Shaked: Without annexation of settlements, government must not exist

The Sovereignty Movement has issued a statement urging Netanyahu and Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz to include sovereignty in the government’s policy platform.

The basic error is to treat all the settlements alike (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
The basic error is to treat all the settlements alike
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu must apply sovereignty to the West Bank settlements within a month, or his government should cease to exist, MK Ayelet Shaked of the Yamina party warned on Wednesday.
“If the Prime Minister has approval of the US government to apply sovereignty in the coming months, he must act on it immediately,” Shaked said.
“The government that is being formed has no right to exist unless it applies sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” Shaked warned.
“We know that the window of opportunity for annexation is in the next month of two. [US President Donald] Trump is heading to elections and we do not know what will happen after the elections. We must take advantage of the next two months to apply sovereignty,” Shaked said.
“I call on Netanyahu, and I am sure he will act accordingly, not to enter into any agreement with the Blue and White party without making it absolutely clear, that we are applying sovereignty, without any vetos,” she said.
Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz has opposed the inclusion of sovereignty in the government guidelines. The issue has been a sticking point between him and Netanyahu during the negotiations for the formation of a government.
Shaked is among those who are concerned that Netanyahu may agree to forgo sovereignty, just at the moment when it appears that the factors for its application are more favorable than they have ever been in the history of the settlement movement.
Others hold that Netanyahu push forward with the annexation of West Bank settlements.
Netanyahu is unlikely to give up on the application of sovereignty to West Bank settlements, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters on Wednesday.
“I cannot imagine the prime minister will give up on the topic of sovereignty," Bennett said in an online press conference.
The application of sovereignty to the settlements “must be built in” to whatever government is formed, Bennett said, adding that his Yamina Party would have to make sure that this really happens.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told radio KAN Bet in the morning that he believes annexation will be part of the new government’s guidelines.
“We need to wait to see what the new government guidelines will be — but if a new government is created, I anticipate that sovereignty will be part of it,” Erdan said.
Much like Shaked, Settler leaders are concerned about the matter and have warned Netanyahu that he must annex West Bank settlements immediately upon formation of that government. On Tuesday they renewed their campaign to ensure that their communities become part of a sovereign Israel.
“We’ve spent the past year on a long journey with you to advance the application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. We stood with you and supported you. We stood in [Judea and Samaria], in Jerusalem and in Washington. We lauded you everywhere for your efforts to apply Israeli law to these areas,” some 20 settlers wrote in a letter addressed to Netanyahu.
Among the signatories was Yesha Council head and Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani.
“As those who stood by you in all the last election campaigns, we expect you to enshrine the application of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley in the government’s basic guidelines immediately upon formation of that government,” the Yesha leaders wrote on Tuesday.
“The time has come to right historical justice and to end the discrimination of close to half a million Israeli citizens living in the biblical heartland,” the settler leaders wrote.
In a separate message to Netanyahu, Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan reminded Netanyahu that his sovereignty pledge was the reason people came out to vote for him.
While Netanyahu’s Likud Party had more support in the settlements than any other political party, settlers have long been nervous that Netanyahu’s talk of sovereignty would turn out to be an empty promise.
Netanyahu was the last right-wing leader to speak of sovereignty during the elections, and his allegiance to it has been suspect. He had initially spoken of applying sovereignty over the West Bank settlements in the immediate aftermath of the January publication of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan. He backtracked upon pressure from the US, stating instead that sovereignty would happen only after completion of a joint Israeli-American mapping process.
Settlers attempted to sway him to ignore the US objections and move forward anyway, but eventually they abandoned that campaign, as the third election cycle neared its completion.
Now that the Knesset has reconvened and the subject of sovereignty is a matter of dispute in the negotiations to form a government, settlers have renewed their sovereignty campaign.
The Trump peace plan allows for Israel to annex 30% of Area C, including all of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea region. But even though the plan would allow Israel to move forward in advance of any peace deal with the Palestinians, the Trump administration would prefer that Netanyahu wait to apply sovereignty. Right-wing politicians and settlers want sovereignty immediately.
“A majority of Knesset members support sovereignty,” Yesha director-general Yigal Dilmoni told The Jerusalem Post, adding: “We have to ensure sovereignty will come to fruition in the next Knesset.”
The Sovereignty Movement also issued a statement urging Netanyahu and Gantz to include sovereignty in the government’s policy platform.
“The movement recalls the declarations made by MK Benny Gantz last July, that he views the Jordan  Valley as an integral part of the sovereign State of Israel.
“The application of sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the communities of Judea and Samaria can and must be part of the basis for establishing a Zionist, nationalist government,” the movement stated.
It supports sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, but has not supported the Trump plan, which also allows for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state over 70% of the West Bank. It urged Netanyahu not to make good on that part of the plan.
Sovereignty Movement cochairwomen Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar said: “Although we are indeed in a time of national and global emergency, those who love Israel and are faithful to her, whether part of the government or not, must remember their Zionist mission to protect the Land of Israel and not to promote steps that would bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state in the heart of the Land of Israel.”
The left-wing group Peace Now has called on Gantz and Labor Party head Amir Peretz not to allow sovereignty to move forward.
“To demonstrate that they have not completely betrayed their voters, they must stand against unilateral annexation and the antidemocratic path the settlement agenda is taking the country down,” Peace Now said.
“Gantz and Peretz, your base did not vote for you to be used as a fifth wheel by the right-wing bloc and to become collaborators of the hilltop youth. Even in the midst of a national and global crisis, the future of Israel must not be abandoned to an extreme and irresponsible lobby leading us to the destruction of the Zionist vision. In the name of combating the coronavirus, do not infect Israel with “annexation fever,” Peace Now said.
“We demand that you both make it clear today that you will not give in to a government to promote unilateral annexation,” it added.
The international community, including the European Union, has opposed any Israeli annexation plan and has called for a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines that would involve an Israeli withdrawal from all of the West Bank.
At an informal UN Security Council meeting via video conference, French Ambassador to the UN in New York Nicolas de Rivière warned Israel against any annexation steps.
“We have warned against any unilateral steps, including annexation of parts of the West Bank, that would undermine the two-state solution and the prospects for peace. Such steps if implemented would not pass unchallenged,” de Rivière said. EU foreign ministers had been scheduled to meet about the issue, but that discussion was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.