West Bank sovereignty can’t be halted, settler leaders say

Netanyahu called for the elections to be a mandate on sovereignty, but then failed to gain a majority of Knesset seats, and in the initial flush, appears unlikely to be able to form a government.

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September 22, 2019 23:04
2 minute read.
West Bank sovereignty can’t be halted, settler leaders say

The receding floor of the northern Dead Sea in the Megilot region of the West Bank that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to annex to Israel.. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

The application of sovereignty to the West Bank settlements can’t be halted, settler leaders said Sunday as they held a New Year toast and wished that sovereignty would have been extended this year instead.

“It is a process that can not be halted,” Yesha Council leader Yigal Dilmoni told reporters and settler leaders as they gathered at a restaurant at the Neveh Midbar beach with a view of the Dead Sea and the red hills of Jordan stretched out in front of him.

He spoke less than two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dramatic announcement that immediately upon forming a government, he would annex 31 West Bank settlements, including all those in the Jordan Valley and the Megilot Region of the Dead Sea, where the Rosh Hashanah toast was held.

Netanyahu called for the elections to be a mandate on sovereignty, but then failed to gain a majority of Knesset seats, and in the initial flush, appears unlikely to be able to form a government.

But settler leaders said they believe that the issue of sovereignty will remain viable, irrespective of whether Netanyahu forms a government or not.

There are those who think that Netanyahu’s words were an election gimmick, but “from our perspective, this is not the case,” Dilmoni said.

He recalled the September 15 cabinet meeting in the Jordan Valley in which the plan was debated and likened it other watershed moments in the settlement movement, such as the Sebastia deal during Hanukkah 1975 between then-defense minister Shimon Peres and a group of Gush Emunim settlers who had set up camp in Sebastia with the intention of creating a permanent presence. Peres and the group reached a compromise – 30 families would be permitted to relocate to nearby Kedumim and form the first Jewish settlement in Samaria.

It is from moments such as this that “great things happen,” according to Dilmoni.

This is true, even if the next government delays it a bit, Dilmoni said, adding that regardless, “we are on our way.”

The Yesha Council has not endorsed any candidate or party to lead the government, but has clearly endorsed the right-wing bloc, he said.

Still, Dilmoni said, he was concerned that if a right-wing government was not formed, projects outside the settlements blocs would be frozen.

Presently, he said, “there is an agreement with the US that there is not difference between areas inside the blocs and outside the blocs.”

Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani said that the option for sovereignty was a “historic opportunity” not just for the Jordan Valley, but also for all of Judea and Samaria.

“That is our mission – it is the mission of all the settlement [movement] and we are working to make it happen,” he said.

Prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords, there was a broad understanding that the Jordan Valley would be within Israel’s sovereign borders, so much so that the Labor Party stated as much in its platform. That language was dropped after Oslo, he said.

Now, Elhayani said, it has been reintroduced. In light of the battles against Oslo, this is “a very emotional” moment and is the “closing of a circle.”


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