As Netanyahu Touches Down For First Official Meeting With Trump, Israeli Conservatives Tout Annexation Plans

Words such as “hope” “optimism,” “new era,” “historic opportunity,” and “great friend” peppered nearly every speech.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Donald Trump on Tuesday to solidify the vow that "no daylight" will exist between Israel and the U.S. 

Reuters reports that White House staff have cleared the day's schedule for meetings with Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, senior advisers, and culminating in an evening meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"There isn't going to be any daylight, no gaps," one adviser said in an interview. 

While the media will do its best to stir the pot and make it seem as if Trump's support for Israel is malleable, conservative MKs in Israel seem unfazed. In fact, many are already discussing the annexation of portions of the West Bank. The Times of Israel reports what unfolded at Monday's B’Sheva Jerusalem Conference: 

Despite noises out of Washington indicating Trump may not be the white knight the settlement movement has been waiting for, hopes that his administration will usher in a new era for the settlement movement were hardly dampened in the Jerusalem conference hall.

Ministers such as Erdan and Regev touted as proof of the new approach the White House statement from earlier this month that said settlements were not an impediment to peace, neglecting to mention the second half of the statement, which called the construction “unhelpful.” (Trump, in an interview Friday with the Israel Hayom daily, said the same).

Words such as “hope” “optimism,” “new era,” “historic opportunity,” and “great friend” peppered nearly every speech by the right-wing Israeli leaders.

Calls for annexation during Monday’s conference reached a "fever pitch" reports the Times, with each Israel politician present wishing Netanyahu great luck during his first official White House visit: 

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan urged immediate annexation of areas that Israel will retain under a two-state deal and stepped up building construction throughout the West Bank, not merely within the settlement blocs. This “price” for recalcitrance by the Palestinians will push them back to the negotiating table, he argued, signaling that a two-state deal was his end goal.

Culture Minister Miri Regev said there was only room for one state between the Mediterranean and Jordan, and Israel must weigh its options regarding the Palestinians, from “citizenship to autonomy.” Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel called on the government to adopt the 2012 Edmund Levy report that recommended legalizing West Bank outposts. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz declared Netanyahu must give Trump a firm “no” to a Palestinian state, and say “yes” to an “expanded” Jerusalem.

Trump has been ardently pro-Israel though instigators have insinuated that, following Netanyahu's settlement expansion in the West Bank, the president's steadfastness on Israel may be wavering. It is a safe guess, however, that Netanyahu would not have ramped up settlement expansion without the blessing -- spoken or unspoken -- of President Trump. 

It is also likely those rumors are unfounded altogether. For one, Trump may simply be politicking so he comes across as measured in his stance on Israel, and in particular, conservative Israeli policies. Or, if there is indeed any wavering on full-throated support for Netanyahu's agenda, it is likely not coming from Trump himself, but rather from establishment members of his administration. We're eager to see what Tuesday's meetings between the two world leaders bring, and hope that whatever the optics are, a clear signal will be sent to Israel's enemies.