Bibi Delays Sovereignty Decision; PA Seeks to Renew Talks with Israel

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This Feb. 18, 2020 file photo, shows a view of the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Efraim on the hills of the Jordan Valley. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex the valley and all of Israel’s settlements in the Judea and Samaria region in line with President Trump’s Middle East plan. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)
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Edited by: Fern Sidman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that discussions with the U.S. on his plan to extend sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria would continue “in the coming days,” indicating he would miss a July 1 target date for beginning the process.

AP reported that Netanyahu made the comments shortly after wrapping up talks with White House envoy Avi Berkowitz and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. The sides have been holding talks for several months on finalizing a map spelling out which areas of Judea and Samaria Israel will extend sovereignty over.

“I spoke about the question of sovereignty, which we are working on these days and we will continue to work on in the coming days,” Netanyahu said, according to the AP report.

Netanyahu has been eager to begin the sovereignty process.

Under President Trump’s Mideast peace plan, unveiled in January, around 30 percent of Judea and Samaria will come under permanent Israeli control, while giving the Palestinians autonomy in the vast majority of the territory.

The U.N. secretary-general, the European Union and key Arab countries have all claimed Israeli sovereignty violates international law. The Palestinians, led by rejectionist leaders who seek all of Judea and Samaria as part of a future state, dismissed the Trump plan wholesale, as was reported by AP.

Israel gained control of Judea and Samaria from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, a conflict during which four Arab states attacked Israel.

The UN and several EU member states consider Judea and Samaria to be occupied “Palestinian territory,” despite the fact that no Palestinian state has ever existed there, and consistently label Israel’s more than 120 communities there as “llegal.”

But Trump has taken a far more conciliatory line than his Republican and Democratic predecessors. Netanyahu, a close ally of Trump, has said Israel must take capitalize on a “historic opportunity,” and is eager to move forward before the November presidential election, according to the AP report.

Israel’s Channel 12 TV reported that the American negotiators are asking Israel to make “a significant step” as a gesture to the Palestinians, such as handing over Judea and Samaria territory to Palestinian control comparable to that annexed.

AP reported that annexing all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, including the strategic Jordan Valley, is necessary to protect Israeli security, according to pro-sovereignty experts. The move has also been defended in religious terms, because Judea and Samaria are part of the biblical Land of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wears a face mask during a media statement with US special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, Tuesday June 30, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Pool via AP)

Besides international opposition, Netanyahu has encountered some resistance from his governing partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz of the rival Blue and White party.

The coalition agreement for their new government, which took office in May, gives Netanyahu the authority to present an annexation proposal after Wednesday. But U.S. officials have said they do not want to move forward with a plan unless the two leaders are in agreement, as was reported by AP.

Gantz, who also holds the title of alternate prime minister, said Monday that the July 1st target date was not “sacred.” He also said that annexation “will wait” while the government grapples with Israel’s health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has sent a letter to the Middle East Quartet saying that it is willing to restart negotiations with Israel if Jerusalem abandons the idea of applying sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, Agence France-Presse reported Monday, having obtained a copy of the text.

World Israel News reported on Tuesday that the Quartet consists of the U.S., UN, EU and Russia, which ceased working as a group on the peace process several years ago. This is the first time that the PA has addressed the current U.S. administration even indirectly about its peace plan. It had broken off relations with Washington after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2018.

“We are ready to have our state with a limited number of weapons and a powerful police force to uphold law and order,” the letter stated, according to the WIN report. The PA would accept a UN-mandated international force like NATO to ensure both sides’ observe the terms of their deal, it added.

On June 9th, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh mentioned that the Palestinians had prepared a counter-plan to the one put forth by the Trump administration.

WIN reported that the PA’s opening position was that it was “ready to resume direct bilateral negotiations where they stopped.” This was in April 2014, when talks overseen by then-Secretary of State John Kerry collapsed after a nine-month deadline passed without any agreement being reached.

One of the stated Palestinian positions from those negotiations included insistence on retaining at least 97 percent of Judea and Samaria, as was reported in the WIN report. The current letter suggests the possibility of  “minor border changes that will have been mutually agreed upon, based on the borders of June 4, 1967.”

