Labor MK urges his party to ‘sober up’ and push to annex settlement blocs

Eitan Cabel says Labor won’t get back into power unless it faces reality; urges freeze outside the blocs to show Palestinians which areas are open to negotiation

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Economic Affairs Committee Chairman, MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union), leads an a committee meeting, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on July 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Economic Affairs Committee Chairman, MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union), leads an a committee meeting, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on July 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Longtime Labor lawmaker Eitan Cabel called on his party to adopt a position in favor of annexing the so-called “settlement blocs.”

Lamenting that Labor has led Israel for just six years in the past four decades, Cabel urged his colleagues to “sober up and shake off” their adherence to the land-for-peace paradigm of the Yitzhak Rabin-era Oslo Accords. Only if Labor takes “a world view that reflects reality,” he wrote, can it expect the public to return it to power.

According to the Labor MK, who set out his thinking in a Friday op-ed in the Haaretz daily, Israel “cannot wait for the Palestinian side because Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] has already given up on the two-state solution.”

Therefore, Cabel introduced what he called his “sobering-up initiative” and called on the Labor party to adopt its recommendations.

The proposal would see Israel first define what exactly constitutes the “settlement blocs” — the heavily populated Jewish areas in the West Bank that are mostly close to the pre-1967 Green Line and that most Israeli leaders believe will remain part of the Jewish state in any future peace deal.

He suggested that the blocs must include the settlements in Gush Etzion and the Jordan Valley, the city-settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel, and the northern West Bank community of Karnei Shomron where 7,500 Israelis currently reside. In total, he wrote, some 300,000 settlers live in those areas.

In the remaining, more isolated settlements where some 25% of the 400,000 settlers live (according to Cabel’s numbers), he called for a strict construction freeze.

In this Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 file photo, a Jewish settler looks at the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, from the E-1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Sebastian Schooner)

Once annexed, master building plans should be drafted for the blocs, in order to legalize unlawfully built homes and allow for the full development of those communities.

Cabel argued that annexation of the blocs, and freezing construction outside them, would make plain that “what is beyond the new line will be subject to negotiations between us and the Palestinians.”

“I believe that an initiative in this spirit will enable Israel to preserve its identity as a Jewish and democratic state with a well-established Jewish majority,” the lawmaker wrote. Referring to concerns that if Israel cannot separate from the Palestinians, it risks losing either its democracy or its Jewish majority, Cabel added that his parents did not emigrate from Yemen to live in a largely Arab country.

Traditionally, Labor has argued that while the settlement blocs would remain part of Israel under any future agreement, the government should only apply sovereignty over them in the context of a peace deal so that they can enjoy full international legitimacy.

Newly elected head of the Israeli Labor party Avi Gabbay (R) with former leader Isaac Herzog on July 12, 2017. (FLASH90)

Labor’s Chairman Avi Gabbay and opposition leader Isaac Herzog both declined The Times of Israel’s requests for comment on Cabel’s proposal.

However, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett welcomed the op-ed, tweeting that it was a step in the direction of his own diplomatic initiative which would see the government annex Israeli-administered Area C — some 60 percent of the entire West Bank — and extend semi-autonomy to Palestinians in the rest of the territory.

Cabel tweeted in response that he was glad the right-wing lawmaker appreciated his plan, but urged Bennett to support it fully by calling for a full construction freeze outside the settlement blocs.

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