In a meeting of the Likud’s central committee earlier this week, an overwhelming majority of the party’s top officials voted to endorse applying Israeli law on Judea and Samaria. Nearly all of Likud’s senior ministers were present and supported the vote, although prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not attend the meeting.
The proposal calls on the party to support annexing the disputed territories, spelling the de facto end of the two state solution. This is the central committee’s first meeting in more than a decade, as it is only convened if 900 or more of its 1,500 members call for a conference. Breaking with tradition, Netanyahu did not urge his party to refrain from making sweeping political statements, and instead refrained from partaking in the discussion altogether.
“The very fact that Netanyahu allowed this decision to come to a vote sends a message to the pro-settler circles in the Likud,” a senior official in the party told the Israeli press, adding that while the vote does not necessarily reflect on the government’s future policy, he believed it was a significant indication of things to come.
“We’re here to state the obvious,” said Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin. “The land of Israel is all ours, and we will implement our sovereignty on all parts of the country.”
Tzachi Hanegbi, the Minister for Regional Cooperation, supported the decision as well, but said it had little to do with diplomatic negotiations past or future. “Half a million Israeli citizens deserve the same terms as the rest of the country’s citizens,” he said, “regardless of the nature of any diplomatic arrangement, that is if we ever have a partner to negotiate it with.”
One of the conference’s best-received speakers was Jerusalem’s popular mayor, Nir Barkat. “We must follow our Jewish and moral conscience,” he said. “Every Jew must know that he can live wherever he pleases anywhere in the country. I don’t only support this proposal, but I urge us all to permit every Jew to live wherever they please, in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria as well.”