Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he is "confident" that U.S. President Donald Trump's vow to recognize annexation of parts of the West Bank and the Jordan valley will be fulfilled within several months.
“President Trump pledged to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there [in the West Bank] and in the Jordan Valley," Netanyahu said at a special broadcast marking the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference. It was produced by the European Coalition for Israel, which defines itself on its website “as a coalition of Christian organizations.”
The San Remo Conference gave the United Kingdom a mandate over Palestine and formally recognized the Jewish people's right to a national home there.
"A couple of months from now I'm confident that that pledge will be honored, that we will be able to celebrate another historic moment in the history of Zionism,” Netanyahu said during the broadcast hosted by Chris Mitchell, Christian Broadcasting Network Jerusalem Bureau Chief, which also included an interview by UK's Christian Television channel Revelation TV. The official ceremony planned in Italy for the centenary of the San Remo conference was canceled due to the coronavirus crisis.
Netanyahu and former political rival Gantz signed a coalition deal agreement Monday to co-lead an "emergency government", based on power share and rotation of the premiership. The two sides eventually agreed on annexation of parts of the West Bank, although it is not clear which.
According to a clause of the political deal, Netanyahu can advance legislation to annex parts of the West Bank starting July 1, on the condition that the move is supported by the U.S. administration.
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The text of the annexation law is subject to Netanyahu's approval, which gives him the power to decide if there is annexation, and if so how - and also allows him to abandon the idea later on. Gantz's Kahol Lavan has been banned from delaying the proposal in committees.
The Labor Party which endorsed Netanyahu for prime minister claim that they could vote against annexation if it is brought forth for Knesset approval, but the coalition agreement signed by Labor chairman Amir Peretz and Gantz on Friday paints a different picture: The agreement does not explicitly state that Labor or Kahol Lavan will have the right to vote on the issue in the Knesset, in the event that annexation was previously approved by the government.
Therefore, if the annexation is indeed brought to the vote first in government, the results of the vote there should require all coalition members to vote accordingly in the Knesset.
Gabi Ashkenazi, Kahol Lavan’s nomination for foreign minister, refused to comment directly on his position on annexation, but said he “believes its better to influence from within” the government. “If Netanyahu brings it to the Knesset, he has a majority. People must ask themselves who they want on the wheels when that’s happening," said Ashkenazi on Channel 12 News Sunday.
On Trump’s Middle East proposal he added “I think people don’t realize the way it could shape our future.”
On Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that annexing parts of the West Bank is "ultimately Israel's decision to make." In the first comment by a Trump administration official regarding the expected formation of a new government in Israel, Pompeo said the U.S. welcomed that development and is looking forward to continued cooperation with Israel.
On Friday the European Union and several European states, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom, reiterated their opposition to the Israeli government's aspiration to annex parts of the West Bank in light of the coalition deal between Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz.
U.S. ambassador's tweet
Right-wing politicians and activists have increasingly argued in recent years that the San Remo Resolution provides a legal standing for the Jewish people’s right on all parts of historic Palestine, as the mandate given to the British includes all of the area of modern Israel, as well as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Opponents claim that the agreement made no explicit mention of the area of the Jewish national home promised in it. The agreement also states that the rights of non-Jews should not be infringed upon.
Netanyahu’s son, Yair, said on Saturday he supports the opinion that the agreement guarantees the Jews’ right over the entire area, but stressed that Israel ceded control of the West Bank in the 1990s with the Oslo Accords.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted on Sunday that in the San Remo Resolution, “world powers recognized the ancient connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to a national home on that land was given the force of International Law.” However, asked by Haaretz if the ambassador supports the narrative the resolution confirmed the Jewish people’s right to all the land of Israel - including Jordan and the West Bank – a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said that "the ambassador does not endorse that view.“
Dr. Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who was involved in drafting Trump’s Middle East proposal and appeared in Sunday’s broadcast, told Haaretz that the San Remo Conference gave the Jewish people “theoretical rights,” which don’t necessarily have to be acted on. “Theoretical rights should be separated from actual rights, whose fulfillment is subject to the political circumstances at any current time,” he said.
In recent years, there has been a growing connection between the Israeli settler lobby and evangelical political action groups in the United States and in other parts of the world. Evangelical pressure was part of the reason Trump decided to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Jonathan Lis and the Associated Press contributed to this report.