Netanyahu: Settlement annexation will bring peace

The prime minister argued that the settlements and their residents would remain part of Israel in any scenario.

A view of the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim February 25, 2020. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
A view of the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim February 25, 2020.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Applying Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and combatting the accusations against Israel in the International Criminal Court are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's priorities as he begins work in the fifth government he's led.
Netanyahu announced his intention to bring annexation of West Bank settlements to a vote as soon as possible, in his remarks during the first cabinet meeting of the new government on Sunday.
"I have not hidden my intention to bring it to the cabinet as soon as possible," Netanyahu said.
The coalition agreement between Netanyahu's Likud party and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White states that the earliest date for a vote is July 1.
Netanyahu also called the International Criminal Court's investigation into alleged war crimes by Israelis a "strategic threat" and one of the most important matters on the government's agenda.
Earlier Sunday, before the swearing-in of his new government in the Knesset, Netanyahu spoke of his plan to annex settlements
“The time has come to apply Israeli law over [West Bank settlements] and to write a new, glorious chapter in the annals of Zionism,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu argued that annexation “will not make peace more distant; it will bring it closer. Peace can only be based on truth, and everyone knows it.”
The prime minister argued that the settlements and their residents would remain part of Israel in any scenario.
“The time has come for our neighbors the Palestinians and people in this House to recognize this,” he added, amid heckling from the Joint List.
Netanyahu also took credit for the current push for Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, saying it is “on the agenda only because I personally worked to advance it for three years.”
He also called for anyone who supports this drive to join the government. Yamina, the religious-Zionist bloc to the right of Likud, did not join the new coalition.
Netanyahu spoke out against the International Criminal Court’s case against Israel, calling it “outrageous… to accuse IDF soldiers of war crimes and Israel of the quote-unquote terrible crime of building preschools in Gilo and our return to Shiloh, Beit El and Hebron.
“What hypocrisy! What a distortion of the truth!” he exclaimed. “This is the truth: These areas are the districts in which the Jewish nation sprouted.”
Netanyahu expressed appreciation for the US secretary of state’s “firm position against the international court that is persecuting Israel with unfounded and outrageous accusations.”
Also in his remarks, Netanyahu mentioned that Tzipi Hotovely would be settlement affairs minister and would be part of the joint US-Israelis committee that is working towards mapping new borders for Israel. Hotovely is an enthusiastic supporter of applying Israeli law in the West Bank.
The comments came days after US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters that “annexation is up to Israel,” but that “we think these discussions should be part of the peace process, part of discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Ortagus said.
US President Donald Trump’s peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians states that Israel can apply sovereignty to all settlements and the Jordan Valley, making up about 30% of the West Bank, whereas the rest will be designated for an eventual Palestinian state, that must meet certain criteria, such as demilitarization, stopping incitement and civil rights for its people, to get US recognition and massive economic aid.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Sunday that “annexation is a big threat. It is prohibited under international law, and will undermine the rules-based international order.”
The envoy warned that if Israel applies its laws to parts of the West Bank, “it will have legal, political and security implications that will be difficult to deal with, damage prospects for peace, and encourage radicalization on all sides.
“Annexation will also diminish the prospects for normalization of ties between Israel and Arab states,” he stated.
Mladenov reiterated his praise for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in fighting coronavirus, calling it “exemplary... especially in health-related issues,” but added that “it did not create the necessary political drive to resolve the conflict.”
He made the comments at a virtual conference organized by Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies and the Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University.
The Sovereignty Movement immediately applauded Netanyahu’s remarks on sovereignty and his insistence that the ability of Jews to live in their ancient ancestral homeland cannot be a stumbling block to peace.
It warned, however, that any application of Israeli law must be totally divorced from the creation of a Palestinian state.
“The application of sovereignty must be an integral part of an ethically just Zionist process. It can not, in any way, however, be part of a deal that includes an agreement to establish a foreign state in the heart of our homeland. Our movement, its supporters and all those who love and are loyal to the Land of Israel will stand guard” to make sure that Israel doesn’t given away land as part of some deal, even one initiated by its friend and ally the United States, the movement stated.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.