In response to the United Nations Security Council resolution against the settlements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett rushed to the Western Wall and, as usual, threw dust in the public’s eyes. They slammed the UN resolution and declared that the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem are not occupied territories.
It’s actually quite clear to them, however, that it was neither the Western Wall nor Jerusalem nor the large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria that led to the resolution’s adoption.
The resolution was a response to Netanyahu and Bennett’s regular targeted assassination of the two-state solution, and mainly the constant expansion of the settlements, which is clearly reflected in the Amona and Regulation Bill affairs and in the quiet massive growth in the past six years in the number of settlers living beyond the separation barrier: From 70,000 to 100,000.
Above all, the fuel for the UN resolution was Netanyahu’s recent statement that there has never been a better government for the settlers like the current one, thereby admitting that his government is nothing but the settlers’ government.
Netanyahu and Bennett know very well that there is a global consensus that Jewish Jerusalem—including the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter and the Jewish neighborhoods built beyond the Green Line—will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any peace agreement, and that the settlement blocs—which include about 75 percent of all settlers in the West Bank—will remain under Israeli sovereignty as part of a land swap agreement with the Palestinians. So Netanyahu and Bennett should have actually issued declarations about Amona and Yitzhar and other isolated settlements. That’s what they’re fighting for, not the Western Wall. That’s the real reason for their objection to the UN resolution.
Netanyahu and Bennett believe in the Greater Land of Israel. They are not interested in giving up a single of inch of land in Judea and Samaria and are against the two-state solution. The desirable solution, as far as they are concerned, is leaving all the occupied territories under Israeli control forever. This is Bennett’s consistent and declared stand. This is also Netanyahu’s consistent and deeply rooted stand, although it’s not always declared.
In the past, he covered it up with false statements, such as his declaration in the 2009 Bar-Ilan speech that he supports the two-state solution, yet since then he has done everything in his power to thwart this solution, and in the past year he has declared repeatedly that he is unwilling to give up a single inch of land in the West Bank.
Last September, the Russian deputy foreign minister announced that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was ready to meet with Netanyahu in Moscow without any preconditions, but Netanyahu failed to find any available time in his schedule to hold the meeting. The reason is clear, as he explained to a foreign figure he met with. He is afraid that Abbas will raise the two-state solution, which involves an Israeli withdrawal from areas in the West Bank.
That’s why it’s time to take action. It’s time for Bennett to stop talking about annexing West Bank lands and to actually start taking serious steps in that direction. It’s time for Netanyahu to stop deceiving the public and to lead the annexation move. All it requires from them is to declare that Israeli sovereignty will apply to all Judea and Samaria lands. There is nothing stopping them. They have a right-wing “dream government,” in which most members share their political vision, and according to their statements, they don’t care about the world’s protest against the settlements either.
Netanyahu has been declaring in recent days that Israel is standing firmly against the world and will not surrender to the UN. He has promised the public that we have a bright future ahead of us despite the world’s attempts to terrorize us. If that’s the case, we should say to him and Bennett: You want to continue the occupation? You’re yearning for a Greater Land of Israel? Then go all the way and start annexing immediately. Such a move will finally put your vision to the test and present the full picture to the public.
And so, in the next elections, the public will have to decide between two camps: The annexation camp, led by Netanyahu and Bennett, that will turn Israel into a bi-national state in which the Palestinians will make up close to half of the population and will shortly become the majority; and the camp that will keep Israel as a Jewish state with a stable Jewish majority, alongside a separate Palestinian state. Let the people decide.
Haim Ramon served as a Knesset member and minister from 1983 to 2009 on behalf of the Labor Party and Kadima.