Amid legislative push, Rivlin backs annexation with full rights for Palestinians
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Amid legislative push, Rivlin backs annexation with full rights for Palestinians

President says he was ‘born into the belief’ that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews, but stresses all residents would have citizenship under envisioned move

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the 15th annual Jerusalem Conference of the B'sheva group, on February 12, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the 15th annual Jerusalem Conference of the B'sheva group, on February 12, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Amid ongoing efforts by coalition lawmakers to extend Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements, President Reuven Rivlin on Monday expressed support for annexing the West Bank but maintained that the move must include full citizenship for all the Palestinians in the area.

“Everyone must know that when we extend sovereignty on our country, all of its residents will become citizens of the state,” Rivlin told a conference in Jerusalem.

Underlining that he was speaking for himself rather than in his role as president, the long-time annexationist said: “As Reuven Rivlin, I was born into the belief that the land of Israel is entirely ours.”

“I am in favor of extending sovereignty, on the condition of equal rights for all of the residents of the area,” he added, speaking at the Jerusalem Conference, organized by the right-wing B’Sheva group.

MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee at the Knesset, on January 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The president made similar comments during last year’s Jerusalem Conference.

His remarks came as coalition lawmakers again sought to advance a bill that seeks to apply Israeli sovereignty over all areas of Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

But the bid encountered obstacles on Sunday, when the heads of coalition parties pulled the so-called Sovereignty Bill — drafted by Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) — from the agenda of a meeting on the coming week’s legislative timetable.

A statement from the coalition party leaders cited the weekend’s security incidents on the northern border as the reason for the postponement, as well as a need to coordinate the measure with the relevant diplomatic channels.

Last Thursday, a spokesman for a senior member of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation told The Times of Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pulled the legislation from its agenda in order to provide time to coordinate the measure with the White House first.

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich at his party’s weekly faction meeting at the Knesset, December 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The prime minister has in the past obstructed attempts to advance annexation proposals.

In his remarks on Monday, Rivlin also acknowledged reported personal tensions between him and the prime minister.

“I meet with a lot of my friends,” he told an interviewer, when asked whether he recently met with Netanyahu.

But he’s not your friend, interjected the interviewer. “That’s probably why we haven’t met,” the president replied.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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