Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) on Tuesday urged Israel to annex the West Bank’s Etzion Bloc and Jordan Valley settlements and declare the “era of evacuations” over.
At an event marking 11 years since the evacuation of Jewish settlements from the Gush Katif bloc in the Gaza Strip, Edelstein said: “I hope that we will finally see the extension of Israeli sovereignty over places such as the Etzion bloc and the Jordan Valley.”
The Knesset speaker said Israel must clearly state that it will not relinquish territory and dismantle settlements as part of any future peace accord with the Palestinians.
Israel must condition “every future accord on the total cessation of terror and incitement, but also, we need to remove from the discourse the futile equation that any agreement needs to include on our part uprooting, evacuation and destruction,” he said.
“We must declare clearly that the era of evacuations and giving up land is over,” said Edelstein.
“In a place where there is destruction, no peace will flourish,” he argued. “From a place where people were expelled from their homes, no good will sprout.”
The Knesset speaker also reiterated his support for a bill to annex Ma’ale Adumim, a major West Bank settlement located to the east of Jerusalem. The proposal has not yet been brought to a preliminary reading.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, the Old City and the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, and extended sovereignty to the Old City and East Jerusalem, but the status of the West Bank remains disputed.
Earlier this month, Edelstein acknowledged that annexing of Ma’ale Adumim would prompt criticism abroad and on the left, and also trigger calls on the Israeli right for the complete annexation of the West Bank. But, he said, “it is better to stay within the consensus.”
Ma’ale Adumim’s size and location makes it particularly important for both Israelis and Palestinians. Many Israelis see the settlement, home to some 40,000, as a suburb of Jerusalem and important to the defense of the capital from the east, while Palestinians say its presence renders the prospect of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem almost impossible.