MK calls for annexation as kidnapping deterrent

Jewish Home’s Ayelet Shaked says time ripe to extend sovereignty to Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem

A panoramic view of the Etzion Bloc region of the West Bank (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
A panoramic view of the Etzion Bloc region of the West Bank (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

An Israeli lawmaker called Monday for the country to annex the Etzion bloc in the West Bank in order to discourage future kidnapping attempts.

Ayelet Shaked, from the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party, said the Thursday kidnapping of three teens, last seen hitchhiking in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, could result in Israel extending sovereignty to the area.

“My friends from the [political] center: Suddenly it doesn’t seem so far-fetched to annex the Etzion bloc,” she said at Yesha settlers’ council conference. “If Hamas understands that when it kidnaps children in the Etzion bloc, we annex the Etzion bloc, they won’t carry out any more abductions in other areas.”

The area, home to over a dozen settlements and tens of thousands of Israeli settlers, is widely considered one of the blocs Israel will hold onto as part of any future peace agreement with the Palestinians, in exchange for a land swap.

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett and MK Ayelet Shaked attend a plenum session in the Knesset on March 12, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett and MK Ayelet Shaked attend a plenum session in the Knesset on March 12, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Shaked’s proposal, unlikely to find wide purchase in Jerusalem, is the latest in a slew of measures being bruited to pressure the Palestinians into releasing the three teens: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.

As the search for three kidnapped teens entered its fourth day Monday, Israeli officials were considering a number of measures to place extra duress on the Hamas terror group, which it has blamed for in the abduction.

The government is reportedly weighing the option of expelling senior West Bank Hamas leaders to the Gaza Strip.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, the chairman of Jewish Home, on Sunday evening did not confirm plans to expel Hamas members or any other concrete measures the government was considering, but hinted at steps intended to hurt the organization.

Israeli forces arrested 40 Hamas members overnight Sunday, including a number of senior lawmakers, bringing the total number of detainees since the kidnapping to 150, the IDF said in a statement Monday morning.

Security forces have also clamped down on Palestinian movement in the West Bank, completely shutting off access in and out of Hebron, except for humanitarian emergencies.

The measures have already drawn accusations of collective punishment from the Palestinian side.

MK Orit Strock (Jewish Home) called for the re-arrest of Palestinian prisoners who were released in the deal with Hamas that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011, according to political analyst Tal Schneider’s blog, and is pushing for other right-wing MKs, including Bennett, to take up her idea.

“We must regain the initiative,” she said according to Schneider’s blog. “Arresting the terrorists that were freed will flip the situation. We can also take hostages.”

The hawkish Jewish Home party has repeatedly called for the government to annex primarily Jewish parts of the West Bank, most recently as a response to the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal that led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to suspend peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Bennett lobbied for the measure last week at the Herzliya conference.

MKs Yariv Levin (Likud) and Orit Strock (Jewish Home) submitted a series of bills in late May seeking government annexation of Jewish sites and Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, namely the Etzion bloc, Ariel, the Jordan Valley, Hebron, the South Hebron Hills and Ma’ale Adumim.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), both from the center of the political spectrum, have threatened to quit the coalition in the event of any attempts to unilaterally annex disputed territory.

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