TEL AVIV – Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday announced the formation of a special team for the annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley on the heels of President Donald Trump’s unveiled peace plan which calls for Israeli law to be applied throughout those territories.
Bennett called for the current caretaker government to begin the annexation immediately, following a similar declaration made the previous evening by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel would “apply its laws to the Jordan Valley and all settlements in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said, indicating that he would not wait for a peace deal to be signed.
“Israeli law would be applied in two stages,” Netanyahu said. “First I will bring the issue up at [Sunday’s cabinet] meeting for the government to green-light a decision applying Israeli law to the Jordan Valley and the settlements.”
Since then, other Likud lawmakers said a decision would likely be pushed off until Tuesday in order to give time for Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to consider the matter.
“Last night, people around the prime minister announced that the decision on sovereignty [over the Jordan Valley and settlements] would come to a vote on Sunday. This morning we’re hearing a different tune,” Bennett said according to the Times of Israel.
“I will be clear: Whatever is postponed until after the elections will never happen. We all understand this,” Bennett said an an INSS conference.
“Therefore, I am announcing this morning that I ordered the formation of a special team to apply and carry out the implementation of Israeli law and sovereignty over all Jewish settlements in Judea and Samara, over the Jordan Valley, and the hotels around the Dead Sea,” he said, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
The team would comprise representatives from the Israel Defense Forces, the Defense Ministry, as well as various other security and government officials, Bennett said.
Netanyahu told Trump the previous day that his plan was “puncturing [the] big lie” that Israel is illegally occupying the historic homeland of the Jewish people.”
“You are recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over all the Jewish communities, large and small alike,” he said.
He promised the American president that Israel would not construct new homes “in areas that your plan does not designate as being part of Israel in the future.”
“Israel will preserve the possibility for peace,” he added.
“At the same time Israel will apply its laws to the Jordan Valley, to all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and to other areas that your plan designates as part of Israel and which the United States has agreed to recognize as part of Israel.”
Trump’s plan would see the establishment of a contiguous but demilitarized Palestinian state on most of the West Bank with parts of eastern Jerusalem that are outside the Israeli security fence as its capital.
Jerusalem would remain undivided and under Israeli control.
The flashpoint holy site of the Temple Mount would remain under the current status quo overseen by Jordan’s Islamic Waqf but all prayer – including Jewish prayer – would be allowed. The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site but currently Jews are barred from praying there.
The Palestinians have denounced the plan.
“This conspiracy deal will not pass. Our people will take it to the dustbin of history,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE welcomed the proposal, hailing it as a “just” solution for the Palestinian people.