Netanyahu officials confident he can pull off sovereignty

Pro-sovereignty members of Blue and White’s bloc will override party chairman Benny Gantz’s objections on the issue.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

On Wednesday, which is the first day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is allowed to bring the issue of applying sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria to the Knesset, as per the coalition agreement, senior members of Israel’s government say they have the votes, even without the support of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.

On Monday, Gantz said that he was in favor of pushing off the sovereignty decision until after the health and economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has been dealt with. He has reportedly estimated that this could take as much as 18 months.

“What is not corona-related will wait until the day after the virus,” he said in a meeting of his party.

But there are enough members of Gantz’s bloc who have publicly supported sovereignty to assure its passage in the cabinet once all the details are hashed out, even without his agreement.

Diaspora Minister Omer Yankelevich (Blue and White) said in a tour of Gush Etzion Tuesday, “This place is our ancestral homeland. Israeli citizens who live here are here by virtue of Israeli government decisions. They must be under Israeli sovereignty.”

Both members of the Derech Eretz faction, which has aligned itself with Blue and White, agreed.

“I will vote in favor of applying [Israeli] law,” Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel told Army Radio in mid-June. “I support it in the cabinet, in the Knesset, in this interview and anywhere else.”

“I think the Jordan Valley is very significant,” he specified. “I think settlement blocs should have been part of Israel long ago.”

In a radio interview Wednesday morning on Reshet Moreshet, his partner, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Zvi Hauser, said that he was a firm supporter of sovereignty, although in other interviews he still cautioned that Israel “has to come to an agreement with the Americans, that’s the condition.”

In contrast, MK Avi Dichter told Reshet Bet radio Wednesday that there was no need to wait anymore to apply Israeli law in the region.

“There is absolutely no reason why half a million Israelis who are living there should be treated any differently, as if things are still up in the air [regarding their status], just because the land they’re living on still is not under Israeli sovereignty,” he said.

“Israel has a great deal of interest that its biggest strategic friend will understand the move, but there have been other things in the past Israel did without waiting for authorization,” he added, giving as an example the declaration of Israeli independence in 1948.

“I recommend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make the decision for sovereignty in all the Jewish settlements of Judea and Samaria.”

Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet, has declared that he would run for leadership of the Likud when the Netanyahu era is over. He doesn’t sit in the cabinet, having refused ministries he deemed not of sufficient stature during coalition negotiations.

Senior ministers who spoke to Israel Hayom on Wednesday said that the prime minister could overcome any  reservations made by White House staff because President Donald Trump had promised that Israel could apply sovereignty, and the administration could not oppose any move  compatible with its own peace plan.