With Netanyahu Weakened by Investigations, Talk of Annexation Rumbles

Settlers and their representatives in Habayit Hayehudi and Likud are exploiting Netanyahu’s weakness to push him to the right, the threat of crumbling the coalition hovering in the background

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File photo: An aerial image of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel, taken in 2010.
File photo: An aerial image of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel, taken in 2010. Credit: Ariel Schalit/AP
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“We’re here to state the obvious: the entire Land of Israel is ours and we will apply sovereignty to all parts of the land,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin told a special meeting of the Likud Central Committee Sunday night. At the session, the members voted unanimously for a resolution requiring Likud to “act to allow free construction and to apply Israeli law and sovereignty to all liberated areas of settlement in Judea and Samaria.”

A poster publicizing the meeting said: “They will continue to write about cigars, we’ll continue writing history.” By “them,” of course, the sovereignty seekers mean the media. But the sting is also directed at Likud’s chairman, who concurrently serves as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was absent from the meeting. Representatives of the settlers in Likud exploited Netanyahu’s preoccupation with the corruption investigations against him to try to force him to take a step he had refrained from making.

While Netanyahu stated his support for a two-state solution in his so-called Bar-Ilan speech of 2009, since then he has missed no opportunity to thwart such an outcome. Nevertheless, he never publicly supported annexation and the extension of Israeli sovereignty over areas of the West Bank. On the contrary, he has stated a number of times that he opposes a binational state. Sunday’s vote on changing the Likud platform is thus a vote of no-confidence in Netanyahu’s political leadership.

The settlers and their representatives in Habayit Hayehudi and Likud are exploiting Netanyahu’s moment of weakness to push him to the right, with the threat of bringing down the coalition hovering in the background.

At the same time, it is clear that Likud is beginning to prepare for the day after Netanyahu. Not only did the Likud cabinet ministers express enthusiastic support for the meeting and the sovereignty proposal, so did former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who are waiting anxiously for developments in the investigations. They expressed their support in video clips that circulated before the party conference and were shown during it.

As we know, the vision of the right-wing supporters of sovereignty is not one big, democratic state, with full citizenship for Palestinians and equality for all citizens, Jews and Arabs. They support applying sovereignty to Palestinian land, but not to the Palestinians. What follows from this is the establishment of apartheid in areas of the sovereign State of Israel: one law for Jews and another for Palestinians, who will be second-class subjects, without citizenship. Or, in Levin’s word: “The time has come to fundamentally change our legal system.” Likud is exploiting the investigations of the prime minister and the attention focused on them to kill the two-state solution and sabotage the future of the State of Israel.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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