Bennett to Netanyahu: Annex West Bank now
As talks stall, Jewish Home leader appeals to PM to apply Israeli sovereignty to areas home to 440,000 settlers
Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.
With the peace talks on the verge of collapse, and US Secretary of State John Kerry pointing a finger at Israel for the stalemate, Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday to annex portions of the West Bank.
In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett requested “to have a session as soon as possible on an alternative plan (Plan B) to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty on areas in Judea and Samaria that are under Israeli control.”
The economy minister listed some of the blocs he wants to annex, including Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the settlements of Ofra and Beit El and more. These areas are home to 440,000 Israeli settlers, Bennett argued, and only tens of thousands of Palestinians, and would therefore not cause a demographic crisis and undermine the Jewish majority.
“These areas enjoy a broad national consensus and have security, historical, and moral significance for the State of Israel,” he wrote.
Bennett compared the process of absorbing these areas into Israel to the incorporation of Jerusalem during the Six Day War, and the Golan Heights during then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s reign.
The economy minister also declared the death of the peace negotiations, due to “a new record of [Palestinian] extortion and obstinacy.” Despite Israeli overtures, such as the release of prisoners, the Palestinians continue to deny recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; have violated the Oslo Accords by turning to the UN; and continue the incitement to violence against Israel, Bennett wrote.
“In light of all this, it is clear the current process has run its course and that we are entering a new era,” he said.
Responding to Kerry’s statements that construction in East Jerusalem led to the current impasse Tuesday, Bennett said “Israel will never apologize for building in Jerusalem.”
“For many years people have tried to prevent us from living in the eternal capital of the Jewish people. This won’t happen. Building in Jerusalem is not a ‘puff’ [sic], building in Jerusalem is Zionism,” he said in a statement posted to Facebook.