Cabinet delays vote to annex Ma’ale Adumim until Trump, PM meet
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Cabinet delays vote to annex Ma’ale Adumim until Trump, PM meet

Netanyahu reportedly tells ministers he supports extending Israeli sovereignty to major settlement, but new US administration urged him to avoid ‘surprises’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 22, 2017.(Alex Kolomoisky/ POOL)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 22, 2017.(Alex Kolomoisky/ POOL)

The cabinet on Sunday delayed voting on a bill to annex the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim for at least a month.

The cabinet voted unanimously not to approve the proposed legislation until after an expected meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump next month.

The controversial bill, presented by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, would extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jerusalem-area settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

Netanyahu told the ministers the Trump administration asked him to avoid any “surprise” unilateral measures, according to the Walla news website.

“I support Israeli sovereignty over Ma’ale Adumim,” the prime minister is quoted as saying. “There is no question about Ma’ale Adumim, and in any future accord it will be under Israeli sovereignty. But right now, at the request of the US administration, we were asked not to surprise them but to formulate a joint policy.”

Trump was set to speak with Netanyahu by phone at 8:30 p.m. Israel time on Sunday, the White House said.

The city of Ma'ale Adumim, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The city of Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Although the ministers decided not to present the bill to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, sources told the Ynet news site that they formulated a clear policy to the satisfaction of Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party.

Bennett has long proposed that Israel annex Area C (the parts of the West Bank under Israeli civilian and military control) and extend a type of semi-autonomy to Palestinians in the rest of the territory, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state in that area poses a threat to Israel’s existence.

Education minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett (L) and mayor of Ma'ale Adumim Benny Kasriel before the start of a special party faction meeting, in Maale Adumim, January 2, 2017.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett (L) and mayor of Ma’ale Adumim Benny Kasriel before the start of a special party faction meeting, in Maale Adumim, January 2, 2017.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Thursday, the minister asserted the Trump administration would see a shift in Israel’s West Bank policies, including the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, a city with some 40,000 residents.

But on Saturday, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a close ally of Netanyahu, rejected suggestions that Israel may unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank, saying such a course of action would be “a disaster” for the country.

Israel has controlled the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War, but has never moved to annex any of the territory beyond extending sovereignty to East Jerusalem. It later applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, captured from Syria.

Most experts see Israel’s policy of extending sovereignty, in moves widely unrecognized by the international community, as tantamount to annexation.

Trump has assured Israel that things will be different after he takes office, lamenting last month that the Jewish state was “being treated very, very unfairly” by the international community after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which took aim at Israeli construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

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