When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the press on Sunday ahead of his trial’s opening hearing, leaders of Jewish communities in the West Bank were meeting with MKs in the Knesset, equipped with maps presented in Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century”.
Their mission was to convince the lawmakers the U.S. outline of Israeli and Palestinian territories is dangerous to the communities.
Both events, though occurring simultaneously but allegedly disconnected from one another, are woven together by a narrative propagated by Netanyahu in the name of his political interests – it’s not me who’s on trial, it’s the entire right-wing bloc.
Netanyahu wrongly assumed that the unveiling of U.S.’s peace plan, which essentially backs annexation of some parts of the West Bank, would give him a land-slide victory in the March 2 elections.
He gained control of the settlements’ leadership, some wished him good luck as he got on the plane to Washington, while even headed to the U.S. with him to see the unveiling of the plan in the White House.
“After the election, we will apply Israeli sovereignty to the West Bank,” Netanyahu stated on the campaign trail multiple times.The settlers were convinced the statement was just the first step in the realization of their decades-long dream.
But, the steps toward the annexation have become far more slow-paced, much like Netanyahu’s trial, for the settlers’ liking. The latest news is that Israel will trigger the annexation clause on July 1, just over two weeks before Netanyahu’s court hearing.
During his speech on Sunday, Netanyahu didn’t talk about the legal issues or the evidence, instead he chose to talk about politics, diplomacy and history.
He tried to differentiate himself from past right-wing prime ministers, such as Menachem Begin, who allowed Egypt to regain control over the Sinai Peninsula, and Ariel Sharon, who oversaw Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
“I don’t retreat from the right,” Netanyahu said during his press briefing ahead of the hearing.
Slowly but surely, Netanyahu has convinced the public that annexation will only happen with him in office, all the while keeping the plans on the back burner. If I go, he hints, it will never happen.
Several prominent leaders within The Yesha Council, organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, believe the U.S. peace plan takes away more than it gives.
Yesha Council Chairman David Alhayani has already stated that he is ready to reject the annexation if it will be based on Trump’s plan, which he described as a “fraud.”
The sentiment is reiterated by Benyamin Regional Council Chairman Israel Gantz, who said that settlers “should not be enticed by false tricks,” adding that he is very worried about “secret maps being drawn up [by Netanyahu] with the Americans.”
Several other leaders, however, among them Efrat councilman Oded Raviv have pushed for the narrative we are on the brink of historic annexation and Israel must not waste the opportunity.
Netanyahu knows that annexation would not only be part of his legacy, but the evidence of the witchhunt against him and the the whole right-wing bloc.
This is why he is methodically dragging the annexation plans, in hopes the court would clash with the masses and, beneficially him, drag the trial even further.
Netanyahu cares more about his trial than annexation, while the settlers care more about annexation that his trial.