President Reuven Rivlin on Monday cautiously offered his support to a full annexation of the West Bank, stressing that should Israel apply its sovereignty to those areas, it must grant all Palestinians living there full Israeli citizenship.

Addressing the pro-settlement B’Sheva Jerusalem Conference, the president also criticized the outpost legalization law, which recognizes several thousand Jewish housing units built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.

At the same time, and weeks after the Amona outpost in the West Bank was demolished by a court order that ruled it was built on private Palestinian land, the president proudly displayed personal registration documents showing his purchase of land from a Palestinian in what is now the Har Shmuel community just outside Jerusalem some 40 years ago.

A former Likud MK and staunch supporter of the settlements, Rivlin cited Likud MK Benny Begin, who dismissed the notion of settlement blocs. All settlements in the West Bank are “blocs,” he said.

“I, Rubi Rivlin, believe that Zion is entirely ours. I believe the sovereignty of the State of Israel must be in all the blocs,” he added, emphasizing that he was referring to the entire West Bank.

But the president maintained that annexation must be conditioned on full citizenship rights.

“Applying sovereignty to an area gives citizenship to all those living there,” he said repeatedly. “There is no [separate] law for Israelis and for non-Israelis.”

“It must be clear: If we extend sovereignty, the law must apply equally to all,” the president said.

The speech came a day after the president was quoted expressing concern that any unilateral annexation moves that infringed on Palestinians’ rights could be tantamount to apartheid.

The outpost legalization law, which the president ripped into during his speech, was approved by the Knesset last week. The move to authorize illegal construction in the West Bank was largely expected to be torpedoed by the High Court of Justice and has been fiercely criticized by the international community.

Israel must not apply its laws to an area outside its sovereignty, he warned, but rather decide first whether or not it plans to annex the territory.

“The issue of the expropriation of land must be a law [enacted] by the sovereign,” said the president, “correct and equal for all citizens, and not an extraterritorial law that is applied as needed.”

“International law also applies to us,” he added.

In his remarks Rivlin proudly referred to an 11-year legal battle some four decades ago when he purchased land over the Green Line from a Palestinian landowner. In the end, the seller claimed Rivlin had never paid for the plots, he said.

Rivlin then appeared in a Ramallah court and successfully argued his case, he said. And he later received official recognition, as the land was registered in the Palestinian registry. Beckoning to his aide, the president proceeded to brandish the original Arabic-language documents to the cheering audience.

“This Ashkenazi is registered in Ramallah,” he said.


Originally Published in Times of Israel