Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected suggestions that Israel may unilaterally annex the West Bank Saturday, saying such a course of action would be “a disaster” for the country.
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has frequently called to annex the 60% of the West Bank, Area C, where Israel maintains security and civilian control and where most settlements are located. On Thursday he asserted that government policy once President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20 will be to annex the large settlement city of Ma’ale Adumim.
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.”
Herzog said such action would lead to a reality similar to that created by the civil wars in Syria and Bosnia.
He repeated his party’s call on Friday for the government to hold a referendum on the fate of the West Bank.
“I propose to set an election or a referendum and to decide whether we are prepared to annex three million Palestinians and create an Arab-Jewish nation — Israstine — or not,” he said.
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.
“Bennett, if you are so sure [the public favors annexation], let’s do a referendum now and decide whether we are heading to one or two states, without your mockery and arrogance,” Herzog was quoted by the Israel National News website as saying.
Echoing Herzog’s call to Bennett, Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi noted that an Israel Radio survey found that “60 percent of Israelis supported the establishment of a Palestinian state in some borders or others, and in maintaining the State of Israel Jewish and democratic.
“If Bennett and his friends on the extreme right who have taken over the government believe their program has a majority, they are invited to help me in the coming days promote a decisive referendum on this issue. Once again (in the survey) we have confirmation that support for the two-state solution and opposition to a binational state crosses party lines, and is accepted by most citizens of the state,” Broshi said.
Right-wing MKs, including Jewish Home’s Bezalel Smotrich and Likud’s Yoav Kish, lauded the results of the survey, saying that they would advance sovereignty initially over Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, and later over all Israeli communities in the West Bank, according to Israel Radio.