Report: In Talks With Trump Administration Officials, Israeli PM Netanyahu Proposed Annexing Gush Etzion Settlement Bloc in Exchange for Transferring Wadi Ara Region to Palestinian Control
During recent talks with Trump administration officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed — within the framework of a potential future peace deal with the Palestinians — a land swap that would see the Gush Etzion settlement bloc near Jerusalem annexed to Israel in exchange for the Arab communities in the Wadi Ara region near Haifa becoming part of a Palestinian state, Channel 2 reported on Thursday.
This, the report said, marked the first time Netanyahu had expressed open support for such a swap, an idea that has long been touted by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
“Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to the club,” Lieberman tweeted in response to the report.
The idea is a controversial one, with many Israeli Arabs vehemently opposing it, preferring to remain citizens of Israel over being forced to become citizens of a new Palestinian state.
A Trump administration official told The Times of Israel on Thursday, “This may have been one of many ideas discussed several weeks ago in the context of a peace agreement and not in the context of a separate annexation.”
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner traveled to Israel and the Palestinian Authority last month and held meetings with Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Trump’s international negotiations representative Jason Greenblatt has also shuttled back and forth several times to the Middle East in recent months.
Trump himself visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem in May and has expressed on numerous occasions a desire to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, which he has called “the ultimate deal.”