Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir / Flash 90
Israelis participate in a march to celebrate Israel's 71st Independence Day near Gilad Farms in Judea and Samaria, May 9, 2019.

by Efrat Forsher and Ariel Kahana / Israel Hayom

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Tuesday with the heads of the settler movement to discuss the sovereignty bid he plans to promote over the next few weeks.

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Israel’s plan to apply its law in large parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley has met with near-unanimous support on the right, but the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, has been at odds over the plan, with several prominent members on the council actively trying to foil it.

Several settler leaders were expected to meet with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) on Tuesday morning, in an effort to convince him to oppose the US “Peace to Prosperity” plan. They are scheduled to meet with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Wednesday, Israel Hayom has learned.

Netanyahu assured the council that he will protect Israel’s interests, saying that the Trump administration has presented the Jewish state with “a historic opportunity that cannot be missed.”

The national-religious Yamina faction, which comprises the New Right and National Union parties, met on Monday with settler leaders who oppose the plan and pledged to fight it.

“US President Donald Trump has proven to be a great friend to Israel and we are grateful to him,” said Yamina leader Naftali Bennett. “Applying Israeli sovereignty to these areas of the land of Israel is a historic act, but establishing a Palestinian terrorist state at the heart of our country will be an existential disaster.”

Yamina would make its final decision regarding whether or not to vote in favor of the bid once the plan and its accompanying map are finalized, he said.

Yesha Council Head David Elhayani, who also serves as head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, said, “As a council head I have a lot to lose, so I say ‘no thank you’ to Trump’s peace plan and to a Palestinian state, and ‘yes’ to [applying] sovereignty. We have a public responsibility not only our own [local] level but on a national level. We want to present the risks and make it clear that we will not allow a terrorist state to be formed in the heart of Israel.”

Shlomo Ne’eman, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, accused Washington of breaching past commitments on the issue.

“I was in Washington and I supported the plan, but the changes made to it since [it was first introduced as a draft], and especially freezing construction [in settlements], have changed my mind. Now I’m against it,” he said.

“We have some hard questions and we demand the prime minister provides the answers,” added Ne’eman. “We demand he opposes changes [to the plan] that would suffocate the settlements.”

Monday also saw Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz meet with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi to discuss the implementation of the sovereignty move.

A statement by Gantz’s office said he has ordered the IDF to “speed up the [troops’] readiness ahead of political steps on the agenda concerning the Palestinian arena.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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