Video by Eli Mandelbaum
Ministers and thousands of young right-wing activists sent a message to Washington against giving up land in the West Bank, when they rallied on Thursday night on the E1 hilltop, outside of Jerusalem.
“Mr. Prime Minister [Binyamin Netanyahu], in two weeks you will meet with US President [Barack] Obama in the White House,” said Benny Kashriel, the mayor of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, within whose boundaries the E1 hilltop is located. As Netanyahu sits in the White House Kashriel said, he should know that more than 350,000 residents of Judea and Samaria, their relatives and supporters throughout the country, wanted to strengthen him to continue to build in the West Bank and in E1, specifically, When he mentioned Obama, the crowd booed. Some of the participants held up a large sign with the photo of US Secretary of State John Kerry and the words “persona non grata.” The sign also stated “[Kerry] forces Israel to release Palestinian terrorists and make suicidal concessions.”
Kerry is in the midst of drawing a framework document to set out the solution.
It’s expected that he will present that document to Netanyahu when the two men meet in March.
Palestinians have persistently said they want Ma’aleh Adumim, as well as an unbuilt hilltop known as E1, to be part of their future state.
Netanyahu and many right-wing politicians have spoken of the importance of E1 and Ma’aleh Adumim in preserving a united Jerusalem, but have not authorized building on E1.
Kashriel reminded the crowd that Netanyahu, before he took office in 2009, had promised to build in E1 precisely because of its strategic value to Jerusalem and to linking up with the Jordan Valley nearby.
Kashriel and the participants called on Netanyahu to authorize building and to reject US pressure to give up land in the West Bank, particularly in this corridor.
The rally was the first one in a fledgling campaign against Kerry’s document and his vision of a two-state solution.
“We won’t rest until we build here. We won’t give away the Jordan Valley or cede any settlement,” Kashriel said.
“We will continue to fight day by day, hour by hour, until justice is made right,” said Kashriel, whose city is the third largest settlement in the West Bank.
The event, which drew over 5,000 participants from across the country, mostly teenagers, began in the afternoon in Ma’aleh Adumim. Activists then marched 4 km. from the built up area of the settlement down to and across Route 1, and then up to the E1 hilltops.
They stood on a dirt area, where a temporary stage had been set up. As they waited for politicians to speak they sang songs and waved Israelis flags.
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu) said there was no other place he would rather be than at this rally.
“We are here just to say that we are with you,” Shamir said. “I entered politics to be here. I wanted to sit at the government’s table to raise my hand at the right time and to say the right things. And so we won’t lose faith in the justice of our path. It will give us the strength to fulfill the vision set out many years ago.”
Transportation and Road Safety Minister Israel Katz (Likud) said that he came to the rally to strengthen the settlement movement and to lend his voice to the call to build E1.
“Anyone who opposes building in E1 is opposed to placing the entire Ma’aleh Adumim bloc within [Israel’s final borders], and they shouldn’t fool themselves about this,” Katz said.
“They are threatening us with a boycott, but I reject this. Once we spoke of the rights that come from our forefathers, then security and then we spoke of the demographic problem. Now they speak of boycotts.
That is the new ideology. If you do not act, there will be a boycott.
“We are not afraid of a boycott. We will continue to build settlements and all of Israel,” he said.
A Palestinian state, such as is being spoken of, poses a strategic and existential threat to Israel, he added. He warned that it was only the first step to Palestinians taking over all of Israel, from the Jordan River to the sea.
He explained that as transportation minister he is working to improve Palestinian traffic routes to ensure that they can travel contiguously. At the same time, he said, he has worked to improve roads and infrastructure for settlers.
Coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) said he had met this week with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who he said was a true friend of Israel.
He told Shapiro that there was no mandate, no government and no majority of citizens that could relinquish the rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
“I told him the Land of Israel is not a playing card that can be traded back and forth. It is not something you give away for peace,” he said.
It is not just a place where people live, but a land to which the Jewish people have historical, religious and legal rights, he said.
Looking out at the crowd, he said: “We will overcome. Our truth will persevere.”