Bennett urges Israeli annexation of West Bank

‘The time has come to say Israel is ours,’ says education minister at Knesset caucus session celebrating new wine guide

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Education Minister Naftali Benne in Jerusalem on December 27, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Education Minister Naftali Benne in Jerusalem on December 27, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday said Israel should annex the West Bank, beginning with the Etzion bloc and Binyamin regions.

“The time has come to say Israel is ours,” he said at a meeting of the Knesset’s Land of Israel Caucus. “To go from strategic defense to a process of initiating the implementation of Israeli sovereignty over the territories under Israeli control in Judea and Samaria.”

“We need to mark this as a strategic objective and stop the misunderstood message sent from Israel abroad,” added Bennett, who heads the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party.

The caucus, which urges continued Israeli control over the entire West Bank, convened to celebrate the publication of a new wine guide.

The “New Israeli Wine Guide,” written by Israel Hayom wine reporter Yair Gat and Gal Zohar, a former wine curator in London who is employed as a consultant by a number of Tel Aviv restaurants, initially did not include wines made in West Bank settlements. After facing a backlash from the caucus, which accused it of boycotting the settlements, the authors relented and included settlement wines.

Earlier this month, Bennett reiterated his longstanding call for West Bank annexation in an interview with JTA.

“The approach that I’m promoting is reasonable, sane. In the Middle East, we don’t have the luxury to indulge in fantasy. If it were up to me, I would not wait. I would start with the Etzion bloc [in the West Bank near Jerusalem], and apply Israeli law and sovereignty on the Etzion bloc first,” the minister and leader of the Jewish Home party said.

“We did this twice before, both times unilaterally: in Jerusalem in 1967 and with the Golan in 1981. I would do it in 2015,” he added.

The caucus’s “main goal is to strengthen the State of Israel’s hold on all of the Land of Israel, particularly in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” according to the Knesset website. It is chaired by Jewish Home MK Betzalel Smotrich and Likud MK Yoav Kisch.

Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.

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