Israel should ignore United States opposition and push forward on legislation to annex West Bank settlements, rightwing politicians said on Tuesday.
The debate is over whether the law is in Israel’s essential interest and if it should be advanced.
“Application of Israeli sovereignty [in Area C of the West Bank] is an essential national value for the State of Israel,” Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said.
It is permissible in this instance to oppose the US, said Elkin as he spoke at the 15th annual Jerusalem Conference of the Besheva Media Group at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
He recalled that in 1981, former prime minister Menachem Begin ignored the opposition of then-US president Ronald Reagen and applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, a move that de facto annexed the area which was part of Syria prior to the 1967 Six Day War.
Elkin said that today, no one remembers the US reaction, which was to suspend its strategic cooperation agreement with Israel.
US-Israeli ties are so deeply rooted that they can survive a temporary dispute, Elkin said.
The US has a legitimate right to pursue its own interests, even when they run counter to Israel’s, Elkin said, and Israel has a right to likewise pursue its interests even when it runs counter to those of the Trump administration.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked [Bayit Yehudi] said there will never be more support for, nor a better time than now to apply sovereignty to settlements in Judea and Samaria.
“The international community has never supported this step. It is hard to see a situation in which the international community would sanction it,” said Shaked.
She urged Netanyahu to support the legislative drive to apply sovereignty to the West Bank settlements, initiated by parliamentarians Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), who co-chair the Land of Israel Caucus.
The bill had been scheduled to come to a vote at the Ministerial Legislative Committee on Sunday, but Netanyahu persuaded the coalition chairs to delay the matter due to the security situation on the northern border.
He said he wanted to coordinate the matter with the US. He also told his faction on Monday that he had been in talks with the Trump administration about the issue of annexation.
The White House issued an immediate rebuke.
“Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false,” White House spokesman Josh Raffel said on Monday. “The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative,” he said.
Elkin said that the issue of sovereignty over the settlements lasted for 10 minutes and that Netanyahu’s statement to the press were simply been a few lines from that discussion.
He had uttered his words in response to a question from one of the participants in the meeting, he said.
Israel updates the US about legislation that is diplomatically sensitive and so, he imagined that such an update had occur here as well.
Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi party head Naftali Bennett told KAN Public Radio he was determined to advance the sovereignty issue. “I agreed to hold off because of the security situation, but wanted to hear more about the situation with Washington. I maintain the right to raise it again next Sunday.”