Netanyahu coalition pledges to advance West Bank annexation policies

Also agrees to transfer authority over Israeli civilian life in Area C of the West Bank from IDF to government ministries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plants a tree on the outskirts of Elazar in Gush Etzion on January 26, vowing not to uproot settlements in any peace deal (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plants a tree on the outskirts of Elazar in Gush Etzion on January 26, vowing not to uproot settlements in any peace deal
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Presumptive incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to advance policies to annex portions of the West Bank, as part of a coalition understanding reached just before midnight Wednesday with the Religious Zionist Party (RZP).

"The Prime Minister will lead the formulation of a policy within its framework the application of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria will begin," the agreement stated.

It noted that this will be done "at the right time and with consideration" to Israel's national and international interests.

As part of that drive, which has the brand support of all the coalition partners, Netanyahu according to the RZP agreed to a number of steps to strengthen Israel's hold on Area C of the West Bank, which is under IDF military and civilian control.

Netanyahu has not signed a final coalition agreement with the RZP and the formal draft contract between them has not been published.

Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Religious Zionist party head MK Bezalel Smotrich at a swearing-in ceremony of the 25th Knesset, at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Religious Zionist party head MK Bezalel Smotrich at a swearing-in ceremony of the 25th Knesset, at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

But the RZP has released details, including a plan for the cabinet there will be a cabinet decision within 60 days from the time the government is sworn in that will authorize the outposts, which the Right refers to as the “young communities.”

The RZP notice did not detail how many of the approximately 100 West Bank outposts would be legalized, but the campaign to legalize them has focused on some 70 fledgling communities.

A cabinet decision would not be the final step for authorization, but it allows for the bureaucratic process to commence and prevents the demolition of those communities.

It also allows them to be connected to Israeli utilities, such as electricity.

The Otzma Yehudit agreement, which is also not signed, also included a promise for the creation of four settlements, two in the Jordan Valley and two in the South Hebron Hills.

Netanyahu also agreed, according to the RZP, to execute a plan to transfer authority over Israeli civilian life in Area C of the West Bank, currently under IDF control, to the relevant Israeli government ministries.

The move to transfer power from the Civil Administration to ministries with regard to settler affairs can be seen as de-facto annexation because it gives the government direct oversight with respect to territory beyond the country’s sovereign borders.

An initial plan for such a transfer of power was set out in the first understanding reached between Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the RZP, but not with such clarity.

Netanyahu's government set to collide with US, Europe over settlement outposts

These moves would put Netanyahu’s government on an immediate collision course with the United States and the European Union.

At the United Nations Security Council’s monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict earlier this week, France called on Israel not to legalize the outposts.

The Biden administration has also spoken repeatedly against Israeli settlement activity, such as outpost authorization.

Under the Likud’s agreement with the RZP, Netanyahu agreed that the 2005 Disengagement Law could be amended to allow the authorization of a yeshiva at the site of the former Homesh settlement.

Homesh was one of four northern Samaria settlements Israel evacuated in 2005, as part of its execution of the Disengagement Plan, in which it withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

In a protest move, the community’s yeshiva illegally rebuilt the seminary, housing it in tents and huts on the ruins of the former settlement.

The IDF has demolished the yeshiva many times over the years but it has been rebuilt repeatedly, even though under the Disengagement Law, Israeli civilians are not allowed on the site.

Netanyahu’s government will also allow the carrying out of the agreement it made with some 50 families who had illegally moved to the Evyatar hilltop near the Tapuach junction in the Samaria region of the West Bank.

This includes the authorization of a yeshiva and a new community at the site, either as a neighborhood of an existing settlement, or as a new settlement.

Details of the coalition deal with Otzma Yehudit also focused in part on the need to expand Israel’s hold on Area C through the planting of trees in open areas to prevent Palestinians expanding their footprint there.

Under the terms of the Otzma Yehudit deal, legislation will be put forward to ban Palestinian flags from any institutions that receive government funding, including council offices.