Coalition lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation that would extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jerusalem-area settlement of Ma’ale Adumim at a Knesset committee next week.
The annexation bill will be put forward by Likud MK Yoav Kish and Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, according to multiple reports on Wednesday.
The Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party has long supported legislation that would see Israel effectively annex large parts of the West Bank, starting with Ma’ale Adumim. But the controversial bill — touted by party leader Naftali Bennett as coalition-backed initiative — has been postponed several times in recent months until after the February meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at Washington’s request.
While Trump has indicated he will be significantly more tolerant of Israeli settlements than the Obama administration, Netanyahu on Monday reportedly said the two leaders had yet to cement an agreement regarding his government’s policies in the West Bank.
Speaking at Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu confirmed he was working with the White House to establish a “mechanism” for coordinating settlement construction, but added that “things are not as simple as you think they are.”
Unnamed participants in the Likud faction meeting told the Haaretz daily that Netanyahu hailed Trump’s presidency as a “historic opportunity, but [we] need to know the limits of this opportunity.”
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.
In the wake of the December UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity, Bennett ramped up calls to effectively annex large parts of the territory Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Bennett, whose party considers 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.
Although Netanyahu has expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has refrained from voicing support for a two-state solution of late, as MKs from both Likud and the Jewish Home — upon whose support the prime ministers coalition depends — have called on him to renounce the two-state solution.
Trump’s election to the White House was celebrated by many on the Israeli right as an opportunity to advance the settlement enterprise, but the US president told Netanyahu during a joint press conference at the White House after their February 15 meeting that “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
Just days before the prime minister’s visit, Trump told the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily that “I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace,” as “every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left.”
During his visit to Washington, Netanyahu denied wanting to extend Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, saying “I don’t want to annex close to 2.5 millions Palestinians to Israel; I do not want them to be our subjects.” However, he told Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop last week while in Australia that Israel would never relinquish security control over the West Bank.