Some 800 members of the ruling Likud party’s top decision-making body, its Central Committee, signed a petition Wednesday calling for a vote within 30 days on support for annexing the West Bank.
Even if it succeeds, such a vote by the members of the Central Committee (which numbers over 3,000 in all) would be little more than a declaration of principles. It would not have any legal influence over government policy.
Even so, the move is seen in the party as an attempt to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resist a new peace effort by the Trump administration that is expected to be launched during the US president’s upcoming visit to Israel on Monday.
“On the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Judea and Samaria, including the eternal capital Jerusalem, the Likud Central Committee calls upon the Likud’s elected representatives to act to allow unfettered construction [of Israeli homes] and to apply Israeli law and sovereignty over all areas of the liberated land in Judea and Samaria,” the petition reads.
In late March, Netanyahu told his security cabinet that Israel would curb construction in West Bank settlements as a goodwill gesture toward US President Donald Trump.
The Prime Minister’s Office said any future construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them. However, if legal, security or topographical limitations do not allow adherence to those guidelines, new homes will be built outside the current settlement boundaries but as close as possible to them.
Israel will also prevent the construction of any new illegal outposts, Netanyahu told his ministers then.
In addition, the IDF’s Civil Administration planning committee, which approves settlement construction, will now meet only once every three months instead of once a month. If Netanyahu is interested in delaying construction, all he will be required to do is delay the four-times-a-year meeting, as he did earlier this month to avoid a confrontation before Trump’s visit.
Since Trump’s election, some Likud and Jewish Home MKs have ramped up calls for the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim and other settlements, and on Sunday, Likud MK Miki Zohar called for full Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
A day later, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he had received a direct message from the US saying that “Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank means an immediate crisis with the new administration.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, and other right-wing politicians, attacked Liberman for his statement, arguing that the White House had not yet formed a coherent policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Liberman, who is opposed to West Bank annexation, should not create self-fulfilling prophesies, right-wing politicians said.
The 800 constituents who signed the petition make up over 25% of the Central Committee’s membership.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.