The three days of the Leumiada opened in Eilat with a special panel dealing with the issue of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and how to implement it.

The panel, composed of ministers, Knesset Members, and other public figures, was led by journalist Shimon Riklin, who began with words of gratitude to Sovereignty Movement co-chairwomen Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, who have been leading the discourse on sovereignty for the past seven years from an idea to legislation and practical implementation.

Deputy Foreign Minister MK Tzipi Hotovely was the first of the speakers on the panel: "A revolution has occurred thanks to Nadia and Yehudit. In 2009, the subject of sovereignty was advocated by a small minority among politicians, who advanced the matter of building and fighting the freeze and the Left's political plans without presenting their own political plan". She said that the lack of a political plan by the Right that would apply Israeli law in Judea and Samaria has left Judea and Samaria to be used as a political bargaining chip. Hotovely went on, noting that the revolution has become so large that currently, almost all of the members of Likud support the plan for sovereignty and that the decision for sovereignty was unanimously accepted by the Likud Central Committee.

"We're approaching the point with the Trump administration - that's already said settlements are legal, legitimate, and not an obstacle to peace – a point where the next subject is the application of sovereignty. The coming challenge is recognizing sovereignty in the Golan Heights and if the Likud will be large and strong, the next challenge will be coordination and advancing the application of sovereignty."

Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely (C) speaks on panel
Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely (C) speaks on panelצילום:

Deputy Minister Michael Oren spoke of the chances to lead a process of sovereignty with the American administration. He began with a statement of principles and ideals: "Every single millimeter of the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel; this is correct historically, ideologically and politically wise as well. I participated in the last round of discussions with the Palestinians about ten years ago and regretted that we approached the process with the attitude that part of the Land of Israel belongs to us while the Palestinians claimed that all of it belongs to them. This is not a wise opening position on our part, from the approach that it all belongs to us, from Yaffo, where I live, to Beit El and Ofrah, our sovereignty must be recognized in the Golan Heights, where thirty out of the ninety ancient synagogues that have been found in the Land of Israel are located and where we have spent almost three times the amount of time as when Syria was there".

Deputy Minister Oren views the Trump era as a window of opportunity that must be exploited, saying that during this period, we must develop the Golan Heights and in parallel with the American withdrawal from Syria and demand American recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights as a sort of compensatory damages. "I think the chances for this are not insignificant", MK Oren believes.

Regarding Judea and Samaria, MK Oren believes actual American recognition of settlement blocs is a first step on the way to a similar step in this area.

Jordan Valley Council head David Elhiani told the attendants to the panel about the civil and day-to-day significance of the goal of Israeli sovereignty in the territory, a situation where it is an IDF officer that now deals with the various fields of tourism, despite the fact that he has no knowledge of the field and he has no knowledge of the topic of agriculture either. This is besides the rickety state of infrastructure in the Jordan Valley, which is also a result of the same impossible legal situation and the lack of authority against Arab incursions. "We live in an insane reality," he said.

Elhiani criticized the current government, a rightist government, for its lack of effectiveness that according to him, talks well but despite continuously ruling for a decade, has not practically advanced the process of sovereignty. "Why do I have to go to the Civil Administration for issues of environmental quality? This body of the civil administration is perpetuating the 'occupation' and harasses the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. This body should be dismantled and closed down."

Atty. Yoram Sheftel, another participant in the panel, mentions that despite the fact that the American administration is more sympathetic to Israel than any previous one, it is still not a branch of an Israeli rightist party and its policy towards the Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria is not different from that of its predecessors. "There's a reason that Netanyahu wants to coordinate any construction with the administration. He knows the administration's position and doesn't want to confront it."

Sovereignty Movement Eilat conference panel
Sovereignty Movement Eilat conference panelSovereignty Movement

In Sheftel's opinion, the process of applying sovereignty should be advanced as Begin did with the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, namely, without asking permission from the Americans. Sheftel believes that a year before elections in the U.S. is the right time to apply the first phase of sovereignty, over the Jordan Valley and Ma'ale Adumim.

Minister Ze'ev Elkin sees as the highest priority, the existence of discourse around the issue of the vision of sovereignty, a discourse that becomes like a dream and as other dreams have been realized, this one also will be realized. "In the end, we must have a solid majority of the public and the Knesset in order to lead this process, and when this happens, the world will also recognize it."

According to him, "A majority of the Right is not enough. We must turn the discourse on sovereignty into a discourse of the Center" and in his opinion the right way to lead the vision of sovereignty to realization is in phases. This contrasts with the sense that prevailed in the Right in the past, the sense that it's "all or nothing", which actually prevented the practical advancement of the idea.

