High-ranking Likud politicians suggest that the lack of Israel’s annexation where all the Jewish settlements are located strengthens the int’l community’s demand for withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.
Israeli annexation of the West Bank’s Area C – where all settlements are located – received public support from two high-ranking Likud politicians on Tuesday evening, Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein and MK Ze’ev Elkin.
“Lack of Israeli sovereignty over Area C means the continuation of the status quo,” said Edelstein, as he spoke about an area of the country that is now under Israeli military control. “It strengthens the international community’s demand for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.”
The two men were among a lineup of speakers at a Jerusalem conference organized by Women in Green, on the “Application of Israeli Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.” It is the group’s third annual conference on this topic.
Support for annexation has increased in the aftermath of the UN’s General Assembly decision in November to upgrade the Palestinian status to that of non-member observer state.
Former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker warned the conference that annexation was an abrogation of the 1993 Oslo Accords, in which Israel and the Palestinians committed to resolve their dispute through negotiations, rather than unilateral measures.
“Israel recognized its right to annex Area C, but has chosen not to do so for diplomatic reasons,” said Baker, who explained that he did not support such a move because of its diplomatic implications. “We have committed ourselves to negotiations in the Oslo Accord, which is still in effect, whether we like it or not.”
As one of the three legal experts who penned the Levy Report, which stated that Israel has a legal right under international law to settle Area C of the West Bank, he said he believed that the government should focus on strengthening the Jewish right to build over the pre- 1967 lines, adding that it should “stop apologizing all the time.”
Baker explained that “no one can deny the Jewish people its place as an indigenous people” on both sides of the pre-1967 lines. But he noted that international opinion increasingly refused to recognize this “historical fact.”
European politicians, he said, have shifted their language with regard to the West Bank from “disputed territories” to “occupied Palestinian territories.”
But Elkin said he disagreed with Baker. If the Palestinians do not have to adhere to the Oslo Accords, than neither do Israelis, he said.
MK Yariv Levin (Likud) said he supported annexation but did not believe it was that feasible. Instead, he urged politicians to focus on applying individual Israeli laws to West Bank settlements and its residents, rather than tackling the issue on a global scale. The same building laws should apply equally to Tel Aviv and to settlements in Judea and Samaria, he said.
Edelstein said, however, that it must be clear that Israel is moving toward annexation, or it weakens any argument it makes about Israel’s right to Judea and Samaria.
He noted that such a step would not end the international debate over Area C, as evidenced by the storm of controversy that continues to rage over Israeli sovereignty in east Jerusalem.
“Application of sovereignty does not automatically resolve the issue of disputed territories, as we say in the international legal language, but it is an important step that expresses our approach,” he said.
Failure to make such a strong statement, Edelstein added, “is like saying [Judea and Samaria] is not the legal wife, but a mistress.”
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=298082