Netanyahu Tells Settlement Leaders Israel May Annex Less of West Bank Than Planned

At meeting with eleven settlement leaders who do not oppose Trump's plan, Netanyahu says construction in settlements will not be frozen and that although plan includes Palestinian state, 'he does not call it state'

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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Netanyahu at the meeting with settlement leaders, Jerusalem, June 7, 2020
Netanyahu at the meeting with settlement leaders, Jerusalem, June 7, 2020
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Sunday with the eleven settlement leaders who do not oppose U.S. President Donald Trump's proposal to annex parts of the West Bank.

According to a source present at the meeting, Netanyahu said Israel had yet to receive a green light to annex, and that it was possible that less territory would be annexed than originally planned, as the map for the plan has yet to have been drawn.

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LISTEN: Annexation vexation comes between Bibi and the settlersCredit: Haaretz

Participants were also told construction in the settlements would not be frozen.

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Knesset speaker Yariv Levin, who also attended the meeting, said that some progress in the annexation process is expected "within a few weeks," according to another source. Meanwhile, Netanyahu said that although the plan includes forming an independent Palestinian entity, he "does not call it a state."

>> Israeli annexation explained: What is Netanyahu planning for the West Bank and what does it mean

Netanyahu also stressed to the settlers that it is critical to speed up the initiative before the U.S. presidential election, and added that Israel had demanded to expand the land it annexed around settlement enclaves in the West Bank.

He repeated several times that if annexation was brought to a vote before the Knesset, it would be done independently from the other stipulations in Trump's plan.

Oded Revivi, the head of the Efrat council in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, who leads the faction supporting the annexation plan, said at the meeting that "the prime minister is a friend of the settlements. In a series of steps, he achieved things we could not even dream of."

He received the support of the council head of Oranit, a town on the Green Line northeast of Tel Aviv, Nir Bartal, who said that the two had "clarified important details of the plan." In contrast, Karnei Shomron council head Igal Lahav said that "we must first understand what this is about, and only then express an opinion."

He added that in recent months, he had tried to meet with the committee responsible for drawing the map without success. The meeting was also attended by two ultra-Orthodox council leaders – Eliyahu Gafni of Emanuel and Yaakov Gutterman of Modi'in Illit.

Settlement leaders oppose implementing parts of Trump's plan, a process that Netanyahu would like to kickstart on July 1. They disagree with the intention to turn 15 settlements into enclaves, as the map presented by the White House determines. They also categorically oppose the formation of a Palestinian state and the freezing of construction outside the blocs slated for annexation.

Last week, Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani told Haaretz that Trump and Kushner "have proven in their plan that they are not friends of the State of Israel," responding to calls by American officials to restrain the Israeli right’s opposition to the White House's “Middle East Peace Plan.”

His comments were "fiercely condemned" by Netanyahu, who said "President Trump is a great friend of the State of Israel. He has led historic processes for the good of the State of Israel, among them recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the legality of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria."

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