Emboldened by Trump, right-wing Israelis look to annex city

‘Time for sovereignty has come. It’s either sovereignty or Palestine’ declares minister

Naftali Bennett: The education minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party is spearheading a campaign to annex Maale Adumim to Israel. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

Naftali Bennett: The education minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party is spearheading a campaign to annex Maale Adumim to Israel. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

 

The right-wing Jewish Home party is spearheading a campaign to annex the West Bank city of Maale Adumim to Israel, believing the election of Donald Trump has created a unique window of opportunity to extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.

“The time for sovereignty has come. It’s either sovereignty or Palestine, ” declared Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, saying Maale Adumim was only the first step.

“By the end of the month, we will submit a Bill for applying Israeli law to area C of Judea and Samaria [the Biblical term for the West Bank] and will embark on a new path,” he said. “We must stop marching in the track of folly of a Palestinian state – and apply Israeli law to Maale Adumim as soon as possible. That is how to win.”

Under the terms of the Oslo peace agreement, the West Bank was divided into three areas, with area C, containing most of the Jewish settlements, remaining under Israeli military and civilian control.

Maale Adumim, with 40,000 residents, one of the largest West Bank settlements, is only five miles east of Jerusalem.

Jewish Home Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich said other settlements would follow: “We say unequivocally – Maale Adumim first. We will apply sovereignty to all of Judea and Samaria. The world will fall in line.”

Diplomatic moves

The comments by Mr Bennett, who is education minister, came despite the fact that prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu had urged ministers not to make public statements about annexation ahead of January 20th. He fears the Obama administration may be planning more diplomatic moves against Israel following last month’s decision to abstain at the United Nations Security Council vote criticising settlements.

In sharp contrast to outgoing president Barack Obama, president-elect Donald Trump has made no express commitment to the two-state solution and has appointed as his ambassador to Israel an Orthodox Jew who was a fundraiser for a West Bank settlement. He has also pledged to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The settler movement is looking forward to the Trump presidency with mouth-watering expectation and is working together with Jewish Home, a member of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition.

Israeli Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi said the attempt to treat Jewish settlements as normal was ridiculous. “Maale Adumim was established on the Palestinian land of Abu Dis, Issawiya and other villages,” he said. “A majority of the Palestinian people supports the two-state vision. This government has crushed it.”

The left-wing opposition also criticised Mr Bennett’s plan. “You are declaring war against the Palestinians and the world,” said Meretz Knesset member Michal Rozin. “The Bennett government is carrying out the Jewish Home vision and destroying the future of the country.”