Rising Chorus Backs Israeli Annexation of West Bank

Extreme Option Is Openly Floated in Ruling Party Ranks

Extreme No More: Jewish settlers march in the West Bank city of Hebron. Once an extremist option, annexation of the occupied territory is now gaining support on Israel’s right wing.
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Extreme No More: Jewish settlers march in the West Bank city of Hebron. Once an extremist option, annexation of the occupied territory is now gaining support on Israel’s right wing.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published January 21, 2013, issue of January 25, 2013.
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Women in Green co-chair Nadia Matar said that the annexation discussion is important because for too long, the right failed to give clear answers on its alternative to negotiations. “Everybody understands that the two-state solution is national suicide, but we can’t leave a vacuum,” she claimed in an interview with the Forward. “What we are calling to do was done 45 years ago in Jerusalem, when everyone said the skies were going to fall in — and they didn’t.”

Advocates of annexation vary in their view of Palestinian rights once the West Bank becomes part of Israel. During a panel discussion at the conference the opinions ranged from granting full citizenship to granting only permanent residency. The settlement activist Elyakim Haetzni advocated allowing Palestinian autonomy, and Otzma Yisrael party candidate Arye Eldad suggested giving residency, but demanding national voting rights for Palestinians in Jordan. Edelstein and Elkin did not take part in this discussion, and therefore did not outline their views on the subject, but they said nothing during their speeches to suggest that they saw West Bank annexation differently to annexation in Jerusalem, where Palestinians are able to apply for citizenship.

With little if any movement in the electorate between the left-wing bloc of parties and the heavily favored right-wing party blocs, the election campaign has focused mainly on electioneering within the blocs. And the main battle has become that between the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu alliance and the Jewish Home Party to its right.

This has put annexation — only a theoretical possibility for the future — firmly on the agenda, while there has been hardly any discussion of what to do regarding the successful bid to upgrade the Palestinian’s status at the United Nations.

It is the Jewish Home that has been the most vocal about annexation, by enshrining it in limited form in its platform. The Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three districts. The so-called Area C covers almost two-thirds of the West Bank and contains all the settlements, but it has a very small Palestinian population, and as such, Jewish Home wants to annex the area and grant citizenship to its Palestinian residents.

The Likud ultra-rightist Moshe Feiglin has also ramped up interest in annexation. Feiglin, Netanyahu’s nemesis inside the party who for the first time looks likely to win a Knesset seat, wants to pay Palestinians cash incentives to emigrate, and for the whole West Bank to become part of Israel. Both Feiglin and Jewish Home candidate Eli Ben-Dahan also addressed the Women in Green conference.


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