Netanyahu: Mapping process has begun, sovereignty to follow

US Ambassador David Friedman joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a tour of the region as the mapping process got underway.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador David Friedman touring the West Bank settlement of Ariel on February 24, 2020 (photo credit: COURTSEY OF ARIEL SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador David Friedman touring the West Bank settlement of Ariel on February 24, 2020
The US-Israeli mapping process to delineate West Bank territory for the application of Israeli sovereignty has begun, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. He pledged that annexation would follow as soon as the cartographic process was completed.
“The joint mapping process of the Israeli team and the American team is underway here in Ariel,” Netanyahu said. “This is a major mission. The area has an 800-km. perimeter. There is serious work, but we will work as quickly as possible to get it done.”
He spoke during a rainstorm as he stood in a tent on the outskirts of Ariel, the fourth largest Jewish city in Judea and Samaria.
It was a stop on a tour he made in the area together with US Ambassador David Friedman, with just seven days to go before the March 2 election Netanyahu said..
“There is no artificial impediment,” Netanyahu said. “For the mapping process, one must consider every valley, every section, every nook and every line. This is serious. We are determining here lines that have historic implications.”
The mapping process would “allow for the application of Israeli law [sovereignty] on these areas and later American recognition as well,” he said. Once the work is complete, “sovereignty can happen immediately,” he added.
The group also included representatives of the joint US-Israel mapping committee, of which Friedman is a member. Israeli members of the committee, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Prime Minister’s Office director-general Ronen Peretz were present. Friedman brought with him his senior adviser, Aryeh Lightstone. Scott Leith, director of the US National Security Council’s Office for Israel and Palestinian Affairs, was also present. Israel National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat is also a member of the mapping team.
The trip was billed as the committee’s initial trip out to the field to explore the terrain.
Friedman, speaking over the sound of the pounding rain drops, said: “In Israel, rain is a blessing... I hope that our efforts should be blessed as much as the rain is coming down right now. We’re looking forward to going from here to sit down someplace quiet. We can pull out some papers and start getting to work. We have our team here, and we’re going to get to work right away. We hope to complete it as soon as possible and complete it the right way for the State of Israel.”
Under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, Israel can annex 30% of Area C of the West Bank, including all the settlements, once the mapping process is completed.
Settlers have urged Netanyahu to annex that territory immediately, but he has agreed to the US request to delay the move until after the mapping process is completed.
Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro, who is among those settler leaders who are supportive of Netanyahu’s decision, joined Netanyahu and Friedman for their visit.
“The sovereignty ship is under way,” Shaviro said after Monday’s tour.
“As I have said in the past, I believe that the prime minister will advance the ‘Deal of the Century’ with President Trump and US officials,” he said. “I believe that the application of Israeli law [sovereignty] in the Jordan Valley and in the communities of Judea and Samaria is closer than ever.”
Last Thursday, Friedman met in the West Bank city of Efrat with a number of supportive leaders, including Shaviro and Efrat Council head Oded Revivi.
On Sunday, Revivi, who is also the Yesha Council’s foreign envoy, called on Friedman to include settler leaders like himself in the mapping process.
“We need to get involved as quickly as possible to influence the future of this region,” he said.
The Ariel trip was part of Netanyahu’s media blitz of pro-settlement announcements, pledges and visits. On Thursday, he promised to publish a tender for the first homes in the new Jewish neighborhood of Givat Hamatos in east Jerusalem, not far from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
On Monday, the left-wing group Peace Now announced that a tender for 1,077 homes on Givat Hamatos was published for a bid that opens March 5 and closes on June 22.
Netanyahu has pushed forward the project to help cement Israel’s hold on a united Jerusalem. Peace Now has warned that it would “sever” the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian Jerusalem-Bethlehem metropolitan area.
“Construction in Givat Hamatos is a serious blow to the two-state solution,” Peace Now said. “This is the last point enabling territorial continuity between Bethlehem and east Jerusalem.”
The IDF’s Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria intends to meet on Thursday to advance plans for building 1,148 homes in West Bank settlements, Peace Now said.
Among the projects on the agenda is a new industrial park, Sha’ar Hashomron, which will be located near Kalkilya.
The council will also move on a plan for 620 homes in the settlement of Eli, which had been frozen due to a High Court of Justice injunction against the project. The High Court removed that injunction last week.
All of Israel’s building measures over the pre-1967 lines fall within the parameters of the Trump peace plan. But the Palestinians and the United Nations, as well as Peace Now, are holding out for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
With an eye to that parameter, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov spoke against Israel building over the pre-1967 lines, as well as the moves to advance sovereignty, when he addressed the UN Security Council in New York by video from Jerusalem.
“The secretary-general [Antonio Guterres] has consistently spoken out against unilateral steps and plans for annexation,” he said. “Such steps, including the possible annexation of territory in the West Bank or similar moves, would have a devastating impact on the prospect for a two-state solution. They would close the door to negotiations, have negative repercussions across the region and severely undermine opportunities for normalization and regional peace.”