am announcing it here today.”
Bennett banged his hand on the podium for emphasize as he spoke. He added, “We are not at the United Nations.”
A month ago, Bennett explained, he held a meeting in his ministry with top IDF and Civil Administration officials to discuss the battle for Area C. Bennett promised to announce this week to create a new position and appoint someone to it, that would be at the head of that battle.
“A month ago, I convened a meeting and I explained the clear directive,” said Bennett explaining that he told them, “the State of Israel will do everything to ensure that these territories [Area C] will be part of the State of Israel,” Bennett said.
He spoke a conference called the “Pompeo Doctrine,” which was designed to explore the impact of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s historic declaration last month that the Trump administration held that Israeli settlement activity was not inconsistent with international law.
Pompeo sent a video message to the conference, which also featured speeches from US Ambassador David Friedman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Bennett was the only one who spoke of sovereignty. As Defense Minister he does not have the power to declare sovereignty. He does have the authority to unilaterally declare policies that would help lay the groundwork for such action and to put a halt to illegal Palestinian construction in Area C.   
He accused Netanyahu’s government of not doing anything to halt the decade long battle the Palestinian Authority has engaged in to ensure that Area C will be part of the final borders of its future state.
“They built and we did nothing,” Bennett said, describing it as a “knock-out” victory for the Palestinians.
He referred to a play he believes was put in place a decade ago by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to encourage Palestinian building in critical areas of Area C by way of changing facts on the ground and ensuring that the territory did not become part of Israel’s final borders.
Under the Oslo Accords, first signed in 1994, divided the West Bank into three sections: areas A, B and C. The Oslo Accords placed areas A and B, which includes all of the Palestinian cities and major population centers, under the governmental auspices of the PA. Area C, which constitutes 60% of the West Bank, was put under the civilian and military auspices of the IDF. All Jewish West Bank settlements are located in Area C, thus making that area a battle ground between Israelis and Palestinians.
Bennett charged that the EU has supported the Fayyad plan by providing funding for those strategic illegal Palestinian structures.
Bennett made sure to mention that he supported the annexation of all of Area C, not just the settlements as Netanyahu’s Likud Party has spoke of.
He recalled how a decade ago, there was a freeze and everyone was depressed. Back then he would have urged everyone not to be discouraged, similarly now, he said, it was important not to be carried away by the euphoria of the US acceptance of settlement activity.
Israeli building and activity “is the only thing that will be determinative, that is what we will do, and with God’s help, we will build,” Bennett said.