Calls by right-wing leaders to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank are both dangerous and delusional, Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog said Saturday, adding that the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was to relaunch negotiations and finally determine Israel’s permanent borders.
“The extreme right is exploiting the leadership vacuum that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has created, and is now throwing into the ring dangerous ideas about annexing the [West Bank] territories,” Herzog said, according to Israel Radio.
“The only solution is a political process under which settlement blocs would remain in Israeli hands, and to determine the country’s permanent borders.”
The Labor Party chairman went on to criticize the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, who on Friday urged the government to annex West Bank areas mainly settled by Jews. Channel 2 news reported that the economy minister had presented a plan to this effect to Netanyahu.
“If Bennett thinks this is the solution to the political entanglement the government created, [he] is delusional and detached from reality,” Herzog said.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Friday also slammed the idea, and said there would be no unilateral annexation so long as she was in the coalition.
The initiative to introduce legislation aimed at annexing West Bank territories has started to gain momentum since US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed late last month.
On Thursday, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced he would present a bill to redraw the lines of the Jerusalem municipality to include a number of West Bank settlements in a single “Greater Jerusalem” polity. The settlements to be amalgamated into Jerusalem under the bill include the city of Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, the Gush Etzion bloc, and Beitar Illit, containing in total a population of over 150,000 Israelis.
Earlier that day, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) called on the Israeli government “to start preparing” for the annexation of territories designated Area C by the Oslo Accords.
The most recent UN estimate, in March, put the figure for all of Area C at nearly 300,000 Palestinians, including 74,000 in East Jerusalem and 67,000 in the Hebron area.
In an interview with Bloomberg Friday, Netanyahu Netanyahu stated that Israel may have to consider taking unilateral steps with regard to the West Bank. Netanyahu acknowledged that the idea of a unilateral withdrawal from the area was gaining traction across the political spectrum, but warned that Israel could not risk another Gaza, which was taken over by Hamas after Israeli unilaterally disengaged.
“Many Israelis are asking themselves if there are certain unilateral steps that could theoretically make sense. But people also recognize that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza didn’t improve the situation or advance peace,” he said.