The leaders of Israel’s West Bank settlement movement welcomed Tuesday the Trump peace plan’s call to allow Israeli annexation of large swaths of the West Bank, while vehemently rejecting its conditional provisions for the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state in the remainder of the territory.
“The proposed plan isn’t perfect, maybe isn’t even close to perfect,” said Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi, the foreign affairs spokesman for the Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Israeli settlements.
Revivi insisted the plan “offers real gains for the settlement project, and puts a central part of it on firmer footing” with US recognition and an okay for Israeli annexation of most settlements.
“But on the other hand,” he went on, “it creates challenges that are neither easy nor simple, like the establishment of a Palestinian state, recognizing the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital, and so on.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday that he would start annexing areas of the West Bank envisioned as remaining Israeli under the plan when he meets his cabinet on Sunday.
Netanyahu made the pledge after delivering joint remarks alongside US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House during the US administration’s unveiling of its proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The prime minister touted the plan as “good for Israel and good for peace,” though it includes the creation of a Palestinian state opposed by much of his right-wing base. He promised to abide by the Trump plan, including its stipulation that Israel not build in areas designated for a future Palestinian state under the scheme.
Netanyahu noted later that under Trump’s plan the Palestinians will have to disarm Hamas, demilitarize Gaza, recognize Israel as the Jewish state and accept Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and 30% of the West Bank before they are granted statehood. Israel would also retain overall security control west of the Jordan River.
A number of settlement leaders had rejected the plan before it was revealed, amid reports that it would include some form of Palestinian statehood alongside vast gains for Israel.
Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Gantz said settlement leaders were “learning and examining the details” of the plan “in depth,” and would be meeting with Netanyahu in Washington “to hear more details and understand the complete picture.”
He welcomed the “important and rare opportunity to immediately apply sovereignty to the settlement in Binyamin and all Judea and Samaria, as we’ve demanded and worked for so long.”
“But with that said, we won’t permit recognition for or the establishment of a Palestinian state, and we won’t lend a hand to isolating and choking settlements and endangering their security,” he vowed, referring to the Trump plan’s proposed border that hands the Palestinians areas surrounding some of the Israeli settlements closest to Palestinian population centers in the central mountain watershed of the West Bank.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan likewise welcomed the plan’s “potential for a historic opportunity” for annexation, but warned of elements that “endanger the existence of the state of Israel.”
“Our ‘deal of the century’ is a million Jews in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
He said Trump deserved “our thanks for standing beside Israel, and for changing the thinking and backing our settlement. And I call not to establish a terror state. A terror state will not be established in the heart of Israel. We would rather cut off our hands than see a terror state established in the heartland.”
Har Hevron Regional Council head Yohai Damari called on Netanyahu to “apply sovereignty before the [March 2] elections.”
He, too, said he “rejected vehemently the establishment of an Arab terror state in the heart of the land of Israel as we surrender our homeland. The idea of [settlement] enclaves is folly, and we completely reject it.”
Despite the opposition the plan sparked among settlement leaders, Revivi urged calm.
“It is our duty to respond to this proposal with wisdom, and not only with our difficult gut feelings,” said Revivi. “We have to recognize that in life there’s a difference between what you aspire for and what you can attain.”
Some pro-settlement activist groups were more vehement in their opposition.
Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, the heads of the Women in Green organization and the “Sovereignty Movement” that calls for Israel to annex the entirety of the West Bank, lashed the plan as undermining the Jewish claim to the land of Israel.
“One does not make deals over one’s homeland,” they said in a statement Tuesday that referred to the Trump plan as “a bad deal for Israel” and called its provision for a Palestinian state a “delusional and dangerous idea.”
While the administration had “good intentions,” the statement said, “the Land of Israel belongs to us, to the generations that preceded us and the generations that have yet to come. Any compromise regarding this absolute, historic principle, any agreement to relinquish sections of our land will be interpreted by history as an admission that the occupation falsehood is true.”
The extremist right-wing Otzma Yehudit party criticized the “euphoria and applause” at the White House, saying the excitement “hides the fact that the Israeli government has adopted a framework that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state, handing the Temple Mount to the Jordanians, handing most of the territory of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians, and a freeze [of settlement building] for four years.”