If Annexation Doesn’t Happen in July, It Won’t Happen at All, Israeli Settler Leaders Fear

Settlement leaders in the West Bank don’t expect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet his self-imposed deadline to begin the process toward Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank on Wednesday, but some even go as far as predicting that if the move does not happen in July, it will never take place at all.

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“At a meeting [on Monday], we made the assessment that there was an 80-percent [chance] that, ultimately, nothing will happen,” David Elhayani, the chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements told Haaretz.

Settlement leaders even spoke about July 15 as the “expiration” date for the annexation plan. Yisrael Gantz, head of the Mateh Binyamin regional council, which encompasses 46 Israeli settlements and outposts north of Jerusalem, between the Green Line and Jericho, noted the significance of the presidential election campaign leading up to Election Day on November 3. “In the three months prior to the election, the United States will not do anything dramatic,” he posited.

Annexation of all of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as well as a swath of territory in the Jordan Valley, is what President Donald Trump’s plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians calls for, in exchange for Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state in the remaining portions of the West Bank.

David Elhayani, head of the Yesha Council of settlements, holding a map of the West Bank.Ohad Zwigenberg

The head of the Gush Etzion regional council, south of Jerusalem, Shlomo Ne’eman, was cautious in his comments on the long-term fate of the annexation plan, remarking that “there is a chance that ultimately nothing will happen.” What will be done at this stage is not entirely clear because it depends on the American position, he said. Israel has given the Americans several options “and they haven’t supported or rejected any of them,” he added.

Oded Revivi heads the local council in the settlement of Efrat, between Bethlehem and Hebron, and is one of the few settlement leaders who publicly supports Trump’s plan. He also predicts that nothing will happen on Wednesday. “Ultimately it needs to come up for a vote at a forum of some kind, the Knesset, the cabinet,” he said. There might be a statement issued on the subject on Wednesday but it will not have any official weight, he added.

For Revivi, July is the last month during which the annexation process can be carried out, saying that political attention in the United States will be directed elsewhere afterwards. “The idea was to achieve a situation in which, if annexation were to come before the UN Security Council, the United States would be able cast a veto on it, but if the timetable is too packed, this won’t happen.”