Netanyahu: Settlement annexation after election

The prime minister said Blue and White leader Benny Gantz wouldn't annex without EU and Arab approval.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that he will request immunity from Knesset, Jan. 1, 2020 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that he will request immunity from Knesset, Jan. 1, 2020
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to backtrack from plans to annex West Bank settlements this week when he told the crowd at a Likud rally in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday night he would exercise sovereignty over all settlements only after the March 2 election.
“When we win, we will continue making history,” Netanyahu said. “When we win, we will extend sovereignty over all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.”
He warned that the historic opportunity to annex West Bank settlements with the support of the US would only occur if he received enough votes to form a right-wing government.
Netanyahu contrasted himself with his opponent, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, who said he would implement US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan only with international approval.
The Yesha Council and the right-wing Yamina Party have pressured Netanyahu to annex the settlements immediately, warning it would harm him in the polls if he did not. The Yesha Council opened a protest tent in Jerusalem to underscore that point.
Netanyahu had said he would bring the matter to a cabinet vote prior to the March 2 election. He then halted the process in its tracks after the White House asked him to wait several months.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu clarified that he did not plan to oppose the White House. He spoke of Trump’s peace plan (unveiled last week) as a historic achievement, noting that no other prime minister had managed to gain so many concessions from the US when it came to Israel’s sovereign border.
The opportunity to expand Israel’s borders would only materialize if he received the maximum number of votes, he said.
Netanyahu warned that Gantz would waste the opportunity because he would only annex settlements if the United Nations and the European Union approved, as well as the Joint List, whose support Gantz could need to build a governing coalition.
“So Gantz would not really implement the plan, and if it was dependent on him, this historic opportunity, the likes of which we have not seen since our independence in 1948, would not be carried out,” Netanyahu said.
“But we in Likud will not let this enormous opportunity fall through our hands. We brought it [to fruition], and we are here to implement it,” he said.
“We are making peace not out of weakness but out of strength,” Netanyahu told the crowd, sounding like his 1996 election slogan, “making peace secure.”
He recounted his success in bringing home Naama Issachar from Moscow and his meeting with the leader of Sudan and promised the crowd “more surprises.” He warned that if he did not win, the Left would come to power and implement its former policies.
In a reference to former US president Barack Obama, Netanyahu said he thwarted disaster doing those years, when “I stopped Israel withdrawing to pre-1967 lines and dividing Jerusalem.”
“What is really hard is standing up to an American president for eight years,” but “what is really easy is voting Likud,” Netanyahu said.
Tovah Lozaroff contributed to this report.