This is in stark contrast to the Trump plan’s vision of 30 percent of the disputed region coming under Israeli sovereignty, as was reported by World Israel News.

The PA proposal also repeats its oft-stated threat of late that “if Israel declares the annexation of any part of the Palestinian territory, that will necessarily mean the annulation of all signed agreements.”

An Israeli soldier stands guard at the Tapuach junction next to the holy city of Schechem in Samaria, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

WIN reported that according to the UN charter itself, Judea and Samaria are part of the area of then- British Mandate era Palestine that was given to the Jewish people to settle, and never belonged to any other state or people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated this fact numerous times to counter the claims of Palestinians and the international community that Israel would be illegally annexing land that does not belong to it, if and when it applies Israeli law to any portion of the area.

WIN reported that in a pre-recorded speech Sunday to a virtual summit of American Evangelical supporters, Netanyahu said that he was willing to negotiate with the Palestinians and urged them not to miss this “historic opportunity.”

Last week, Defense Minister Benny Gantz wrote in a Facebook post that if the Palestinians were serious about restarting negotiations, “I’m ready to be in Ramallah tomorrow morning to discuss this.”

In other related developments, WIN reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doubled down on the U.S.’ support for Israel on Tuesday, reaffirming that America considers Israel to be a “major asset” to the American people.

Speaking to the Christians United For Israel (CUFI) annual summit, which was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pompeo praised the U.S.-Israel relationship and said the Trump administration was working to make it stronger, according to the World Israel News report.

“Israel is one of America’s most trusted partners and a major asset for the security of America’s people,” Pompeo said. “This administration is strengthening its partnership with Israel.”

WIN reported that with growing concerns over the expiration in October of the international arms embargo against Iran, the secretary reiterated America’s resolve to counter the Iranian threat, as well as legal warfare being waged against both Israel and the United States on the international stage.

“We’re making sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo said, as was reported by World Israel News. “We’re condemning the International Criminal Court’s politically motivated attacks on Israel and American service members.”

WIN reported that Pompeo got personal as well, sharing some anecdotes about how Israel influenced him growing up as a Christian and also as an officer cadet in the U.S. Army during his training at West Point.

“Israel’s story is part of my story too,” Pompeo said, recalling that as part of his army education he studied Israeli military history and put it into practice himself.

“Israel’s famous tank victories in the Yom Kippur war taught me valuable lessons for leading my own tank unit patrolling the Iron Curtain,” Pompeo said, as was reported by WIN.

“When I first visited the Holy Land decades ago as a private citizen I experienced a transcendent connection walking in places I had heard about in church and read about in the bible all my life.”

Another guest at the CUFI conference was former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who is considered a presidential contender in 2024. Haley described her efforts at the UN to get the international body to stop automatically condemning Israel, according to the WIN report.

“Israel shares our values and is the only true democracy in the Middle East,” Haley said. “But most importantly, you know this indisputable fact – you can’t destroy what God has blessed.”

WIN also reported on Tuesday that Yossi Dagan, head of the Shomron Regional Council, urged American Christians to support Israel’s move to apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) on Friday.

While Dagan said that Donald Trump is the best U.S. president ever for Israel, he also strongly warned against certain aspects of Trump’s peace plan, such as building freezes on Jewish communities and the formation of a Palestinian state, as was reported by World Israel News.

“The Jewish State can’t go against the command of God,” he said.

“The Land of Israel is a gift from the Holy One, blessed be He, to the people of Israel, but this is not just a gift,” Dagan said. “It’s not just a promise of prophecy and the prophets; it’s also a command.”

In this March 20, 2019, file photo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman upon his arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel. (Jim Young/Pool Photo via AP, File)

“But it’s certainly forbidden to put a building freeze on the sites in the Bible – on Mt. Gerizim, Har Bracha, Alon Moreh, Hebron, Shiloh, the most important places to the Jewish people, to say ‘don’t build’ so that more Jewish people won’t come to live here,” he said. “We certainly don’t want this situation.”

World Israel News reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a large virtual gathering of Christians United for Israel on Monday. He told them that President Trump’s plan “makes clear that the Jewish people have a valid legal, historic, and moral claim to Judea and Samaria, and it supports Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there.”

(AP & World Israel News)

Read more at: www.worldisraelnews.com

 

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