Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday that the West Bank settlement
of Ariel would always be part of Israel.
“Ariel will always remain under
Israeli sovereignty,” he said to resounding applause in the small packed
auditorium at Ariel University, located 16 kilometers over the pre-1967
With two weeks to go until the elections, Netanyahu braved the
drenching rain to travel from Jerusalem to the West Bank’s Samaria region and
tout his record as a champion of the settlement movement.
visited two places that he helped legitimize during his premiership over the
last four years: Ariel University, which received its long-sought accreditation
as the country’s eighth university just last month; and Rechilim, one of three
outposts legally recognized as settlements this year.
But it was only
last week that the IDF established Rechilim’s official boundaries, which also
include the outpost of Nofei Nehemia.
His visit comes as his Likud
Beytenu list is losing support to the pro-settlement Bayit Yehudi Party,
particularly among settlers.
Netanyahu said it had not been easy to gain
accreditation for Ariel University because of the bureaucratic problems and the
cartel that opposed it.
The accreditation “was not an act of charity,” he
told the professors and students who had gathered to listen to him. “It was
bestowed on merit.”
The international community, he continued, opposed
Israel’s decision to grant university status to an institute of higher learning
in Judea and Samaria.
“I would like to make it clear to the world: The
danger to the world is not a university in Ariel. The danger to the world is not
that Israel is building neighborhoods in its capital of Jerusalem,” he
The government considers Ariel – first created in 1978 and now
boasting a population of close to 18,000 – a settlement bloc that would remain
part of Israel under any final status agreement with the
But in the last decade, the Palestinians have objected to
its inclusion within Israel’s final borders, and have insisted that building
there, including creating a university, threatens any two-state
On Tuesday, Netanyahu rejected the assertion that
settlement-building threatened peace.
“The danger is Iran, which is
building nuclear weapons. The danger is Syria’s arsenals of chemical weapons,”
“History will judge harshly those who equate democratic Israel,
which is establishing a university, and dictatorial regimes that slaughter their
people and which hold atomic weapons of mass destruction,” he continued, adding,
“We remain faithful to our homeland. We will continue to defend our citizens,
develop our country and build in our land.”
He thanked the city’s Mayor
Ran Nahman, who was in the hospital and could not attend the Tuesday event
honoring the university’s accreditation. Those present included Likud
politicians such as Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and coalition chairman Ze’ev
Netanyahu recalled how already in the 1980s, when he was the
country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nahman had shown up at his New York
office in sandals to talk about Ariel as a place that would be a city and have a
“I am proud of the fact that under my first premiership
[1996-1999], Ariel in 1998 became a city,” said the prime minister, adding that
“this was not by chance.”
He then traveled to nearby Rechilim, where he
met with its residents, as well as Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika
and his deputy Yossi Dagan.
Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs
Minister Yuli Edelstein and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat accompanied
him as well.
“We are facing an attack on the settlement enterprise and
against our existence in the State of Israel,” the prime minister said, adding
that he had been able to withstand international pressure through strong support
and stability within the country.
He urged Rechilim residents to support
his party in the elections, noting that a vote for him was a vote for the
If the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list comes out
of the elections as a strong, large party, it can secure the future of Judea and
Samaria settlements, he said.
But if Likud Beytenu doesn’t get support,
he continued, the government’s future will be in danger, as will that of the
Mesika thanked Netanyahu for correcting a historical
injustice with regard to Rechilim.
Dagan added that its authorization as
a settlement completed a legalization process that had begun in 1998, some six
or seven years after families first moved to the community.