Minister to Arutz Sheva:
'Israel working to reach a deal with US on sovereignty plan'

Settlement Minister says government won't back Palestinian statehood. 'We won't freeze construction or create isolated enclaves.'

Shimon Cohen ,

Hotovely and Netanyahu
Hotovely and Netanyahu
Miriam Alster/Flash90

The Israeli government is working closely with the Trump administration to reach an agreement paving the way for the application of Israeli sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria, Settlement Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said Wednesday.

Speaking with Arutz Sheva, Hotovely said efforts were ongoing to bridge disagreements over the extent of the sovereignty plan, and the conditions Israel must accept to receive US recognition for the move – recognition which is key for moving forward with the plan under the coalition deal with the center-left Blue and White party.

The minister began by pushing back on right-wing criticism of the sovereignty plan, saying incorrect maps and false claims were being spread by the plan’s opponents.

“Many incorrect maps have been published and a lot of incorrect statements made,” said Hotovely, who is a member of the joint Israeli-US mapping team tasked with working out the details for the sovereignty plan, and arriving at an agreement between the White House and the Israeli government.

Little is known about the details of the plan currently under discussion, with both the Israeli and US teams keeping mum about the proposals under consideration.

That has led to widespread speculation regarding the dimensions of the sovereignty plan, including reports citing unnamed Israeli, American, and Palestinian Authority officials which have pushed a number of widely varying scenarios, ranging from the possibility that Israel will only apply sovereignty to several large settlement blocs, dropping plans to include the Jordan Valley – to a report by Channel 11 Tuesday night which suggests Israel is negotiating with the US to include more fledging Israeli settlements in the map, in exchange for waving sovereignty over other areas.

Hotovely rejected claims that the US is pushing Israel to relinquish partial control over parts of Area C in Judea and Samaria, which is under full Israeli control.

“At no point was there any thought of transferring parts of Area C to the Palestinians. That’s an idea that was never raised. There are no understandings with the US in this regard whatsoever.”

Regarding the US demand that the Blue and White party approve of any move on sovereignty, Hotovely said Prime Minister Netanyahu had made clear that he intends to move forward with the sovereignty plan regardless of Blue and White’s position.

“The Prime Minister made it clear that despite the American demand, he is obligated on this issue – even without the approval of Blue and White. Basically there was a retreat by the US on this issue.

“The Americans regard the issue of the Jordan Valley as being particularly sensitive, because of the peace treaty with Jordan. As someone who wants to see Eli, Shiloh, and Beit El under Israeli sovereignty, I can say that the central value of sovereignty is in places that for years were not in the consensus; places from which we derive our right to the Land of Israel, like Elon Moreh and Beit El. Part of the struggle right now is to ensure that sovereignty isn’t applied only to the settlement blocs.”

“The important thing is that the Israeli government never agree to Palestinian statehood of any kind as part of a deal to apply sovereignty.”

Hotovely added that the sovereignty plan, which is expected to be brought to the government this summer, will not be voted upon as part of the Trump administration’s peace plan, which calls for Palestinian statehood.

“The Israeli government does not accept the Trump plan as part of the government decision. All that we have said is that we are prepared to call the Palestinians to negotiatiosn on the basis of the plan, and based on the framework on the table.”

The minister went on to say that Israel would not accept a building freeze in some settlements – as is proposed in the Trump plan for 15 towns.

“We absolutely will not accept a building freeze in some of the settlements, and we absolutely will not accept the creation of enclaves that will impede the development of established towns. The sovereignty plan does not include concessions in Area C, nor agreement to a Palestinian state.”

“These are all red lines for the Israeli government and the Prime Minister is taking these values with him to the negotiating table with the Americans. Right now, there is a gap between our position and that of the Americans, who are coming in to a complicated election season.”