Israel Policy Forum expresses its strongest opposition to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement that he intends to extend Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank in the next government, should he be tasked with its formation. Moreover, we unequivocally oppose the prime minister’s declaration that there is no distinction between large settlement blocs along the Green Line and isolated settlements deep inside the West Bank and that all of them must eventually come under Israeli sovereignty. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s promise to apply sovereignty to and effectively annex the West Bank is a direct repudiation of his Bar Ilan speech of 2009, in which he pledged to support a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and raises serious questions about the Israeli government’s stance on an enduring peace agreement with the Palestinians.

While major settlement blocs such as Ma’ale Adumim and Gush Etzion are widely expected to become part of Israel as a result of negotiated land swaps in a future permanent status agreement, annexing them outside of this framework effectively abrogates the Oslo Accords and removes any expectations that the Palestinian Authority will continue its cooperation with Israel. Any steps toward annexation of West Bank settlements or application of Israeli sovereignty over West Bank territory, no matter how limited, will inexorably lead over time to full Israeli control over the entirety of the West Bank and responsibility for all of the people living there. If Israel unilaterally annexes settlements, it will be taking the first steps down a path that will inevitably force a choice between maintaining its democracy or maintaining its Jewish character.  We oppose any moves that do not secure Israel’s future as both Jewish and democratic, and we urge the prime minister not to upend the international consensus that any changes in the West Bank’s status quo must result from negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. We call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to reverse his campaign pledge to apply sovereignty over the West Bank and to recommit to working toward a viable two-state solution.