The Israeli Left has colluded with the media to ensure the election of a left-wing government that would remove West Bank settlements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned settler leaders.
“In the upcoming elections we will see an effort by the Left to accomplish an ‘electoral revolution,’ with the aid of the media and other forces,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem on Wednesday, as he met with the leaders in an effort to secure their support for his continued premiership.
Members of the Left, he said, “are entirely invested in this effort. But they cannot succeed. If they do, it will put the settlement movement in grave danger. We must win the upcoming election. This is a battle over our home. The fate of the state and the settlements is not self-evident.”
Netanyahu also hinted that continued US support for the settlements was contingent on his leadership of the government.
“We also have difficult work to do with the current US administration in order to continue to bring about the great achievements we have brought to the settlements,” Netanyahu added. “This is not guaranteed, because later on, under a leftist government, everything could be reversed in a moment.”
Netanyahu met with the settler leaders just two days after announcing early elections to be held on April 9
. The perception that he strongly supports the settlements is critical for his reelection campaign.
But he heads into the elections at a particularly stormy moment in his ties with settler leaders, who want him to do more to ensure their security, particularly in the wake of three terrorist attacks earlier this month.
Three settler leaders – Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz and Kiryat Arba Council head Eliyahu Libman – were so angry with Netanyahu that they boycotted the meeting. Dagan and Ganz run the largest regional councils in the West Bank.
In a letter to the prime minister, the trio said they were upset that he had failed to restore NIS 400 million in budget cuts for security. They also asked him to restore the road blocks he had removed in the West Bank, and to take significant measures in support of settlement building.
During the meeting, it was agreed that the Yesha Council will set up a committee to organize all the requests of Netanyahu. That committee would then meet with the Prime Minister’s Office staff within a number of weeks to advance those issues. The settlers’ main demand is the authorization of some 70 outposts.
Beit El Council head Shai Alon said the boundaries of his settlement should be expanded to include the area on which the Binyamin Regional Brigade is currently located. If that plan were to move forward, the IDF base would be relocated elsewhere, and housing for Beit El would be built at that location.
“So long as he [Netanyahu] supports the settlements, we will support him,” Alon said.
After the meeting, the “Fledgling Settlements’ Forum” told Netanyahu that he must put his money where his mouth is.
The group, which represents the unauthorized outposts, warned Netanyahu not to continue in the path of attorney Talia Sasson, who authored a 2005 government commission report on the hilltop communities which stated that they were illegally built and must be demolished.
“You have to choose whether you support the settlements or Talia Sasson,” the forum said in a statement distributed to the media, which called on Netanyahu to approve a bill to legalize the outposts, prior to the Knesset’s dispersal.
“Your claim to have secured ‘great achievements for the settlement’ is nice,” it noted. “But we, tens of thousands of settlers, just want to live [normal lives]. We want to finally free ourselves from the grip of Talia Sasson, the former chairman of the New Israel Fund, who with one report froze the development of our communities,” the forum said.
It explained that the tenuous legal status of their homes made it difficult to hook the houses up to public utilities.
“We want electricity. We want water. We want authorization. We did not get that from you,” the forum said.
“You’re right. This is a battle for the house. Today you have a last chance to prove that you are strong in deeds, and not just when under pressure of the campaign trail,” it said.
Only when the unauthorized homes are legalized and life is normalized for Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, “will we believe that the fate of the settlements is important to you,” the organization said.
The Yesha Council, which just two weeks ago railed against Netanyahu at a rally in front of his office in Jerusalem, publicly closed ranks behind him.
Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani spoke at the meeting in support of Netanyahu.
“During the elections we have to say the truth. The settlements are flourishing and that is because of you,” Elhayani said.
He said that he was ashamed of those who chose not to come to the meeting. “There is open communication between you and the settler leaders,” he said adding that there was no reason, therefore, to threaten the Prime Minister.
Settler leaders have the type of access to Netanyahu that other local politicians only dream about, precisely because he prioritizes Judea and Samaria, Elhayani said.
After the meeting, the Yesha Council thanked Netanyahu for his efforts to promote and develop the settlements. They spoke with him with regard to their “most urgent needs” including security.
Yesha Council deputy head Yigal Dilmoni said, “It was a very good meeting, even though we did not get everything we asked for.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>