Cabinet majority in favor of sovereignty ensured, as Hendel says yes

Hendel specified that he would vote in favor even if Gantz opposes, saying: “I respect Gantz’s stance…but it could be that we disagree on this.”

MKS YOAZ HENDEL and Zvi Hauser -  the two holdouts who kept the candidates from going it alone. (photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON / FLASH 90)
MKS YOAZ HENDEL and Zvi Hauser - the two holdouts who kept the candidates from going it alone.
(photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON / FLASH 90)
There is a certain majority in the cabinet for applying Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, after Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said Thursday that he would vote in favor of the move regardless of Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s position.

“I will vote in favor of applying the law” Hendel said on Army Radio. “My stance was and remains in all my years supporting applying law to Judea and Samaria or parts of it…I support it in the cabinet, in the Knesset, in this interview and anywhere else.” 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc currently has a majority in the cabinet, but the coalition agreement states that arrangements would be made for there to be parity in the cabinet between the pro-Netanyahu side and the pro-Gantz bloc.

Hendel is a member of Gantz’s bloc, and his latest comments mean that even if Blue and White pulls the parity card, there will be a majority in the cabinet for extending Israeli law to settlements.

In fact, Hendel specified that he would vote in favor even if Gantz opposes, saying: “I respect Gantz’s stance…but it could be that we disagree on this.”

“I think the Jordan Valley is very significant. I think settlement blocs should have been part of Israel long ago. And I think, more than anything, that the gaps between the sides are not so big. We have to think how to do it in the most pragmatic, serious way for the good of the country…We have to find the areas where we have a strategic interest [to apply sovereignty], like the Jordan Valley,” Hendel stated.

Hendel’s remarks came the morning after Netanyahu presented a range of options for where Israel could extend its sovereignty next month, in a meeting with Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin.

The scenarios, as reported in Israeli media, range from the full 30% of the West Bank that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan would allow, to a more symbolic, smaller area. Netanyahu did not tell Gantz and Ashkenazi which option he prefers.

Gantz and Ashkenazi do not want Israel to apply sovereignty to any parts of the West Bank in which Palestinians live. They seek to have the move to take place in conjunction with some kind of peace process with the Palestinians, though the Trump plan allows Israel to extend its laws to the settlements even if the PA refuses to engage.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri joined the meeting, as well, and the group plans to hold further discussions next week.

An anonymous cabinet minister told Army Radio that “the diplomatic price Israel will pay if it goes to partial annexation is the same as full annexation, so it is not clear what the thinking is behind a partial move.”

Finance Minister Israel Katz said on Thursday that he has not been instructed to calculate how much moves towards sovereignty would cost Israel.

“I don't think the money matter will be at the center of the matter,” he told Army Radio.

“I don't think there will be significant budgetary impact,” Katz added, but admitted that his ministry had not been asked to research the matter.

Part of the reason it won’t be costly, Katz said, is that there is no plan to include Palestinians in the area put under Israeli sovereignty, and therefore no Palestinians will become Israeli citizens.

“Whoever is Palestinian will stay on the Palestinian side, and whoever is Israeli will stay on the Israeli side,” he said.

Katz spoke in favor of the Trump plan, saying it was a “historic move…it establishes the Jordan [River] as our eastern border, strengthens Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, strengthens our hold on Jerusalem and all the other settlements, [and] ensures a Jewish majority [in Israel] for generations.”