Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said he backs the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, a major West Bank settlement located to the east of Jerusalem.
“The move to annex Ma’ale Adumim is right and proper,” Edelstein wrote in a Facebook post, explaining that he was “symbolically accepting” a proposed law to this effect submitted to him by the Knesset’s Land of Israel lobby, which advocates widening Israeli sovereignty in the biblical Judea and Samaria.
“By not building there, we are distancing peace,” he added. “Reversing this trend is also important for (national) unity.”
MK Moti Yogev, of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, also backed the idea, noting that he had introduced a bill to this effect in the last Knesset, and that it was awaiting discussing in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. “Start with annexing Ma’ale Adumim,” he urged. “Ma’ale Adumim is the eastern gate of Israel’s capital Jerusalem and is what makes it into a metropolis.”
Israel captured East Jerusalem, the Old City and the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, and extended sovereignty to the Old City and East Jerusalem, but the status of the West Bank remains disputed. Edelstein acknowledged that annexing of Ma’ale Adumim would prompt criticism abroad and on the extreme left, and also trigger calls on the Israeli right for the complete annexation of the West Bank. But, he said, “it is better to stay within the consensus.”
Edelstein’s comments followed a decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman two weeks ago to okay the building of 560 new housing units in Ma’ale Adumim.
The decision was a part of a series of measures announced by the Israeli government in response to a terror attack in Kiryat Arba in which a 13-year-old Israeli girl, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, was stabbed to death in her bed, and another attack near Hebron in which Miki Mark, a yeshiva head from the settlement of Otniel, was killed and his wife seriously injured.
There was indeed widespread international criticism of the housing announcement, which covered 800 new homes in all. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the plans raised “legitimate questions” about Israel’s long-term intentions. And the State Department said the expansion of settlements was “fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution” and “counterproductive to the cause of peace in general.”
Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi accused Israel of being “bent on destroying the viability, integrity and territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state.”
Ma’ale Adumim’s size and location makes it particularly important for both Israelis and Palestinians. Many Israelis see the settlement, home to some 40,000, as a suburb of Jerusalem and important to the defense of the capital from the east, while for Palestinians, its presence renders the prospect of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem almost impossible.