NEWS

What Happened to Israeli Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria?

August 4, 2020

by: Ilse Strauss

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Ofra, a Jewish community in Samaria

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 | In the run-up to July 1—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s target date to put the extension of Israeli authority in parts of the biblical heartland to a Knesset (Parliament) vote—the push for sovereignty dominated the international discourse, with everyone from world leaders to laymen weighing in on the topic. However, after the target date came and went with no movement on the matter, the issue all but disappeared from the public agenda. Does this mean sovereignty is off the table?

According to Netanyahu, the answer is no. The prime minister said the Jewish state has not given up on the prospect, but the green light for the go ahead must come from Washington, not Jerusalem. And Israel has not yet received the American nod of approval.

“The issue of applying sovereignty is in Washington,” Netanyahu told fellow Likud lawmakers at a faction meeting yesterday. “It has not been taken off the agenda. The option still exists.”

Netanyahu’s sovereignty proposal pertains to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as well as the Jordan Valley, comprising 30% of the contested area. The remaining 70% is set aside for a future Palestinian state. While in line with US President Donald Trump’s peace plan released earlier this year, it drew sharp criticism—and threats of backlash and sanctions—from the United Nations, the European Union as well as a number of European and Arab states. Moreover, in line with a policy of boycotting the Trump administration following the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestinians rejected Trump’s plan out of hand.

Regardless, with the backing of the US, Israel’s road to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria seemed paved—contingent on a final “yes” from the White House. Recent months have, however, seen the staunch support cooling as the US focused its time and energy on battling the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Avi Berkowitz, Trump’s Middle East envoy, was in Israel ahead of July 1, meeting with top Israel brass to discuss a way forward, yet the meetings ended without agreeing on a decisive course of action. Sticking points reportedly included sensitive details like borders, dealing with backlash, getting the Palestinians on board and the scale on which to proceed.

Subsequent meetings in the White House ahead of the deadline also failed to elicit a pledge of US support—or the critical go ahead—for a concrete course of action. And in the five weeks since, the White House has remained mum on its position regarding Israeli sovereignty.

Sources in the Trump Administration did, however, tell Israeli media that the US remains committed to implement the peace plan and continues to meet with Israeli role-players to find solutions to the sovereignty sticking points. “Post Berkowitz’s trip to the region, the team has continued to work on the details but do not have an update at the moment,” the Jerusalem Post quoted the source as saying.

According to the source, a green light from the US is contingent on further discussions between Jerusalem and Washington, particularly pertaining to a goodwill “package” offered to the Palestinians that would sweeten the deal and compel them to get on board.

The source said an agreement between Israel and the US on moving ahead could come as early as this month. As August draws to a close, so does the window of opportunity. With the November elections coming up soon, President Trump’s attentions will be focused elsewhere come September, putting Israel’s sovereignty push on the back burner.

Which brings us back to the question: what happened to Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria? It seems that nobody has a decisive answer. And thus the waiting game continues.

Posted on August 4, 2020

Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 4, 2020)

Photo Credit: Brenda Groat/bridgesforpeace.com