The long-awaited Middle East peace plan from United States President Donald Trump is not expected to be unveiled until after Tuesday’s Israeli election, but Israeli politicians are already making bold statements about details in the as-yet-unseen plan dubbed “The Deal of the Century.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in comments released by his office on Sunday, reiterated his pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, known as settlements.
He then went on to imply that was part of Trump’s vision. Said Netanyahu, “These things will come up in the plan of the century; it will come very fast after the elections.”
Meanwhile, a right-wing political rival to Netanyahu warned on Sunday that that positive prediction for Israel isn’t the whole story. Former Israeli minister of education Naftali Bennet, a candidate with the Yemina party running for Israel’s parliament (Knesset), posted to Facebook that the Trump plan would ultimately create “islands” of settlements in an “ocean of “Palestine”, according to a report in “The Times of Israel”.
The Palestinians have repeatedly claimed Judea and Samaria region as their own, which they call the “West Bank”.
Bennett said that while Netanyahu accurately said the settlements would remain part of Israel, the general territory around them would not, aside from roads linking the communities. He warned that Israelis would refuse to stay in communities surrounded on all sides by Palestinian enemies, posting a map showing “Palestine” in black covering most of Judea and Samaria, with white spots and white lines the Israeli communities and roads.
The Times of Israel article noted it was unclear how Bennett managed to obtain details of the secret Trump plan and the Yemina party acknowledged the comments and map were actually pieced together from statements from Netanyahu, the US and Bennett’s own knowledge of the discussions. Bennett’s claims, therefore, remain unsubstantiated.
However, traditional peace plan hypotheticals have generally left most of Judea and Samaria in Palestinian hands—so whether the “islands” approach to the settlements is true or not, the general map may still be a probable outcome. Furthermore, Bennett noted that Netanyahu may have promised Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements, he has not extended that vow to so-called “Area C”, the more than half of Judea and Samaria currently under Israeli military control.
On Sunday, Netanyahu seemed to extend the sovereignty of the settlements beyond the communities’ borders, but was unclear exactly where that would be. He pointed to “applying Israeli sovereignty over all of the communities in Judea and Samaria, both those in blocs, including the area of the blocs, and also those outside the blocs, as well as additional areas that are vital for our security and for ensuring our heritage.”
One area Netanyahu has not been unclear in discussion is sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, which is Israel’s eastern border and the outside edge of Judea and Samaria. He has long claimed that Israeli security presence there was essential to protecting the State of Israel, and on Sunday, he restated his promise to claim the territory.
“I proclaimed this a few days ago,” said Netanyahu. “We will apply this sovereignty immediately upon the formation of the next government, in the next Knesset.”
Netanyahu said he had “appointed” a team to develop the plan for applying sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, highlighting its importance.
“This is not only the eastern gate of the State of Israel; it is a defensive wall from the east because the Jordan Valley, together with the areas that control it, which will be part of the State of Israel, ensure that the IDF will be here forever. Instead of having a state that is only a few kilometers wide, this will be a state with strategic depth and strategic height.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, September 15, 2019)