Disaster or Opportunity? As Annexation Looms, Israeli Settlers Torn Over Trump’s Plan

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's target date of July 1 approaches and the Israeli government may launch the annexation of parts of the West Bank, rifts and disagreements emerge among Israeli settler leaders regarding U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East plan.

– Bibi’s slash-and-burn strategy puts Israel on trial

LISTEN: Bibi’s slash-and-burn strategy puts Israel on trial

Leaders of Yesha Council, an umbrella group of settlement councils, have been walking around the Knesset in recent days with a map in their hands, going from one meeting with a right-wing lawmaker to another.

They say that the map, which has already been featured in tweets by Yamina lawmakers Ayelet Shaked and Bezalel Smotrich, is a copy of the conceptual map presented as part of the “Deal of the Century” regarding the division of the West Bank between Israel and the Palestinians. They carry it as proof of the calamity that will befall the settler enterprise if the Trump plan is adopted.

Ayelet Shaked with Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani at the Knesset, May 26, 2020.

"We’re trying to make them realize that accepting the Trump plan will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state," said Yesha Council leader and the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, David Elhayani.

Last week, the Yesha Council passed a resolution saying that it opposes the recognition or establishment of a Palestinian state, the freezing of construction in the settlements and the leaving of isolated settlements as enclaves, items that are all included in Trump’s plan.

But not all settler leaders agree. Among those abstaining from these lobbying efforts is Oded Ravivi, the head of the Efrat Local Council who has a reputation as the most pragmatic of the settler leaders. “We can’t say no to everything. I think the plan relates first of all to what's possible in the near future – extending sovereignty – and then we can start negotiating and see about the rest.”

Ravivi says he has been told by the American administration that Israel cannot object to a Palestinian state on an a priori basis, even before negotiations have begun. "It's my understanding, at the end of the process, we’ll see a Palestinian state without an army or control over its borders, more or less like the Palestinian Authority now," he said, arguing the opposition to enclaves is demagoguery. "After all, people who live in Karmei Tzur today are already surrounded by Palestinians."