Zionist Union calls for referendum on whether to annex West Bank
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Zionist Union calls for referendum on whether to annex West Bank

Opposition leader urges annexation-champion Bennett to let the public weigh in on 'whether we are heading to one or two states'

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, left, and Jewish Home chair Naftali Bennett listen to a debate on the economy in Tel Aviv, March 11, 2015. (Gil Cohen Magen/AFP/Getty Images)
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, left, and Jewish Home chair Naftali Bennett listen to a debate on the economy in Tel Aviv, March 11, 2015. (Gil Cohen Magen/AFP/Getty Images)

Opposition lawmakers on Friday called on the government to hold a referendum on the fate of the West Bank, 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.

Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog called on Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, to support a public poll that would decide the fate of settlements in the West Bank.

“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 the Israel Radio survey — a curiously worded poll that gave respondents only three options regarding the fate of the territories — 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.”

Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi attends a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on December 15, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)
Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi attends a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on December 15, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“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.

Bennett has long been calling to annex at least parts of the West Bank, mainly the territories that are heavily populated by Jewish settlers. 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.

The survey published earlier Friday found that, out of three options offered, 39% of Israelis supported a “one-state for two peoples” solution, with Israel annexing the entire West Bank. However, the survey did not enable a distinction in this option between those who would extend full democratic rights to the Palestinians and those who would not. The one state solution is generally supported by groups on the far-left and far-right, but who differ over its character.

Thirty-one percent of Israelis supported a second option, the annexation of the large settlement blocs in the West Bank, with a Palestinian state being established in the remaining areas, including East Jerusalem, the survey found.

Thirty percent of Israelis support a third option — “two states for two peoples,” establishing a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with Israel retaining sovereignty over the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Palestinians sovereign on the Temple Mount.

Those who took part in the survey were asked to choose between those three options only.

Right wing MKs, including Jewish Home’s Bezalel Smotrich and Likud’s Yoavk 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.

The survey, conducted by the Rafi Smith polling company, was held on December 28 and included 500 people, constituting a representative cross-section of adults in Israel. The sampling error was 4.5%.

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