Briefing settler leaders regarding his talks with US President Donald Trump on the White House peace plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to warm them to the idea of a Palestinian state that would be heavily curbed, several of the leaders who were present at the sit-down told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.
“He tried to sell us on the idea that it wouldn’t really be a Palestinian state,” said Yesha settlement umbrella council head David Elhayani, who is also Jordan Valley Regional Council chairman.
The Trump administration will be unveiling the peace plan at 12 p.m. (EST), but countless media reports in recent days have purported to reveal details of the deal which is widely believed to be the most generous offer — from Israel’s standpoint — that any American administration has ever drafted.
A settler leader who spoke to The Times of Israel last week said the so-called Deal of the Century would endorse Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements.
However, Netanyahu told settler leaders on Monday evening that it would likely also include the establishment of a Palestinian state in roughly 70 percent of the West Bank, but that such an entity would be demilitarized, have no control over its borders and would be largely non-contiguous.
Elhayani did not buy the premier’s argument. “Who are we to tell a sovereign entity not to have an army or not to have an airport?” he asked rhetorically.
Netanyahu had invited Elhayani, along with Efrat Local Council Chairman Oded Revivi, Binyamin Regional Council Chairman Yisrael Gantz and Gush Etzion Regional Council Chairman Shlomo Ne’eman, to join him in Washington to receive updates in real time regarding the contents of the White House discussions on the peace deal.
The settler leaders were also briefed by a senior US official regarding the plan, Elhayani said.
The Jordan Valley mayor spoke to The Times of Israel at 3 a.m. local time, saying he was unable to sleep because he was worried about the plan, which he deemed as “horrible for settlements.”
Elhayani speculated that Jordan would force the Palestinian Authority to accept the plan.
“There’s a lot of money being offered here,” he said.
Ne’eman expressed similar anxieties. He recognized that the state being offered to the Palestinians would come with a significant deal of caveats, but still called the proposal “extremely risky.”
Moreover, he argued that it would be better to hold off on annexing parts of the West Bank and oppose the Trump plan if accepting it would mean agreeing to a Palestinian state.
“That is something you can never walk back, whereas you can always enact sovereignty over settlements a year or two from now,” Ne’eman told The Times of Israel.
“We did not return from 2,000 years of exile to agree to a Palestinian state. Not at any price are we willing to [win] sovereignty over settlement,” he concluded.
Later Tuesday morning, the Yesha Council issued a statement officially coming out against the Trump peace plan.
“We are very troubled. We cannot agree to a plan that would include the establishment of a Palestinian state that would pose a threat to the State of Israel and a great danger to the future,” the council said, calling on the prime minister and members of Knesset to oppose the proposal.
“I am shocked that my prime minister is agreeing to establish a Palestinian state. This is the elimination of the settlement project in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank],” Elhayani said in an accompanying statement of his own.