Likud members call for annexing of West Bank

Thu, Jan 3, 2013, 00:00

Senior figures in the ruling Likud party have called for Israel to annex the West Bank, even though Likud leader prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

With elections in Israel less than three weeks away, the statements underline the swing to the right within Israel’s ruling party, that is standing as Likud Beiteinu on a joint slate with the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Public diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein voiced support for a gradual process of applying Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank and stated that “the failure to apply sovereignty means the continuation of the status quo that strengthens the demand of the international community for a return to the 1967 lines”. Likud Knesset member Zeev Elkin said Israel should follow the Palestinian example and adopt “salami tactics”, advancing piece by piece without renouncing any of its territorial claims.

“The time has come for us as the state of Israel to start acting in exactly the same manner. We will try to apply sovereignty over as much as we can at any given moment.”

The comments came as polls showed Likud Beiteinu dropping down to 34 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, representing a loss of five seats in the last month. Parallel to the Likud Beiteinu decline, the far-right Jewish Home has risen dramatically from seven to 14 seats during the last five weeks of polling, firmly establishing itself as Israel’s third-largest party.

The overall political balance remains unchanged with a significant lead for right-wing and religious parties over the combined left-centre Arab bloc, making it almost certain that Mr Netanyahu will form the next government.

Israeli control

Jewish Home advocates annexing the 60 per cent of the West Bank still under Israeli control.

Mr Netanyahu, in a landmark policy address delivered at Bar Ilan university in 2009, said he would support a Palestinian state under certain conditions, but such a position is not mentioned in the Likud platform and is opposed by the majority of the Likud slate.

Senior Likud figures suggested the extreme statements in favour of annexing the West Bank are actually good for Mr Netanyahu electorally and could win back right-wing votes that have shifted from Likud to Jewish Home.

Moshe Feiglin, also elected to a realistic slot on the Likud list, went further and suggested that Israel offer half a million US dollars to every West Bank Palestinian family that agrees to emigrate.