The brother-in-law of Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu has called on Likud voters to abandon the party at the next elections if the PM does not formally abandon the "two-state solution" and annex Area C in Judea and Samaria.
Dr. Hagai Ben Artzi, a prominent Israeli academic and outspoken nationalist, urged Netanyahu to adopt a plan proposed by the Jewish Home party leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, to cement Israeli control over regions of Judea-Samaria with Jewish populations. Under the Oslo Accords, Area C – where all of Judea and Samaria's Jewish residents live, along with roughly 50,000 Palestinian Arabs – is under full Israeli control, while Areas A and B are under full and partial Palestinian Authority control respectively.
Under the so-called "Bennett Plan", Israel would give the PA full autonomy over both Areas A and B, while Area C would be fully annexed as Israeli territory.
Dr. Ben Artzi made his comments during last week's "33-hour vigil" outside the Prime Minister's Resident in Jerusalem, which was led last week by the Women in Green movement (WiG).
He noted that as things stand, with the PA already granted de-facto autonomy in Judea and Samaria, only the Jewish population of that region effectively live under Israeli military rule, denying them certain rights – particularly vis-a-vis housing and other construction – which they would receive under full Israeli sovereignty.
Ben Artzi played down fears that annexation would force Israel to grant citizenship to tens of thousands of Arabs living in Area C, urging the government to apply Israeli sovereignty first "and afterward we will progress onward. There is no need for demographic misgivings. In this area there are approximately fifty thousand Arabs and more than four hundred thousand Jews. All of the transitory workers that the Left wants to add are no more than fifty thousand."
He said the time had come for Naftali Bennett to advocate his plan more forcefully – and called on the Israeli voting public to throw their weight behind the initiative.
"I call on Minister Bennett to rise and lift this banner proudly and challenge the Likud – to ask them if they accept it or not," he said. "If they do not accept this idea they cannot define themselves as a party of the Right and the nationalist camp.
"The Left has asked us what is the alternative, and we are presenting a logical plan."
Even those who favor negotiations with the Palestinian Authority should back the plan, he insisted. Abandoning military rule would place Israel in a far stronger moral position to pursue a favorable settlement, he noted – though he himself does not back negotiations.
"How do you enter negotiations? From a standpoint that says that our rights to Judea and Samaria are no less valid than the Arabs’ rights. This is not an area under foreign occupation, but rather, we come with the claim that these are ‘disputed territories’, as International Law defines it.
"We have a connection that begins with our forefathers and no one can deny this. There is no Christian who would say that the Bible is nonsense. We must come to negotiations from the standpoint of proof that we have a connection and that we belong here.
"If we come to negotiations with only military rule after 50 years, this sends the message that we are only occupiers here; that the people feel that the territory is not theirs and it is only for security reasons that the territory is held. Therefore, even those who advocate negotiations must come with at least a situation in which Area C is under Israeli sovereignty, because otherwise we are sending the message that we are occupiers there."
"The call for sovereignty over the entire territory is correct and ethically just, but from a political point of view we must call on Minister Bennett and HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) to present the plan as the party’s official plan, in contrast to the Likud," Ben Artzi continued.
Turning to the prime minister and his wife – his brother-in-law and sister – he added: "I appeal to Bibi and Sarah, know that if, in the next elections, the Likud does not officially adopt Bennett’s plan to apply Israeli law at least in all of the territories of Area C, not just the Jordan Valley and Gush Etzion, we all must say that we are going with HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) and we don’t support the Likud.
"We will not go along with them because the Likud will be seen as not suitable to lead. It will be necessary to say openly that only a leader who will adopt Bennett’s plan officially is suitable to lead the state and the nationalist camp.
"Even with the whole matter of family, I will openly stand against Bibi and in favor of Bennett, if they do not adopt Bennett’s plan. We will forget petty considerations and we will go only with the party that will adopt Bennett’s plan."
He further called on the heads of the various municipal councils in Judea and Samaria – many of which back the Likud party – to follow suit, and threaten to defect to the Jewish Home if Netanyahu did not implement full Israeli sovereignty.