Israeli President Rivlin calls for calm in heated discourse over West Bank annexation
Tel Aviv - Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday called on Israelis to calm the tone of disagreements over the possible annexation of parts of the West Bank by his country.
"We must not prevent questions, doubts or criticism from any political side. Disagree - yes," he said in a statement. "Argue - absolutely. But the verbal violence, the name-calling, the ridiculing, and the contempt must stop."
His comments come a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "fiercely condemned" statements made by a settler leader about the plan, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
Proposals for annexation, based on US President Donald Trump's Middle East plan, may be submitted to the Israeli parliament for approval from July.
Representatives of the settlers and national religious movement oppose the US plan, because they object to the founding of a Palestinian state on the remainder of the land.
Settler leader David Elhayani told Haaretz on Wednesday that Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and and one of the architects of his Middle East plan, "have proven in their plan that they are not friends of the State of Israel."
The comments were made in response to calls by US officials to rein in Israeli opposition to the US plan, according to the report.
Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as lashing back at Elhayini saying: "President Trump is a great friend of the State of Israel."
"Sadly," he said, "instead of recognizing the good, there are those who deny this friendship."
Overnight an Israeli pro-settlements group called the Sovereignty movement launched a billboard campaign against Trump's plan.
The group said it hung hundreds of posters in Jerusalem, in and near West Bank settlements and in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip.
The signs, each tailored to the area where they were posted, read: "Jerusalem will be divided!" "Palestine just beyond the fence!" and "Here Palestine will be established!" The posters are all signed with the hashtag "#Trump Plan."
Palestinians also reject the plan, fearing that it will recognize Israeli claims to parts of the West Bank that they want for a future state.
As a consequence, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently cancelled all agreements with Israel and the US.
The plan has also been criticized by parts of the international community, such as the European Union.
If Israel goes ahead with the unilateral move, 58 per cent of Israelis think that the Palestinians will start a third Intifada, or uprising, according to a poll published on Wednesday by the Israel Democracy Institute research centre.
On Wednesday, Israeli security chiefs held a meeting to discuss scenarios surrounding the possible annexation, and Defence Minister Benny Gantz previously instructed military Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to prepare the army for any developments in the Palestinian arena.dpa