Settlement Blocs - In; Settlements - Question Mark
Cabinet Minister Benny Begin says Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech of Monday night does not mean that non-settlement bloc communities will be given up.
Begin, generally considered a strong Land of Israel supporter, says that nationalist-camp criticism of Netanyahu's speech last night is not correct.
Netanyahu said the Israeli public is united in its position that settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria – such as Gush Etzion, Ariel, and Maaleh Adumim, though he did not name them – must never be given up.
In response to the Prime Minister, MK Yaakov Katz and others said that Netanyahu has given up on all communities that are not included in blocs.
Begin, speaking with Voice of Israel Radio this morning, said this is an incorrect assumption: "The future of the communities in Judea and Samaria will be determined only in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority," he said.
Similarly, after Netanyahu's speech last night, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely approached him and said, "The rule that you set implies the exception to the rule," meaning that his insistence on retaining the settlement blocs means that the other towns are expendable. Netanyahu responded, "That is not the intention."
A former aide to Netanyahu, Mayor of Eli and Knesset candidate, Yechiel Leiter, once explained the advantages of concentrating on what Israel will keep under any circumstances. Calling in 2008 for the annexation of half of Judea and Samaria, he said at the time, “There are those who fear talking about annexing 50%, because that means giving up the other 50%. But that’s not how I look at it. Annexation is a long process that means first building up strong support within Israel for the settlement enterprise and for these areas, making major changes in how these areas are regulated and governed, moving the checkpoints, which are not supposed to be border points - and only then will we be able to annex the areas. It also means offering Israeli citizenship to possibly 100,000 Arabs – though not 1.5 million… It could take 10 years, or even 25 years. Once that works, then we’ll take it from there.”
U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver a speech on Thursday, and predictions vary as to what he will say. The Yediot Acharonot daily says he will go head-to-head with Netanyahu and demand the splitting of Jerusalem and a full withdrawal from all of Judea and Samaria. Voice of Israel reports, however, that Obama will not clash with Netanyahu, in the realization that peace is far off and cannot be forced.
Even according to the Yediot version, Obama is expected to tell PA leaders that they must not declare a state unilaterally.