JERUSALEM — A top Israeli minister said he wants the government to take complete control of more than half of the West Bank. He said that Israel could deal with the Palestinians who live there.
While traveling with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a state visit to Russia on Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel told the Times of Israel that the world should forget about a Palestinian state.
“We have to aspire to the annexation of Area C. These are areas where there are no Arabs at all, except a few thousand who don’t constitute a significant numerical factor,” Ariel said.
According to the Oslo Accords, the West Bank is divided into three areas. Area C comprises more than 60 percent of the West Bank and is under complete Israeli military control, both for security and civil affairs.
Estimates of the Palestinian population in Area C are a subject of mystery and debate.
The U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians reported that there were 297,500 Palestinians in Area C in 2014.
An Israeli human rights group, Bimkom, estimates that 150,000 to 180,000 Palestinians live there.
The Israeli military division that controls Area C gives an estimate of 50,000 Palestinians.
Area C — which covers about 1,300 square miles spread throughout the West Bank — is where the Jewish settlements are located. More than 350,000 Israelis live on 125 settlements and about 100 outposts. The international community calls the settlements illegal; the United States views them as illegitimate and obstacles to peace; the Israeli government disputes this characterization.
Ariel is a longtime advocate for the settler movement and lives in a settlement, Kfar Adumim, east of Jerusalem.
This is not the first time that Ariel has advocated annexing Area C. In January, Ariel said it was time to take full possession of the land.
“If someone asks about Areas A and B, then their time will come. When, we will see,” Ariel said. “For now, let’s agree on Area C. There is more than 60 percent of the territory, with 50,000 Arabs. They do not pose a problem to the state of Israel.”
Ariel is a leader of the hard-right faction in the Jewish Home party, which is a member of the government. Other Jewish Home leaders, such as Education Minister Naftali Bennett, also have urged annexing Area C.
Depending on the annexation plans, the Palestinians would be offered Israeli citizenship or residency or be made the responsibility of Jordan, Bennett has said.
These are not lone voices. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, supports annexation. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked wants to apply Israeli law to Area C, a step toward annexation.
Ariel’s comments come as Netanyahu, the leader of the governing coalition, has been stressing that he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Correction: This article has been updated. An earlier version cited a Times of Israel interview with Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel stating that he wanted to remove the Palestinians living in Area C. The Times of Israel later issued a correction of its article and said the call for removal was a mistranslation.