Bennett: Annex Jewish Areas of Judea and Samaria
Economics Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday reiterated his proposal that Israel should annex parts of Judea and Samaria under its full military control of Jewish areas, according to AFP.
"I favor implementation of Israeli sovereignty over the zone where 400,000 Jews live and only 70,000 Arabs," said the Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) head. Bennett was referring to the "Area C" regions of Judea and Samaria, which under the Oslo Accords are still under Israeli military and civilian control. Area A refers to parts of the region controlled entirely by the Palestinian Authority, whilst Area B refers to those parts under civilian PA control, but with Israel still responsible for security.
The move would give over 400,000 Jewish residents in the annexed region a sense of security - proof they would not be evicted from their homes, as international bodies had suggested - and full citizenship to the 70,000 Arabs remaining, who would now be required to keep Israel's laws.
Over 600,000 Jews live in Judea and Samaria in total.
Bennet is not the only Jewish Home MK to advocate for the annexation of the region. In August, MK Yoni Chetboun also proposed the move to US Congressman David Reichert, noting the security risks a two-state solution would present.
“Practically speaking, if a Palestinian state is created it would be a third state between the Jordan and the sea. Israel will be wedged between two hostile states, Palestine and Hamastan," Chetboun stated.
Bennett's remarks come on the heels of claims made by former Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin that "too many Jews are living in the region" for a withdrawal, but that the two-state solution - which would see hundreds of thousands of Israelis thrown out of their homes and businesses - is nonetheless the "right infrastructure" for peace talks, which resumed this week between Israel and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
The MK also noted that calls made by the US labeling the talks as a success are premature. Abbas's control extends only over the PA areas of Judea and Samaria, and not Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Bennett argued that Kerry's claims that an agreement would lead to total peace are unfounded as a result. "This is all a joke. It's as if we're discussing the purchase of a car with only half of its owners," he told IDF Radio.
On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry continued to express optimism over the talks, enthusing that "I believe we are closer than we have been in years to bringing about the peace and the prosperity and the security that all of the people of this region deserve." President Barack Obama was equally optimistic about the talks.
While President Barack Obama stated at the Saturday Saban Center Forum that while the US believes in "an agreement that includes two states" that "requires serious political decisions" on the part of both Israel and the PA, and reassured the audience that "Israel's security is sacrosanct," Bennett - like other Israeli officials - has approached the talks with both caution and a message about the importance of self-reliance.
“History teaches us that we must never make others responsible for our defense,” he warned in a Facebook post. “We must continue to watch our own back.”
A number of other senior Israeli government officials have also viewed the talks with a significant measure of skepticism. On Saturday, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that "there is no partner on the Palestinian side to reach a two-state solution for two peoples", and Likud MK Ofir Akunis warned that "peace" is a euphemism for "withdrawals" and more violence to follow.
Speaking Friday at the Saban Conference, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also poured cold water on the talks, saying they were unlikely to achieve anything within the nine-month time frame imposed by the US, but that they should continue nonetheless for the sake of "dialogue".