Several hundred protesters gathered at Jerusalem’s Paris Square on Thursday night to demand the annexation of parts of the West Bank before elections are held on March 2.
The protest, organized by the Yesha Council umbrella organization of settler leaders and the activist group Sovereignty Now, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to defy warnings from the Trump administration and carry out his promises to annex the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements.
Protesters held signs reading “Sovereignty now” and “We won’t stop” and waved Israeli flags. A group of young men held signs urging Netanyahu to “Be Begin,” a reference to former premier Menachem Begin, who oversaw Israel’s annexations in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
“After 71 years of independence and 52 years of settlements, we’re still in an existential struggle. The mission isn’t finished. We are here and we won’t give up,” declared Yesha Council head David Elhayani, who also serves as chairman of the Jordan Valley Regional Council.
“This is our land, our home, and our strategic defensive line,” he said in his speech.
He called on Netanyahu to “keep your word and declare sovereignty now. I’m worried that if we don’t get sovereignty before the elections, it won’t come after the elections either.”
“Half a million Israeli citizens live under military rule and can’t buy real estate in Judea in Samaria,” said Yisrael Gantz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council, referring to the fact that the West Bank has been administered by the Israeli army since it was captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.
US President Donald Trump’s plan envisions the Jewish state annexing key parts of the West Bank, including in the strategic Jordan Valley and all the settlements. The outline would see the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, with restricted sovereignty, over some 70 percent of the West Bank, without most of East Jerusalem, falling far short of minimal Palestinian demands.
The Palestinians have firmly rejected the plan, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calling it the “slap of the century.”
Netanyahu had said hours after the plan was introduced on January 28 that Israel had a green light from the US to immediately being annexing the West Bank areas allocated to it.
But the plan’s architect, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner quickly made it clear that the US expects Israel to wait until after the March 2 Knesset elections, at least, before doing so, and that a bureaucratic mapping process was necessary before annexation could take place.
On Monday, Netanyahu said that Israel will only extend sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and areas of the West Bank with the agreement of Washington, taking another step back from his initial declarations that he would speedily move ahead with the measure.
On Sunday, Friedman said the US would not support immediate annexation. He warned the Israeli government against applying its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank before the election, citing Trump’s mention of a bilateral committee that must conclude its mapping work before Jerusalem would be allowed to go ahead with its planned annexation.
The Palestinians have angrily rejected the plan as biased toward Israel and have sought to drum up international opposition to the proposal.