Israel's Ayelet Shaked proposes law to speed up West Bank annexation
With the chances of a far-right government slimming and the US "deal of the century" around the corner, Israel's Ayelet Shaked has attempted to speed up annexation of the occupied West Bank with a new bill.
Shaked, former justice minister and head of the religious-nationalist New Right party, proposed on Monday a draft law that would see Israeli sovereignty applied over the Jordan Valley and several illegal settlements, local media reported.
If passed, the ambitious bill will extend Israeli law over strategic settlements in the southern West Bank, such as Gush Etzion near the Palestinian city of Hebron, and Efrat and Beitar Illit, both of which lie close to the holy town of Bethlehem.
Israeli sovereignty would also be applied in the sprawling settlement of Maale Adumim near Jerusalem.
The Jordan Valley accounts for around one-third of the West Bank, and Israeli right-wing politicians have long viewed the strategic area as territory Israel should never retreat from.
Since Israel captured and occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war, Israeli military law has been applied in its settlements and areas of direct control.
However, extending sovereignty would see commercial, industrial and archaeological areas and roads come under regular Israeli law and jurisdiction. Settling areas occupied in conflict is illegal under international law.
Trump providing opportunity
Annexation of the West Bank became a pressing issue in Israel ahead of its September elections. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to annex the Jordan Valley "immediately" if re-elected, while Shaked's slate made extending sovereignty over the whole territory official policy.
Previously, the New Right leader has said Israel faces a historic opportunity to cement its hold in the West Bank with Donald Trump in the White House.
The Trump administration has been working on a peace plan dubbed the "deal of the century" that observers note is heavily skewed in favour of the Israelis over the Palestinians.
On Monday, Shaked reiterated her point, saying the peace plan - slated to be launched once Israel manages to form a government - offers an opportunity to go ahead with such a move. An opportunity that “will not return”, as she described it.
“Therefore, we should not hesitate and wait, and we should take advantage of this window of opportunity and start the process of imposing sovereignty over these areas. It is another reason not to pull the country to another election,” Shaked said.
While Israel's colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has continued under all Israeli governments since 1967, it has accelerated in recent years under the leadership of Netanyahu and his ally Trump.
To date, more than 600,000 Israelis are living in often confrontational coexistence with three million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
The move to annex the Jordan Valley could effectively kill any remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long the focus of international diplomacy.
Last week, Bezalel Smotrich, Israel's transport minister and MP from the far-right Jewish Home party, revealed he is planning to include Israeli settlements in the framework of Israel's national transportation, and impose “transportation sovereignty”.
Smotrich’s long-term goal is to include all of the settlements in the West Bank into a transport masterplan so that in any future national planning, settlements will be dealt with as part of towns and cities within the 1948 borders of Israel.