Two prominent Likud figures have voiced support for the annexation of Area C in Yehudah and Shomron, where the Jewish communities are located, eliciting charges of right-wing extremism from opposition parties.
The remarks, made by Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein and MK Ze’ev Elkin Tuesday night at a conference in Yerushalayim titled “Application of Israeli Sovereignty over Yehudah and Shomron,” reflect a backlash against the Palestinian upgrade at the U.N. last November.
“Lack of Israeli sovereignty over Area C means the continuation of the status quo,” said Edelstein. “It strengthens the international community’s demand for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.”
Edelstein and Elkin did, however, caution against precipitous action, saying that annexation should happen slowly, not immediately.
Another speaker at the conference, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker, warned that annexation was an abrogation of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which commit both sides to resolving their dispute through negotiations, rather than unilaterally.
“We have committed ourselves to negotiations in the Oslo Accord, which is still in effect, whether we like it or not,” said Baker.
One of the three legal experts who authored the Levy Report, which stated that Israelis have a right under international law to live in Area C, Baker did not by any means advocate territorial concessions. He said that the government should focus on strengthening the Jewish right to build over the pre-1967 lines, adding that it should “stop apologizing all the time.”
But he argued for an appreciation of the diplomatic realities. While “no one can deny the Jewish people its place as an indigenous people” on both sides of the pre-1967 lines, he reminded the group that international opinion increasingly refused to recognize this “historical fact.”
European politicians, he said, have shifted their language with regard to the region from “disputed territories” to “occupied Palestinian territories.”
Elkin rebutted that if the Palestinians do not have to adhere to the Oslo Accords, than neither do Israelis.
During the conference, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin proposed paying $500,000 to every Arab family willing to emigrate from Israel.
The statements triggered a rhetorical barrage from the so-called center-left politicians, for whom annexation is anathema.
Tzipi Livni branded the Likud MK’s as “extremists who want to prevent us from reaching a [peace] agreement.” Livni, who served as Foreign Minister under then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, led negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that broke up over the IDF’s Cast Lead Operation in Gaza.
“I still hope and believe that if the public sees this, they will understand that the masks have been removed,” said Livni.
Labor spokesman Eitan Cabel sounded the same theme: “We have once again discovered that the Likud suffers from schizophrenia. We will go to sleep at night with the moderate Bibi and in the morning wake up with the extreme Bibi who follows Feiglin, Elkin and the rest of the extremists.”
Cabel added, “We are slowly but surely shedding light on the Likud’s true colors — the same extremist Likud that endangers our future socially and politically.”
“Netanyahu is making great efforts to keep Feiglin and his dangerous beliefs behind the campaign scenes, but the truth has come to light,” said Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On.
For their part, the Likud-Beiteinu campaign will soon be warning voters that if they vote for parties on the Right, the Center-Left could form the next government, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is said to be worried about Likud’s electoral prospects, as polls have been showing a slippage in support, down to 33 Knesset seats as Likud voters have been shifting by as many as six seats to Jewish Home and Shas.
Netanyahu scolded his campaign managers on Wednesday, over a weak showing on the ground.
Senior Likud officials also complained about the statements of Edelstein, Elkin, Yariv Levin and Moshe Feiglin.
Silvan Shalom called Feiglin’s proposal for transfering money from the Iron Dome program to bribing Palestinians to move out as illegitimate.
“There is a pattern of us going in a direction that we did not want to go,” Shalom said. “But the elections are still three weeks away and things could change significantly in that time. The real analysis needs to wait for January 23.”