Yisrael Harel:
'Apply sovereignty, the Americans will come to accept it'

Yesha Council founder determined to apply sovereignty, suggests Netanyahu take dramatic step without mentioning Trump Plan in bill.

Nitzan Kedar ,

David Friedman and Binyamin Netanyahu
David Friedman and Binyamin Netanyahu

Yisrael Harel, founder of the Yesha Council and the first to head it, is convinced that the widespread discourse surrounding sovereignty does not justify a split between the heads of settlers in Judea and Samaria.

"I propose all parties cool down. Sovereignty is reversible. I'd like to mention that Menachem Begin applied the sovereignty law to the Golan. Then Rabin, Barak, and especially Bibi came and negotiated a pullback from the Golan. That is, once you make a decision on sovereignty, this isn't the end of the story," Harel says in an Arutz Sheva interview.

He said, "It isn't just about territories that weren't previously sovereign Israel. In the Trump program and in previous programs, we were ready to give up parts of the Negev. Remember this is not exactly the Trump plan, but the one who engineered the plan is our own Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and according to the agreement we're supposed to give up the Halutza area.

"It shouldn't be taken in such seriousness it plunges us into divisions - certainly not to the extent of calling some colleagues who are ready to compromise on this issue 'traitors'.

Harel made the point about the central significance of applying sovereignty. "There's one significant implication here: Today we're under Civil Administration rule. In all matters of land acquisition and construction - our government is the civilian administration. Anti-settlement elements have settled in the Civil Administration in recent decades, especially in legal counsel. Once we apply sovereignty it will move to the civilian level. The Interior Ministry will be the address for building permits and for any similar issue we won't have to go to the Civil Administration and this is a huge advance, especially when you have a government that supports you. With everything we have in our hearts against Binyamin Netanyahu - and we have a lot - you cannot say that we won't have an attentive ear in this government, even with Aryeh Deri who in the past because of him came upon us the Oslo disaster."

Yisrael Harel argues that the price the U.S. is asking for sovereignty is too high and therefore believes that sovereignty must be held onto, but wisely.

"The price, at least in my opinion, is high. My proposal is quite simple: the bill to apply sovereignty to be brought to the Knesset should not mention the Deal of the Century. In other words, the government will bring before the Knesset a proposal to apply Israeli law and sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, without mentioning anything else as we take for granted that we have a green light from Washington."

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"The Americans, especially Jared Kushner, will probably scream, but they can do nothing. We're a few months before the U.S. elections, we have a very strong ally, and they are the Evangelicals. Trump is in serious trouble and if he loses the support of the Evangelicals, he will probably lose the election. He is also not a micromanager and if we have a problem with someone in government, it's his son-in-law and the team he works with," Harel adds.

He notes that "We have no problem with President Trump. I attend quite a few conferences in the U.S. and know the political map well. We know exactly what Trump is interested in and how much. Threats by those who oppose the move and say the sky will fall shouldn't be taken especially seriously."

Harel wants to expand on that. "When I was Chairman of the Yesha Council, the Reagan program was published. Until Trump, the closest President to Israel was considered Ronald Reagan. He was not well-versed in foreign policy and he allowed his Secretary of State to conduct the policy including with Israel in the Middle East. The Secretary of State conceived a plan, of course, named after Reagan, by which Israel had to withdraw to the Green Line, including a change in the law on Greater Jerusalem. We ran to Menachem Begin and he banged on the table and said: 'It won't happen.' Indeed, in the next few days, he stepped to the podium of the Knesset and stated explicitly that it wouldn't happen - and indeed nothing happened. The Reagan program was a non-starter."

"The media are trying to scare us and we need to know that we can promote sovereignty or not promote sovereignty. I propose that members of the Yesha Council negotiating with the Prime Minister convince him that the wording submitted for Knesset vote should only include sovereignty - whatever's possible now for the communities and for the sake of vote - without mentioning anything else. It won't hurt us in the remainder of Area C, we can be there and continue to drive on Route 60, without indicating that it's part of the Deal of the Century. Because once you indicate that it is according to the Deal of the Century, the map will be binding," Harel clarifies.

Asked how the settlers would respond to partial sovereignty, just for example, he answers: "We don't have to cooperate with Netanyahu in what's uncomfortable for us. We have enough political power. Just as Trump should fear evangelical voters, Netanyahu should greatly fear ideological Right-leaning voters and they number quite a few including a large Likud public. This lever should be used on him and we must not give in to Netanyahu and let him repeat the Bar-Ilan formula and the two-states for two nations idea.

"In this matter, we discovered a little slack; Yamina's weakness also adds to it, but in such an ideological matter the ranks can be unified. The Left demonstrated in Rabin Square, we too can do it and have much greater power than in the past. In this matter, it's possible to find the strength and defy Netanyahu," concludes Harel.