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Israeli minister promises to propose annexation bill by end of January

Jan. 1, 2017 12:59 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2017 8:20 P.M.)
Naftali Bennett speaking at a 2014 press conference in Jerusalem. (AFP/Gali Tibbon, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel’s education minister and leader of the far right, pro-settlement Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett said Sunday morning he would propose a bill by the end of the month to annex the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim.

According to Israeli news sites, Bennett said during a government meeting that he expected "all the ministers in the government” to support the proposal.

Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburban city of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.

Calls to annex the massive settlement -- to pave the way for the annexation of the majority of the occupied West Bank -- have gained momentum among Israel’s lawmakers and ministers following last week’s passage of a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements and reaffirming their clear illegality.

In the days following the resolution’s passing, reports emerged that Israel was advancing plans for hundreds of new settlement units, and Israel's Jerusalem municipality apporved a plan to build a three-story building for Jewish settlers in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem.

Bennett reacted to the UN Security Council's resolution by calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rescind his support for the two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state, which Bennett perceives to be a security threat to the state of Israel.

“No resolution can change the fact that this land, Jerusalem, is our capital. And no people can be a conqueror in their own land. That’s why this resolution, like many of the earlier resolutions, will be thrown into the dustbin of history,” Bennett said.

Following the election of Donald Trump as the next US president, Bennett said that a Trump presidency would mark the end of a push for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“This is the position of the President-elect, as written in his platform, and it should be our policy, plain and simple. The era of a Palestinian state is over,” he said.

Netanyahu has warned Bennett and Israeli politicians not to make public declarations related to annexation for fear that the calls would spark further action by the international community and the outgoing Obama administration; the US allowed Resolution 2334 to pass by not vetoing it at the Security Council, with US Secretary of State John Kerry defending the move in a blistering speech further condemning Israeli actions in the occupied territory.
Kerry criticized Netanyahu for publicly claiming to advocate a two-state solution while simultaneously championing settlement policy to appeal to an increasingly right-wing government and Israeli public.

“His current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements,” Kerry said. “The result is that policies of this government -- which the prime minister himself just described as ‘more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history’ -- are leading in the opposite direction, toward one state,” Kerry said.

While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted further to the right, with more than 50 percent of the ministers in the current Israeli government having publicly stated they are opposed to a Palestinian state.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

Meanwhile, a recent report by human rights group B'Tselem argued that under the guise of a "temporary military occupation," Israel has been "using the land as its own: robbing land, exploiting the area’s natural resources for its own benefit and establishing permanent settlements," estimating that Israel had dispossessed Palestinians from some 200,000 hectares (494,211 acres) of lands in the occupied Palestinian territory over the years.

B’Tselem highlighted the “key role” of Israeli settlers in further isolating Palestinians from their lands, either through the establishment of outposts officially unrecognized by the Israeli government, or through the regular use of violence or threats of violence against Palestinians.

The movement of Israeli settlers taking over Palestinian land, and further displacing the local Palestinian population has been a "stable" Israeli policy since the takeover of the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1967, B'Tselem reported, underscoring that all "Israeli legislative, legal, planning, funding, and defense bodies" have played an active role in the dispossession of Palestinians from their lands
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