Amid reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could green-light fresh settlement construction in response to a UN resolution condemning Israel’s West Bank activities, a senior minister from his party said Saturday night that the time had come to annex parts of the territories unilaterally.
“There’s so much darkness and so much hypocrisy in the UN’s vote on Israel,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said at a public Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony in Ramat Gan. “The Middle East is burning and who do they choose to attack? Israel. It’s hypocrisy and shamelessness.”
Continued Erdan, “We should make an effort to cut off all funding to the UN. We should announce the immediate annexation of the settlement blocs… We should renew construction throughout the land.”
It was a rare call for annexation from such a senior member of Netanyahu’s party, although Erdan is already on record supporting such a move. His comments came as Channel 2 news reported that the prime minister could announce new construction beyond the Green Line when he convenes his cabinet for its weekly meeting on Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, a controversial initiative to authorize West Bank outposts — previously postponed until after President-elect Donald Trump enters the White House on January 20 — was put “back on the table” following the US’s failure to veto Friday’s Security Council resolution.
Fearing repercussions from the US administration, a final vote on the so-called Regulation Bill, which would legalize some 4,000 housing units in the West Bank built on privately owned Palestinian land, had been shelved until President Obama leaves office, coalition chairman David Bitan confirmed last week.
But with the US abstention in the UN vote, “We are done playing nice,” a coalition source told The Times of Israel Saturday night. “It’s back on the table,” he said of the bill, signaling it could be brought to a plenary vote in the coming weeks.
Resolution 2334 declared that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
Netanyahu has already lashed out at the outgoing US administration for allowing the resolution to pass. He has also decided to punish two of the four states that co-sponsored it (the other two, Malaysia and Venezuela, don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel): He canceled the upcoming visit to Israel of Senegal’s foreign minister and suspended all aid programs to the Muslim-majority state in West Africa (a region he last week declared he would visit soon to foster ties). Additionally, the prime minister, who is also foreign minister, ordered the cancellation of visits to Israel of the non-resident ambassadors of Senegal and New Zealand.
For good measure, he also canceled the upcoming visit to Israel of Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. In addition, he vowed to cut funding for various United Nations agencies, specifying in a speech on Saturday night that he had already ordered an end to NIS 30 million in funding for five unnamed UN bodies.
President-elect Donald Trump had already issued a curt warning Friday afternoon that his administration could take an adversarial approach to the international body in response to the resolution.
“As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th,” he tweeted shortly after the Security Council passed the resolution by a vote of 14-0. Trump’s comments were echoed by one of his former rivals for the Republican nomination, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who said he had spoken Saturday night with Netanyahu and vowed, “No US $ for UN until reversed.”
Spoke w/ Israeli PM @netanyahu tonight to wish him Happy Chanukah & assure him of strong support in Congress. No US $ for UN until reversed.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 24, 2016
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.