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May 21, 2019 3:02 pm

Israeli PM Netanyahu and Group of Ex-Security Officials Clash Over Potential West Bank Annexation

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A general view picture shows houses in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, in the West Bank, Feb. 15, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad / File.

A group of 200 former Israeli security officials sent a formal letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denouncing the possible annexation of the West Bank, leading to a furious response from Netanyahu, who called the contested territory “our patrimony.”

According to Hebrew news site Mako, the organization, Commanders for Israel’s Security, was motivated by past Netanyahu statements endorsing annexation, which were made ahead of the Knesset elections earlier this year, and the fear that the prime minister would agree to annexation as a concession to potential right-wing coalition partners.

“The application of Israeli law to Judea and Samaria — in whole or in part — outside the framework of a political settlement will lead to a chain reaction that will seriously harm the state’s security, economy, and regional and international standing,” the letter stated.

“Annexation without an agreement endangers Israel’s security and the lives of its residents,” it continued.

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In a dig at what has been called “creeping annexation,” the letter also denounced partial or gradual annexation, saying, “We want to warn in advance that what will begin with the application of sovereignty over a limited area will necessarily deteriorate to the total annexation of Judea and Samaria.”

The letter also warned that annexation would be essentially the end of any peace process, as it could “only be interpreted by the Palestinian Authority and the countries of the region and the world as slamming the door on a future political settlement.”

In addition, said the signatories, annexation would cause Israel serious economic damage by forcing it to take control over the lives of nearly three million Palestinians, costing around 52 billion shekels per year.

In a brief missive on Twitter, Netanyahu slammed the letter, saying, “The same ‘experts’ supported the nuclear agreement with Iran and warned: ‘Bibi is going in the wrong direction and destroying the alliance with America.’”

“Judea and Samaria are not only a guarantee of Israel’s security — they are also our patrimony,” the prime minister asserted.

Netanyahu endorsed annexation in a television interview shortly before elections took place on April 9.

“I will not divide Jerusalem and I will not uproot any settlement and I will ensure that we control the area west of the Jordan River,” he said. “Will we move on to the next stage? The answer is yes.”

“I am going to apply sovereignty,” Netanyahu stated.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of public security, also struck out at Commanders for Israel’s Security, asking, “Didn’t you learn a lesson from Oslo and from bringing Arafat to the territory? From the disengagement? From your support for a withdrawal from the Golan and an agreement with Assad? Enough!”

Annexation of the West Bank or parts of it has been increasingly advocated by groups on the Israeli right, especially by outgoing Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s now-defunct Jewish Home party. Until his May interview, however, Netanyahu had declined to endorse the idea and had expressed support for a demilitarized Palestinian state.

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