Bennett vows to pursue Ma’ale Adumim annexation this month
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Bennett vows to pursue Ma’ale Adumim annexation this month

Jewish Home leader claims coalition-backed plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to Jerusalem-area settlement will be presented in Knesset after Trump inauguration

Education Minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett delivers a statement to the press in response to the UN vote against Israeli settlements, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on December 25, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Education Minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett delivers a statement to the press in response to the UN vote against Israeli settlements, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on December 25, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett on Sunday said he plans to introduce legislation this month that would extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jerusalem-area settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

In a tweet, Bennett said his Orthodox-nationalist party would present to the Knesset what he described as a coalition-backed plan to lawmakers later this month — presumably after the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Bennett has long proposed that Israel annex large parts of the West Bank, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state in that area poses a threat to Israel’s existence.

On Thursday, he asserted the arrival of a Trump administration would see a shift in Israel’s West Bank policies, including the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, a city with some 40,000 residents.

But on Saturday, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a close ally of Netanyahu, rejected suggestions that Israel may unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank, saying such a course of action would be “a disaster” for the country.

Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog, speaking at a cultural event in Haifa Saturday, said those supporting annexation were “brainwashing the public with lies, such as claiming that we can annex Area C and the world will allow it.” After the results of a survey commissioned by Israel Radio showed that around one-third of Israelis would like to see the disputed territory annexed to Israel, Herzog on Friday called on Bennett to support a referendum.

Israel has controlled the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War but has never moved to annex any of the territory beyond extending sovereignty to East Jerusalem. It later applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, captured from Syria.

Most experts see Israel’s policy of extending sovereignty, in moves widely unrecognized by the international community, as tantamount to annexation.

An Israeli settler looks at the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim from the E1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
An Israeli settler looks at the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim from the E1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

In the wake of the recent Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity two weeks ago, Bennett ramped up calls to effectively annex large parts of the territory Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Bennett, whose party counts the settlement movement as a major part of its voter base, ran in elections on a platform of de facto annexation of Area C (the parts of the West Bank under Israeli civilian and military control) and extending a type of semi-autonomy to Palestinians in the rest of the territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meeting at the Trump Tower in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meeting at the Trump Tower in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Trump has assured Israel that things will be different after he takes office, lamenting last week that the Jewish state was “being treated very, very unfairly” by the international community after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which took aim at Israeli construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Speaking to reporters outside his Mar-a-Lago estate on Thursday, Trump lambasted the UN for condemning Israel, saying that “horrible places, that treat people horribly, haven’t even been reprimanded” by the international body.

Though refused to directly answer specific questions regarding West Bank settlements, Trump called himself “very, very strong on Israel.”

The president-elect also lashed out on Twitter at the Obama administration for treating Israel with “such total disdain and disrespect,” following the UN vote, and indicated the US was no longer “a great friend” to the Jewish state.

Netanyahu has said that he looks forward to working with Trump, his administration and the US Congress to reverse the Security Council resolution.

A controversial initiative to authorize West Bank outposts — previously postponed until after Trump enters the White House — was put “back on the table” following the US’s failure to veto Friday’s Security Council resolution.

Fearing repercussions from the US administration, a final vote on the so-called Regulation Bill, which would legalize some 4,000 housing units in the West Bank built on privately owned Palestinian land, had been shelved until President Obama leaves office, coalition chairman David Bitan confirmed last week.

But with the US abstention in the UN vote, “We are done playing nice,” a coalition source told The Times of Israel. “It’s back on the table,” he said of the bill, signaling it could be brought to a plenary vote in the coming weeks.

Bennett has called the outpost bill the first step toward annexing the West Bank.

, after ., echoing previous reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government was waiting until the January 20 inauguration of Donald Trump before pursuing any potentially explosive legislation.

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