As July 1, the date of Israel’s West Bank annexation, looms ever closer, settler leaders are working to curb, or at least amend, U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
The issue has already led to clashes between settler leaders and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a staunch supporter of the U.S. plan.
The heads of the Yesha Council of Settlers now propose an alternative annexation plan, hoping to avoid leaving 19 settlements as isolated enclaves within Palestinian territory.
The settlers want to connect the isolated settlements to the blocs without exceeding the 30% of the West Bank that the U.S. plan stipulates will be under Israeli rule.
As such, the alternative plan proposes to expand the enclaves so their borders connect with the West Bank’s larger settlements, thus creating territorial contiguity.
For example, the territory of the Ma'ale Amos and Asfar settlements in the southern West Bank would be expanded and connected to the Gush Etzion junction.
Similarly, the plan calls for the roads in the northern West Bank connecting the settlements of Itamar, Har Bracha, Elon Moreh and Yitzhar to become part of the enclave itself and then expanded to Tapuah Junction when the areas around them are annexed.
In exchange for these additional areas, the settlers are ready to postpone at this stage the annexation of other areas that under the Trump plan should be under Israeli sovereignty.
The settlers argue that annexation can be delayed in some places, such as the area near Highway 443 west of Jerusalem, where thousands of Palestinians live, so as to not exceed the 30% of West Bank allocated to Israel.
Thousands of maps showing the alternative proposal have already been drawn up. Yesha leaders have already submitted the map to the Americans and are preparing to distribute them across the West Bank in the coming days.
Israeli officials are lowering expectations, however, explaining that the White House has refused to make any alterations to maps it has drafted and will accept only "cosmetic changes."
"Despite the Americans' refusal, Netanyahu should insist on these changes," said David Elhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council, who himself was recently criticized by Netanyahu for his opposition to Trump’s plan.
"We demand that he listen to the needs of the settlements and draft a better map of sovereignty, not a map of a Palestinian state,” he said.