Defense minister reiterates his opposition to annexing the West Bank and stresses that the coalition must also do so to prevent diplomatic strife with the Trump administration.

Avigdor Liberman
Avigdor Liberman. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


Applying Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank would lead to an “immediate crisis” with the new US administration, said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.

Liberman made the remarks in reference to statements made by MK Miki Zohar (Likud), who said on Sunday that he sought for Israel to annex the West Bank without granting full citizenship to its Palestinian inhabitants.

Liberman reiterated his opposition to annexing the West Bank and stressed that the coalition must also clarify that annexation is not its official stance, in order to prevent diplomatic strife with the US.

“We have no intention to do so,” he said of applying Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank. “Beyond the financial issue, we received a direct message – applying sovereignty means an immediate crisis with the new [US] administration. So whoever wants strife with the US and to spend NIS 20 billion – go ahead. I am calling on the rest of the MKs, especially from the coalition to be responsible.”

“Applying sovereignty over Judea and Samaria means accepting an extra 2,700,000 citizens, and that is before I get into [consequences of] international law, the political implications and the international community’s reactions that would not accept the fact that we are not granting [Palestinians] the right to vote,” the defense minister said.

Liberman then explained what he said the State of Israel would be required to do if it chooses such a path. “We must grant them at least the status of residents, like we did in east Jerusalem. That means Israel will have to pay them – from day one – NIS 20 billion, only out of social security. That is only from unemployment benefits, convalescence payment and maternity benefits. All this from day one, and I didn’t even mention funding from the Interior Ministry, Health Ministry and Housing Ministry.”

Liberman’s comments came amid a renewed drive by right-wing politicians and the Knesset Land for Israel cuacus to annex the third largest West Bank settlement, Ma’aleh Adumim, which is located just outside of Jerusalem.

It’s part of a larger drive by right-wing politicians to annex Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military and civilian rule. The politicians want to transform military rule into sovereignty. All of Israel’s West Bank settlements are located in Area C of the West Bank, which is also home to some 300,000 Palestinians. The bulk of the Palestinian population lives in Areas A and B of the West Bank, which are under the autonomous civilian rule of the Palestinian Authority.

Knesset Land of Israel caucus chairs Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) and Yoav Kisch (Likud) had hoped the Ministerial Committee for Legislation would debate and vote on an annexation bill for Ma’aleh Adumim last Sunday. Under pressure from Netanyahu, they agreed to delay the issue until the next weekly governmental meeting.

“We have to stop this campaign of fear about sovereignty,” Smotrich and Kisch said on Monday in response to Liberman’s comments.

“A nation can not be an occupier in their land, so we are not talking about annexation but rather about the imposition of sovereignty on our land,” they said.

“We are continuing in the path of the Zionist leaders that applied sovereignty on the land in 1948, 1967 and 1981,” they said.

“The time has come to take the next step: we’re advancing a a law applying sovereignty on Ma’aelh Adumim that will have majority [support] in the Ministerial Legislative Committee and in the Knesset plenum,” Smotrich and Kisch said.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post