Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday that Israel would apply sovereignty over the West Bank and the Jordan Valley in response to remarks made by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in an interview with Haaretz that the PA would act to have the distinction between Area A, B and C in the Palestinian territories annulled.
While touring the Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank, Bennett visited construction sites of new housing units as well as in the Yeshiva High School in the settlement of Beit El.
"This morning the Palestinian prime minister declared a campaign to seize Area C," Bennett said during the tour.
The Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three parts: Area A, which makes up 18 percent of the West Bank and includes all large Palestinian cities, is under full control of the Palestinian Authority; Area B, which makes up 22 percent, is under civilian control of the PA and Israeli security control; and Area C, which makes up 60 percent, is controlled by Israel and is home to Palestinian communities alongside Israeli settlements.
"We are in the midst of a battle, and they are trying to take our territory. We'll capture and settle throughout the land of Israel, while fending off the illegal Palestinian construction and apply [Israeli] sovereignty [over the West Bank]," Bennett added.
The chief defense also said that "over the past few years we have been struggling to stave off [the Palestinians]. We are approaching a decisive time to apply sovereignty over Area C. This is our mission and it can be done in the coming year. We can break the 52-year-old standstill. We will apply our sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley."
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Later on Tuesday, Benny Gantz, chairman of Kahol Lavan, said that he would work to advance Israel's annexation of the Jordan Valley after Israel's March 2 election, adding he expects the publication of the Trump Administration's Mideast peace plan.
Speaking during a tour of the region, Gantz said "The Jordan Valley is Israel's eastern defensive barrier in any future conflict. Israeli governments that spoke of the possibility of returning the area [to Jordanian control] were making a grave strategic and security mistake, and we see this strip of land as an inseparable part of the State of Israel."
When asked about the Trump administration's plan for Middle East peace, Gantz said, "I hope that President Trump will hurry and release his plan. Several weeks have passed. Many dramatic things are happening in the Middle East, and I'm looking forward to the plan's release."
In the past, Gantz opposed the publication of the plan during an election campaign, saying such a move would be a gift to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and "outright intervention."
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman also expressed his support for annexation of the Jordan Valley on Tuesday, saying his party had tabled a law on the matter last month.