Economy Minister Naftali Bennett says annexing Area C – the Jewish settlement blocs and the areas of the Judea and Samaria that are totally under Israeli control in accordance with the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords – is the “only sane plan” left.
Speaking in an interview with IDF Army Radio this morning (Monday), the Bayit Yehudi party chairman said, “It’s no secret that for dozens of years there has been a massive disagreement on how to leave the settlements. But there’s been no justification for the argument. It hasn’t proven itself.”
Since 1967, the number of Israeli Jews living in Judea and Samaria – known abroad by the euphemism used by Jordan after it occupied the territory, the “West Bank” (of the Jordan River, that is) – has grown exponentially. Today the region is home to more than 350,000 Jews, most living in what is known as “Area C” – the area under complete Israeli government control.
Bennett — a former member of an IDF special forces unit — has taken a pragmatic approach and maintained for years the only way to resolve the impasse with the Palestinian Authority is to simply annex Area C — beginning with Gush Etzion — and be done with it. In any event the international community is going to kick a fuss just as they did over the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, according to his way of thinking; one may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and at least keep the family safe.
But Finance Minister Yair Lapid – head of the leftist ‘Yesh Atid’ party and firmly opposed to annexation of any kind – has threatened to bring down the government over the plan.
It’s not yet clear what role the United States is playing in Lapid’s intransigence on the issue or for that matter, his maneuvering a fifth column against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with Hatnua party chairwoman Tzipi Livni, former alleged “chief negotiator” for the government. It’s no secret the White House despises the Netanyahu government and would just love to see someone else sitting in the prime minister’s residence.
“If there is any effort to annex even one settlement unilaterally, Yesh Atid will not just leave the government, it will bring it down,” Lapid announced late Sunday in Herzliya.
Instead, it appears that Lapid has become the new Kerry, pressuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to return to the negotiating table with the PA ‘unity’ government. He advocates withdrawal from “some” PA territory and has insisted that Netanyahu come up with a map showing borders for a new PA state – essentially the same demands made by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Justice Minister Livni is aligning with him against Netanyahu; together, the two comprise 25 of the 68 seats held by the current coalition. If they withdraw their support, Netanyahu could lose the government – or would have to call new elections.
In the long run, that might not be a half-bad idea; given the current options. It is more than likely that Likud would gain the votes it lost in the last election and even possible that Livni might be shaken out in the process.
Meanwhile, although none of the new PA unity government ministers are technically drawn from any terrorist group, Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization is a full partner with Fatah in the government. Hamas, along with its allied group, the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, has sworn to annihilate the State of Israel. In fact neither has abandoned that cause. Somehow these facts have managed to escape the notice of Israel’s finance minister, who seems only to see the necessity of pleasing the United States and Europe.