Shevah Stern, a senior member of the Likud Central Committee and one of the key promoters of the idea of sovereignty in the Likud, sees a direct connection between building the communities at the first inception of the vision of sovereignty and the meaningful moment of the vote in the party's central committee, when the decision was taken to see sovereignty as the party's political and diplomatic goal. Stern admits that indeed, there has not been additional progress since the vote in the ranks of the Likud and therefore he outlines the next steps for the coming term: proposing again the law of sovereignty, establishing a sovereignty lobby and intensive activity to implement the course of action.

Welfare Minister Chaim Katz views the number of Likud members among residents of Judea and Samaria as a vital step in advancing the vision. Minister Katz told of the moment when he saw the expulsion from Gush Katif as the destruction of the last house, and how he then understood that there must be a dramatic revolution that will prevent such scenes and it was as a result of that insight that he led the vote for sovereignty in the movement. "We must continue to strike the wall and widen the crack that we have made in it because we have no choice. This has been our Land for thousands of years and the time has come that sovereignty should be applied in it. I will do everything in my power for this and so that Judea, Samaria and Gaza will be an integral part of the State of Israel."

In answer to the Head of the Jordan Valley Council's claims of a practical freeze in the matter of sovereignty for the years of the Likud rule, Minister Katz responded with his own question of how it happens that after a decade, there are only one hundred members of Likud in the Jordan Valley. In his opinion, having a more significant number of members would yield results in what he defined as "the War for the Home."

Sovereignty Movement conference
Sovereignty Movement conferenceSovereignty Movement

Human rights activist Bassam Eid, one of the leaders of the battle against the leadership of the PA, said from the stage of the panel, that he heard, in a conversation with a senior public figure in Hevron, that if Israel announced that there would be a census among the residents of Hevron for citizenship, the entire population of Jenin would sneak into Hevron the night before…"

Eid emphasized that the voices arising from the Arab media against the possibility of Israeli sovereignty and normalization with Israel only stem from the fact that the media in the PA are totally controlled by the leadership there and therefore continue the conflict and do not try to find ways to solve it. This reality prevents the great majority of Palestinian population from saying how it feels, meaning the desire to be annexed to Israel. He believes, therefore, that it is solely for the leadership of Israel to lead the process.

Eid speaks of large numbers of Palestinians who search for any way they can, to move into parts of Judea and Samaria under Israeli control in order to escape from Palestinian control, which treats them as if they are hostages. "Our situation has gotten worse every day since Oslo. We have become victims. The PA rules with fear and terror so that there are no other people like me who call out "Help!" I travel the world and explain what the PA is doing to us. There are those whom I meet with but are afraid and do not express their opinion."

Following Bassam Eid's words, Minister Elkin added the claim that it is ironically the Palestinians who will lead to sovereignty, and that this will happen with the end of Abu Mazen's leadership, when a reality will be created that Israeli will have no choice but to apply her sovereignty over the territory and Israel had better get prepared for it now.

Another speaker in the panel was former Israeli Ambassador to Washington demographer Yoram Ettinger, who reiterated his assertion that there is no demographic threat, as one can see from data etched into rock, instead of according to unfounded hypotheses, in his words.

Ettinger presented data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, which includes more than four hundred thousand Arabs who have not been living in Judea and Samaria for more than a year, in contradiction to international standards of census taking. Likewise, the Palestinian count is inflated by the 350 thousand Arabs of Jerusalem who are included in the Israeli count. He also mentioned that more than a hundred thousand Arabs from Judea and Samaria have married Israeli Arab partners and have received the status of permanent resident or Israeli citizen. These hundred thousand are also counted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. He also noted numerical disparities between data of the Health and Education Ministries against the number of births falsely documented by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Ettinger also described the continuing upward trend in Jewish birthrate compared to the decline in the Arab birthrate.

Deputy Foreign Minister MK Tzipi Hotovely added, noting the Prime Minister's decision during his term as Foreign Minister to cancel the recognition of UNWRA, the organization that perpetuates the refugee status and hope of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria to return to Yaffo, Ramle and Haifa.

Regarding the actions of the Foreign Ministry in the matter of Judea and Samaria, the deputy minister spoke of her decision in her first days in the ministry to issue an official document clarifying the legality of the settlement in Judea and Samaria. She takes care to clarity Israel's positions in various international tribunals in the same spirit.

The sovereignty panel concluded by awarding its first certificates of appreciation to members of Knesset and ministers who have led the vision of sovereignty in the term that is now ending. The certificates were awarded by the heads of the Sovereignty Movement, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, who also screened for the attendees to the discussion, a short film on the Sovereignty Youth.

Eilat conference
Eilat conferenceSovereignty Movement