Israel's Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked supports the total annexation of "Area C" of the occupied West Bank, she said in an interview published yesterday.
Speaking to the Atlantic, Shaked said that she supports the total annexation of "Area C" – which amounts to some 60 per cent of the occupied West Bank – and that in doing so Israel would absorb 100,000 Palestinians as citizens. Shaked explained:
These processes take time to ripen. At the moment, the annexation plan looks like science fiction, but I think that slowly, gradually, people will see what's going on in the Middle East and realise that it really could happen.
Shaked also spoke out about Israel's controversial Nation State law, adopted in July, which declared that "Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it". Shaked told the Atlantic she sees "no contradiction between the fact that Israel has full personal equality of citizenship but extends national rights only to the Jewish people." She continued: "Perhaps if the words Jewish and democratic had been included in the final version, it would have been easier to swallow."
In the immediate aftermath of the Nation State law, Shaked warned the Israeli Supreme Court against interfering with or overturning the controversial law, saying "such a move would be an earthquake, a war between the authorities". Her comments drew the ire of onlookers who saw her as threatening the state's legal institutions, but in yesterday's interview she stood by her comments. "I didn't mean it as a threat," she said, "I was describing a given situation: The supreme court will not do that. If it had done something like that, it certainly would have led to a war between the authorities."
Shaked also told the Atlantic that she thought Naftali Bennett, Israel's education minister and leader of the Jewish Home party (of which Shaked is a member), would be the best successor to current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Shaked explained that "in the post-Netanyahu era, Naftali Bennett is best suited to be prime minister," but did not rule out running for the office herself at a later date. She admitted: "This is not to say that after a long career in politics, as a member of Knesset and justice minister, it's something I wouldn't want in the distant future."
Shaked is no stranger to controversial comments. In June, she warned that Israel might launch another war in the besieged Gaza Strip in response to the so-called incendiary kites being flown from the enclave. In May, the justice minister said in a radio interview that Israel must get ready to occupy the Gaza Strip. She explained: "It is time to get ready to occupy the Gaza Strip as part of efforts to destroy the authority of Hamas […] The response must be very severe, as if blood was shed here."
Both Shaked and Bennett are key figures in the Jewish Home party, a religious-Zionist political party that advocates for illegal settlement of the occupied West Bank. Jewish Home currently holds eight seats in the Knesset and has become increasingly popular, with a recent poll demonstrating that the party could gain ten seats if elections were held imminently.
Most of Israel's illegal settlements are constructed in "Area C", which under the Oslo Accords was placed under Israeli administration. The population of illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank is just short of 600,000, according to B'Tselem, and while "Israel has refrained from formally annexing the West Bank […] In practice, however, it treats the settlements established throughout Area C as extensions of its sovereign territory and has virtually eliminated the distinction for Israeli citizens".