‘If Israel doesn’t annex now, it won't happen’

Yesha to hold emergency meeting Saturday night.

Construction near Efrat in the West Bank (photo credit: REUTERS)
Construction near Efrat in the West Bank
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If Israel doesn’t apply sovereignty over the West Bank settlements now, and the matter is delayed, it will never happen, warned Yesha head David Elhayani.
“The next 24 hours are critical,” the settler leader told the paper by telephone on his way home from the airport after spending three days in Washington.
The sovereignty issue “is frozen. It needs to move forward now. If the prime minister waits until after the election, it will not happen,” said Elhayani, who is also the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council.
Elhayani was one of four settler leaders who returned frustrated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexation efforts had come to a sudden halt, after hopes had been raised that sovereignty over the settlements could be voted on by the cabinet and Knesset as early as next week.
The settler leaders had gone to Washington to be on hand when US President Donald Trump unveiled his peace plan, known as the “Deal of the Century.”
It recognized Israeli rights to retain all of the settlements in Judea and Samaria, essentially an amount of land equaling 30% of Area C, which is now under Israeli and military rule. They were told unilateral application of sovereignty could be immediate.
Then Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner told PBS’s GZERO World on Wednesday that the US wants Israel to wait until after the March 2 election.
A technical team needs to be formed to study the maps and better understand the contours of the territory Israel could annex, Kushner said. “We will start working on the technical stuff now, but we need an Israeli government in place,” Kushner said.
Elhayani said there is a fight between Kushner and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman about the time table for the application of sovereignty. He said he is pessimistic that Friedman will succeed, because Kushner is stronger.
He urged Netanyahu to move forward with the application of sovereignty, irrespective of the Trump administration’s position. “We don’t need to wait for anyone,” Elhayani said.
The issue has become a “test of leadership” for Netanyahu, he added.
The Yesha Council plans to hold an emergency meeting on the matter on Saturday night, Elhayani said, adding that he was certain there would be further developments over the next two days.
Efrat Council head and Yesha foreign envoy Oded Revivi said the “amount of twists and turnovers and change of perspective that have been in the last 72 hours are extremely unbelievable,” he said.
“Things that I said yesterday I would not say today. There is a lot of confusion at the moment. Things that were specifically told to us by the prime minister and the US administration have seemed to have been turned into a different time schedule.
“I think the most evident [example] that is now on the table, can the Israeli government apply Israeli law on Judea and Samaria... I was given a picture of one thing and I believe that the prime minister was given the same picture,” he said.
“It was presented by everyone that Israel can start applying some of the terms and the suggestions in the plan immediately,” Revivi said.
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman and Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz were also part of the Yesha delegation to Washington.