In light of the breakdown of peace negotiations and growing tension between Israel and US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett seeks to kill the vacuum by urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to implement an “Israeli initiative.”
“We have witnessed the decline of the political process,” Bennett wrote in a letter to Netanyahu. “Palestinian extortion and violations are at an all-time high. After [Palestinian leader Mahmoud] Abbas refused to discuss recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and after Israel released dozens of murderers to keep the negotiations alive, the Palestinians blatantly violate the basis of negotiations by unilaterally approaching the UN.”
Consequently, Bennett stated, “It is clear that the current process has exhausted itself and we are entering a new era. For years we banged our heads against the wall… It is time for new thinking.”
To kick things off in that new direction, Bennett asked Netanyahu to “hold a hearing as soon as possible on an alternative plan to start a process of applying Israeli sovereignty over those parts of Judea and Samaria still controlled by Israel” - primarily the major settlement blocs where some 400,000 Israeli Jews live today.
Retaining these areas, said Bennett, “enjoys wide national consensus… This process will be similar to extending sovereignty over Jerusalem during the Eshkol government and over the Golan Heights during the Begin government.”
Bennett said he has had long talks with Netanyahu over continuing the policy of former prime ministers Levi Eshkol and Menachem Begin, who did not hesitate to annex those parts of the Land of Israel that similarly enjoyed national consensus."
He noted that the latest egregious Palestinian violations had created a unique opportunity. “The current approach whereby we constantly wipe the spit [from our faces] and say its raining does not work and only results in more and more pressure” on Israel, Bennet said. “It’s time to take an Israeli initiative.”
In addition to extending Israeli sovereignty over the major settlement blocs, Bennett also recommends offering Israeli citizenship to the approximately 10,000 Palestinians who live in the vicinity.
In conclusion, Bennett wrote, “The Palestinians must understand that there is a price for their constant violations, and I will not accept an approach that always puts us on the defensive. We must take the initiative.”