An Israeli soldier standing guard outside the Israeli settlement of Beit El near the West Bank city of
Ramallah. Israel has moved immediately to take advantage of US President Donald Trump's pledges
of support, announcing a major settlement expansion that deeply concerns those hoping to salvage
a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
Ramallah: The Israeli occupation's minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection, Ze'ev Elkin, has called for the gradual Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank.
Ukrainian-born Elkin, who is the chairman of the ruling coalition in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and head of the ruling Likud parliamentary faction, told a conference at Bar-Ilan University: "As a first step, Israel might annex colony blocks that enjoy across-the-border legitimacy among Israelis.
"It is time that those who try to grab things away from us come to the realisation that we have a new mantra. We are simply going to respond in kind: You grab — we grab," he said.
Elkin also stated that it is time for Israel to take a page from the Palestinian playbook, stressing that unilateralism will not serve the Palestinian interests. "The Palestinians know full well that despite successfully rallying international support for a Palestinian state, the equation of give-and-take is now deeply entrenched," he said.
"Everyone is expecting them to reciprocate with a concession of their own by dropping the demand for the right of return [of expelled Palestinians] and recognising the state of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
"This is beyond both the will and capability of the Palestinian leadership, which explains why they decided to change course," he added.
Separately, the regime's defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not represent his people and has no intention of reaching a final peace agreement with Israel.
"There is no one to sign an agreement that would dramatically change reality," Lieberman told another conference hosted by the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies. "What is needed is strong leadership which enjoys support on the ground, but Abbas is not a legitimate leader."
Moldovan-born Lieberman blasted the international community for what he called "over-involvement" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"The world's over-involvement does nothing to help achieve peace. What I propose to everyone is, first of all, not to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; forget about it," he said. "The over-involvement of the world powers, especially Europe, is only disruptive. They do not contribute anything to solving the problem; they only complicate things."
Addressing the same conference, Tzipi Livni, a Zionist Union leader and former justice and foreign minister, said that it is time for Israel to formulate its policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians, arguing that Donald Trump's presidency is a large and unique opportunity for Israel.
"If Israel can really do whatever it wants, it's time that Israel decide what it wants," she said. "There is no one left in the government or in Washington to blame."
Many Palestinians believe that threats of annexation of the occupied West Bank are quickly becoming a reality.
"Israel is practically annexing all of Area C and great portions of Area B to expand its colonial enterprise on Palestinian national soil," said Tayseer Khalid, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Under the Oslo Accords reached between the PLO and the Israeli regime, the occupied West Bank was split into three zones. Area A was to be under full Palestinian control, Area B under Palestinian administrative control and Israeli military control, and Area C would be under full Israeli military control.
Khalid explained that Israel handles every two adjacent colonies as one colony block, with areas between the colonies connected by smaller Jewish colony outposts, turning the vast majority of the occupied West Bank into a hive of Jews-only colonies.
"Enough with the political childhood of some Israeli political leaders demanding the annexation of the West Bank," Khalid told Gulf News. "No Palestinian leader or ordinary man alive, regardless of his leniency, is prepared to make concessions," he said. "Israel does not seek a Palestinian partner, but a Palestinian collaborator."
The Palestinian leadership, he said, must now continue its diplomatic attack against Israel and approach the UN Security Council once again to request that Israel be punished for its war crimes, particularly with respect to its stand on colony construction, even at the cost of a clash with newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump.
"The Palestinians ought to defend their basic and legitimate rights and also defend the international legitimacy which supplied them with two key resolutions that should be effectively used in the ongoing political confrontation with Israel," Khalid added.