TEL AVIV – Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely on Sunday called for extending full Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank region known as Area C.
Under the 1995 Oslo Accords, Israel retained full military and administrative control over Area C, which covers some 60 percent of the West Bank and is where most Israeli settlements are located.
Addressing comments made last week by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman supporting Israel’s right to retain parts of the West Bank, Hotovely said that Israel needs to seize “the window of opportunity” and extend Israeli law over Area C.
The Likud minister criticized use of the word “annex.”
“Using the term annex is not true,” she said at the annual Jerusalem Post conference in New York. “You annex something that is not yours. This is not a story of annexation. This is a story of realization. Many ask what’s next, what’s going to happen, what’s going to change [after the annexation of Area C]. For 52 years, we were feeding this myth of occupation. It’s a myth. It’s not true.”
In an interview published by the New York Times last Saturday, Friedman also refrained from using the word “annex,” opting instead for “retain.”
“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” Friedman said.
According to Hotovely, the Palestinians’ rejection of the as-yet unveiled U.S. peace plan presents an opportunity for Israel.
“There is a window of opportunity,” Hotovely continued. “The window is open because the Palestinians are not interested in a Palestinian state. Up until the 1980s, both Likud and Labor were against a Palestinian state. Jordan is not interested, Egypt is not interested, Israel is not interested in a Palestinian state, and even the Palestinians are not interested. It’s time for us to move step by step. Let’s apply the law in Area C.”
Hotovely praised the Trump administration’s Mideast envoys as a “team of dreams.”
Also at the conference, President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt on Sunday backed Friedman’s comments, saying, “I think he said them elegantly and I support his comments.”
The State Department clarified Friedman’s remarks, saying annexation was not on the table: “The administration position on settlements has not changed. No plan for unilateral annexation by Israel of any portion of the West Bank has been presented by Israel to the U.S. nor is it under discussion.”