‘We must seize this opportunity,’ Efrat mayor says after annexation meeting with Netanyahu

“This doesn’t answer all our dreams but you have to keep it in perspective and see what the alternative is,” said mayor of Efrat Oded Revivi.

By Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria that he is going ahead with plans to begin annexing parts of those regions next month, a representative for the communities said Monday.

Netanyahu told a group of settler leaders late Sunday that President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan greenlighting the annexation has not been finalized, Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat, told The Associated Press. But Netanyahu said that once a final map is agreed upon with the Americans, he will present it to settler leaders individually, Revivi said.

“This doesn’t answer all our dreams but you have to keep it in perspective and see what the alternative is,” Revivi said. “We have an opportunity with this president, this prime minister and this international climate and we have to seize it.”

Revivi was one of a dozen leaders who attended Sunday’s meeting to support the annexation effort and offer a counterbalance to growing criticism of the plan among the prime minister’s religious Zionist base.

Some residents of Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have voiced concern that Trump’s initiative does not go far enough. They note that many towns would be turned into isolated enclaves, endangered by the Palestinians living in the territory surrounding them. They also reject the U.S. offer to recognize Palestinian statehood, due to fears that the Hamas terror group will take over and turn the region into another crime-ridden, impoverished fiefdom similar to what the organization did in the Gaza Strip.

Read  Booking.com warns against visiting Judea and Samaria, Netanyahu slams 'abysmal hypocrisy'

The schism in the Yesha leadership burst into the open last week when David Elhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council, told an Israeli newspaper that the plan was inadequate and proved Trump was “not a friend of Israel.”

Netanyahu responded harshly, lauding Trump’s friendship and accusing the Yesha leadership of being ungrateful.

Revivi, a senior figure in Yesha, said the majority of settlers supported the plan, even if they harbored some concerns, and were solidly behind Netanyahu.

Netanyahu and much of his base are eager to move ahead with annexation.

Channel 13 TV reported Monday night that Netanyahu’s main coalition partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, has reservations about the plan. The report said that U.S. Ambassador David Friedman met with the two men in an attempt to bridge their differences.

Netanyahu has said he wants to annex Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, including the strategic Jordan Valley, in line with Trump’s Mideast plan. He’s lauded the move as a historic opportunity to establish Israel’s permanent borders, without having to evacuate a single Israeli. Previous peace plans have all included far greater Israeli concessions.

A U.S. Embassy official, said the “the work of the mapping committee is ongoing.” The official was not authorized to speak to the media on the record and requested anonymity.

Read  WATCH: Is US now listening to Israel's opinion on Iran?

Netanyahu’s office declined to comment.

The U.S. plan envisions leaving one third of Judea and Samaria under permanent Israeli control, while the Palestinians receive expanded autonomy in majority of the territory.

The Palestinians, who seek all of Judea and Samaria as part of an independent state, have rejected the plan, and claim to have already cut off key security ties with Israel, despite evidence to the contrary.

Israel’s defense minister has urged the military to hasten preparations for the country’s planned annexation in apparent anticipation of what could be another wave of Palestinian terrorism in response to the move.