Goal of party vote to annex ‘settlements’ is to strengthen Netanyahu

The goal of the governing party’s resolution to apply Israeli law to all of the “settlements” is to strengthen PM Netanyahu 

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

The Likud party’s Central Committee is due to consider a motion declaring that Israel should annex all Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.

The ruling party’s 3,000-member central committee reflects the ideological directions of the membership, but it’s not binding on Prime Minister Netanyahu nor on the rest of the party leadership. Rather, the resolution and other ideological platforms passed by the central committee carry weight among potential Knesset members and ministers who might vie to be chosen to represent the party in the next election cycle.

The resolution reads: “Fifty years after the liberation of Judea and Samaria, and with them Jerusalem, our eternal capital, the Likud Central Committee calls on Likud’s elected leaders to work to allow unhindered construction and to extend Israeli law and sovereignty in all the areas of liberated settlement in Judea and Samaria.”

Netanyahu has not expressed support for the motion, but neither did he try to delay or cancel the meeting. Netanyahu will likely not attend the gathering, but top Likud party leaders, including Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz are all expected to attend the gathering and support the motion. Former cabinet Minister Gideon Sa’ar, considered by many to be a future party leader, sent the Likud activists a recorded message, saying, “After Trump was elected, I said the time had come to set a diplomatic goal of annexing ‘Area C’ on the way to exercising our sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria.” According to Sa’ar, “If this resolution becomes law, it will give a practical solution to the needs of the half-million Israelis living in Judea and Samaria.”

‘Goal is to strengthen Netanyahu’

Likud activist Natan Engelman, who co-authored the proposal, said, “The goal is not to pressure the prime minister, because we believe he supports the initiative but cannot say so. Our goal is to strengthen Netanyahu. He could have stopped the vote but made a point of letting it happen.”

This will be the first time in 16 years since the Likud central committee has voted on a key ideological issue. In 2002, the party voted against the creation of a Palestinian state and the decision resulted in then-prime minister and Likud leader Ariel Sharon quitting the party.

‘Opportune moment to annex the settlements’

Engelsman said, “This is the opportune moment to annex the settlements, because President Donald Trump is in the White House. This is a historic event that we have been waiting for. “If the president of the United States believes Jerusalem is ours, there is no reason why he cannot eventually come to the conclusion that it makes sense for the Israeli residents of the territories to live under Israeli law.”

Judea and Samaria ‘settler’ activist Yisrael Medad told WIN, “I am in favor of any step that helps move public opinion toward the goal that Israel must remain the only sovereign nation west of the Jordan river.” Medad would prefer that Israel annex the entire area of Judea and Samaria, although “halfway measures like this are better than nothing.”

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PM ‘wants to keep the status quo’

According to Medad, “Netanyahu will not heed the motion because he favors a two-state solution. His political vision is tied to Jordan, and he does not move without coordinating with the king. He wants to keep the status quo. An ideological Likud directive will not be heeded by Netanyahu, but it could influence the viewpoint of whoever eventually comes along to replace Netanyahu as party leader.”

Bobby Brown, longtime Likud activist and former council head of the Judea community of Tekoa, says the Likud resolution is long overdue. “We are about 700,00 Israelis living in Judea and Samaria. We speak Hebrew, send our kids to the army and pay taxes. Why are our lives managed by the military government? The situation must be normalized. It’s ridiculous that after 50 years the situation for the ‘settlers’ has yet to be normalized,” he said.

“I think that the prime minister will listen to the party members concerns,” he added. “I know that it’s easy for the party to make ideological decisions and much harder for the prime minister, who must be pragmatic and consider the politics. I consider the move similar to Trump’s decision to recognize the historic reality that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital. This simply recognizes the historic reality that Israeli residents of the territories want to live as normal citizens.”

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Former Likud activist and political pundit Mitchell Barak says that unilateral moves in the Likud central committee are “not helpful, push peace further away, and will be detrimental to Israel’s image. It’s meaningless in terms of chances of passage in the Knesset or implementations, but along the way it will be quite detrimental to Israel from a public diplomacy standpoint.”

According to Barak, “It’s a declarative move, and it solidifies the Likud’s base, but nothing practical can be gained. The Likud has been hijacked by the hard right that’s competing with [Naftali Bennett’s] Habayit Hayehudi party for right-wing voters. Along the way, the motion will do irreparable damage to Israel’s international public diplomacy efforts.”