Israeli Defense Minister Calls for Annexation of West Bank Settlements
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s defense minister and head of the New Right party, said on Wednesday that the Jewish state should immediately extend its sovereignty to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This came in response to an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that US President Donald Trump unveiled on Tuesday. Israeli annexation of all of the settlements is an element of Trump’s plan. Bennett was less enthusiastic about another element of the plan – the establishment of a Palestinian state in much of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip, and parts of Israel that would be transferred to Palestine in the framework of land swaps. “The Israeli government will not recognize a Palestinian state,” Bennett asserted. According to “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People,” a document released by the White House that lays out the Trump plan, “approximately 97% of Israelis in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Israeli territory” while the other 3% will live in Israeli enclaves surrounded by Palestinian territory. “Last night history knocked on the door of our home and gave us a one-time opportunity to apply Israeli law on all settlements in Samaria, Judea, the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea,” Bennett said, using the Israeli terms for areas of the West Bank. Bennett’s call comes on the backdrop of an election campaign: His New Right party will be competing with Netanyahu’s Likud and additional parties for the votes of right-wingers in the upcoming election, set for March 2. The current administration, a caretaker government that does not have majority support in Israel’s parliament, may not have the authority to pass legislation that would be required to annex the settlements.