Likud tightens grip on West Bank
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Likud tightens grip on West Bank

The ruling party in Jerusalem has voted in favour of extending Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements. The Israeli left is livid about the resolution, which was passed by the central committee of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud.

Israel's Minister of Culture, Likud politician Miri Regev, was strongly in favour of the resolution. Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL
Israel's Minister of Culture, Likud politician Miri Regev, was strongly in favour of the resolution. Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL

The ruling party in Jerusalem has voted in favour of extending Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements.

The Israeli left is livid about the resolution, which was passed on Sunday by the central committee of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called it “irresponsible”, and said that moves to annex the West Bank would “result in the loss of all hope for peace”.

But in Likud, the call for a tightening of Israel’s grip on the West Bank was a big hit.

The central committee embraced it unanimously, and is now officially calling for “free construction and application of Israeli law and sovereignty in all liberated areas of settlement”.

Likud activists and politicians see it as a way of ensuring that land which the international community wants to turn into a Palestinian state stays in Israeli hands.

“It’s clear that between the sea and the Jordan River there’s room for the nation state of just one people,” said Culture Minister Miri Regev.

The former minister Gideon Saar received strong applause when he told the central committee meeting that the idea was to remove any “question mark” over whether settlements will remain under Israeli control.

The resolution does not oblige Likud Knesset members to toe the line and promote annexation, but politicians are normally keen to keep good links with party activists.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Likud vote was “part of Israel’s plan to erase the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people”.

He is furious with America for its new recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – and claimed that America had further offended the Palestinians by secretly giving the nod to Likud over its new position.

It couldn’t have happened “without the full support of the US administration”, Abbas claimed.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has announced that a new train station planned for the Old City will be named after Trump, to acknowledge “his courageous and historic decision” and his “contribution in the strengthening of the status of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel”.

The Trump decision has left the Israeli right – especially those who champion a united Jerusalem – buoyant.

The Knesset passed new legislation, in a late-night vote on Monday, which is meant to prevent any peace deal that involves the division of Jerusalem.

Until now, if Israel was to sign a peace deal with the Palestinians that involved a pull-out from any part of Jerusalem, it would have needed the approval of 61 of the Knesset’s 120 members.

The new legislation requires 80 Knesset member to agree to dividing the city.

“Our understanding is clear,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, during the debate.

“No Jew has the authority to give up any part of the land, nor does the Jewish people.”

Opposition from the Israeli left and from Palestinians was swift.

Esawi Frej of the Meretz party said that without dividing Jerusalem there won’t be peace: “There can be no diplomatic solution without east Jerusalem being Palestinian,” he argued.

And the Palestinian Authority’s official media reported that Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, considers the Knesset’s vote “a declaration of war”.

NATHAN JEFFAY

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