Netanyahu moving ahead with annexation plans: Settler leader

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has assured Israeli settlers that he is going ahead with plans to begin annexing parts of the occupied West Bank next month, a settler representative said Monday.

Netanyahu told a group of settler leaders late Sunday that President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan allowing the annexation has not been finalized, Oded Revivi, mayor of the Efrat settlement, told The Associated Press. But Netanyahu said that once a final map is agreed upon with the Americans, he will present it to settler leaders individually, Revivi said.

Revivi was one of a dozen settler leaders who attended Sunday’s meeting to support the annexation effort and offer a counterbalance to growing criticism of the plan among the prime minister’s nationalist base.

Annexation of West Bank land has long been a dream of the Israeli settler movement.

A picture shows housing units at at Har Homa Israeli settlement near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (File photo: AFP)
A picture shows housing units at at Har Homa Israeli settlement near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (File photo: AFP)

Despite what is widely viewed as a pro-Israel plan, some settlers have voiced concern that Trump’s initiative does not go far enough. They note that many settlements would be turned into isolated enclaves surrounded by Palestinian territory. They also reject the US offer to recognize Palestinian statehood, albeit with far less land and far less authority than the Palestinians seek.

“This doesn’t answer all our dreams but you have to keep it in perspective and see what the alternative is,” Revivi said. “We have an opportunity with this president, this prime minister and this international climate and we have to seize it.”

Netanyahu and much of his nationalist base are eager to move ahead with annexation, especially with Trump facing shaky re-election prospects in November.

The presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, has said he opposes annexation.

The proposal also faces opposition in Israel, where many fear that annexation is a step that could lead to the creation of a single binational state with the Palestinians.

Channel 13 TV reported Monday night that Netanyahu’s main coalition partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, has reservations about the plan. The report said that US Ambassador David Friedman met with the two men in an attempt to bridge their differences.

A US Embassy official, said the “the work of the mapping committee is ongoing.” The official was not authorized to speak to the media on the record and requested anonymity.

Netanyahu’s office declined to comment.

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