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Far-right minister says Green Line ‘fictitious,’ urges annexation of West Bank

Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party on Wednesday urged the government to annex the West Bank, calling the Green Line that separates the State of Israel from the territory “fictitious.”

“I don’t really think there is a Green Line. It’s a fictitious line. This is our homeland. This is where the Jewish People arose. The attitude of the State of Israel that there are two states here is a mistake. We should impose sovereignty on Judea and Samaria,” he told Army Radio, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

“We should advance this as quickly as possible, as smartly as possible. We should begin to say this everywhere, to create international recognition that this place is ours. In Judea and Samaria, everyone understands that our roots and history are there, and therefore, I think that the entire Green Line is just an abnormality. There is a distorted reality that we need to erase.”

The Green Line demarcated the border between Israel and its neighbors under the 1949 Armistice Agreements that ended Israel’s War of Independence. In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel captured the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel later annexed the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem in moves not recognized by the international community, and eventually unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

In 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promoted a plan to expand Israeli sovereignty — a de facto annexation — to all the settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. As part of the 2020 normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates, Netanyahu agreed to hold off until at least 2024 but has insisted the move is still “on the table.”

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Also Wednesday, the Sovereignty Movement of settler activists urged Netanyahu not to use potential territory concessions to the Palestinians as a bargaining chip for a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia, amid media reports that Israel may be forced to compromise significantly in exchange for a deal.

File: People next to a mural showing the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Jerusalem’s Old City, on the separation barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on April 18, 2022. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

“Israel’s sovereignty over the Land of Israel is not a political card but the soul, vision and hope of the Jewish people through generations of exile and the generation of redemption. It is this vision, to be a free and sovereign nation in our own land, that drove thousands from all over the world to the Land of Israel,” the group’s leaders Yehudit Katzover and Nadia Matar wrote.

While conceding that an agreement with the Saudis may have its benefits in the economic and security sphere, they argued that it was not worth such a price.

“Turning sovereignty into a political card removes the soul from the heart of the people of Israel, its strength and the righteousness of its way,” they said.

In the Middle East, only those who hold to their principles and show strength are respected, the letter insisted, claiming that even if it delays normalization by a few years, “the Arab world around us, and Saudi Arabians within it, will respect and appreciate Israeli leadership.”

According to a New York Times report on a potential deal, concrete gestures to the Palestinians would be needed to secure a deal.

The report noted that such moves were unlikely to be approved by the far-right elements in the Netanyahu government and that a push in that direction could cause its collapse.