Israeli settlers are speaking out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territories saying it ‘endangers the existence of the state of Israel’.
One of the campaign promises of Netanyahu was to formally extend Israel’s territory over 30% of the occupied West Bank, including all Jewish settlements, as soon as next month, implementing part of Donald Trump’s Middle East “vision for peace”.
Despite the US plan being widely seen as a gift to Israel’s far right and lauded by Netanyahu as a “historic opportunity” for Israel to take the land permanently, settler leaders are fearful of clauses within it that suggest the potential for a Palestinian state.
David Elhayani, the chair of the Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Jewish settlers, has twice said this week that Trump is no friend of Israel.
“Ultimately, he presented a plan that endangers the existence of the state of Israel and, in that case, you’re no friend of mine,” Elhayani told Army Radio on Thursday.
Trump’s plan offers the potential for Palestinian self-rule, but only after strict conditions are met. It envisions millions of Palestinians living in demilitarised enclaves, mostly surrounded by Israel.
Even so, some settlers have argued Israel should unilaterally annex territory without agreeing to any of the clauses in Trump’s plan that they see as concessions to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, who met settler leaders this week to hear their grievances, has expressed irritation with Elhayani. “President Trump is a great friend of Israel’s. He has led historic moves for Israel’s benefit,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is regrettable that instead of showing gratitude, there are those who are denying his friendship.”
The speaker of Israel’s parliament, Yariv Levin, a Netanyahu ally, said Elhayani’s remarks were “rude and irresponsible”.
Under a unity government deal signed with his former political rival Benny Gantz, Netanyahu has pushed to bring plans for annexation to the cabinet for discussion as soon as 1 July.
Speaking in the Knesset before being sworn in last month, Netanyahu said the move would be “another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism”.
However, much uncertainty remains around whether Netanyahu will move ahead swiftly, and whether he wants to take such a controversial and potentially explosive step so soon after retaking office.
Israeli forces captured the West Bank from Jordanian forces in 1967, although Palestinians have limited self-rule over some parts.
Today, Israel retains control over the West Bank areas it plans to annex, and settlers enjoy the same rights and most of the services as Israelis living in Israel – some argue Israel has de facto annexed the territory already. (Source: The Guardian)