Likud’s top body set to urge annexing parts of West Bank

Netanyahu, long an opponent of similar declarations by the party, ‘didn’t try to delay or cancel the meeting,’ say activists

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)

Top activists in the ruling Likud party are set to convene Sunday for a vote on a resolution urging the party’s leaders to formally annex to Israel parts of the West Bank, and to allow unlimited construction in settlements.

Any such vote by Likud’s 3,000-member Central Committee would not be binding on cabinet ministers, but carries political force inside the party.

A number of party heavyweights have released statements or online videos expressing support for the vote, which will take place at the Avenue Conference Center, near Ben Gurion Airport. They include Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem, presenting the recommendations on the healthcare basket on December 29, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long an opponent of such ideological declarations by party institutions, but eager in recent months to appeal to the party’s right-wing base, will not be attending the gathering.

But “the gathering is taking place with his full knowledge. He didn’t try to delay or cancel the meeting,” assured the party activist website “Balikud,” which backs Sunday’s “historic” vote.

The keynote speaker at the confab will be longtime Netanyahu opponent and former cabinet minister Gideon Sa’ar, also a backer of the resolution.

The vote was called by Likud activists in the West Bank, who gathered over 900 signatures of Central Committee members, allowing the resolution to be presented without requiring the consent of party leaders. The resolution marks the first time since the 2005 Israeli pullout from Gaza that party activists have gathered the hundreds of signatures required to propose such a resolution.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, December 2012 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The resolution reads: “Fifty years after the liberation of Judea and Samaria, and with them Jerusalem, our eternal capital, the Likud Central Committee calls on Likud’s elected leaders to work to allow unhindered construction and to extend Israeli law and sovereignty in all the areas of liberated settlement in Judea and Samaria.”

It wasn’t clear from the letter of the resolution which parts of the West Bank it includes in its calls for annexation. The reference to “the areas of liberated settlement” could be read to refer to the land already held by Israeli settlements as well as to the entire territory.

In an interview with Army Radio on Sunday morning, however, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the idea was to extend Israeli law to all settlements.

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