Settlement bloc head to PM: Stop talking, start building

Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel slams Netanyahu: "It was easier to build in the settlements under a Labor gov't."

May 18, 2011 05:53
4 minute read.
Ma’aleh Adumim

Maaleh Adumim 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, who heads one of the larger West Bank settlement blocs, had four words of advice for Prime Minister Netanyahu: ‘stop talking, start building.”

Kashriel came to the Knesset on Monday already angered by Netanyahu’s silent freeze of the settlement blocs, and the words he heard there only made him more upset.

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“I’m very angry,” said Kashriel, who is a long-time Likud Central Committee member.

Likud politicians on Tuesday started to place a positive right-wing spin on Netanyahu’s Knesset speech, which hinted at the possibility that Israel could relinquish part of the West Bank not included in the settlement blocs.

Although former prime minister Ehud Olmert spoke candidly of this option when he was in office, Monday night marked the first time that Netanyahu had hinted at it or used the concept of settlement blocs in a public speech.

Likud politicians on Tuesday, including Deputy Premier Moshe Ya’alon, explained that Netanyahu was presenting consensus opinion, and not his own view.

Kashriel was not swayed by any of the political back-tracking. As the head of the third largest settlement city, he has seen construction in his city slow to trickle under Netanyahu – so he believes that the prime minister has done almost nothing to support the settlement blocs.

“I’m embarrassed to say it, but it was easier to build in the settlements under a Labor government than under a right-wing Likud one,” he said.

At present, he said, Ma’aleh Adumim is almost out of construction permits. In 2010 – between the lack of permits and the temporary moratorium on new construction – work was begun on only 39 new homes in his city. It’s the lowest number of housing starts in more than 15 years.

In addition, Kashriel said, his city was not included in the housing-reform plan, and its residents no longer receive a discount on mortgages.

“I asked him [Netanyahu] about it at Monday’s Knesset faction meeting and he said, ‘I’ll check it out.’ What does he need to know?,” Kashriel asked.

He recalled that two years ago, in Netanyahu’s June 2009 Bar Ilan speech, Netanyahu affirmed the settlers’ right to build, and then turned around and declared a 10-month moratorium.

“We need new building to survive, and not words,” Kashriel said.

Last night, when Netanyahu spoke of “painful concessions,” Kashriel warned, he was using a code phrase for future evacuations.

Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman said that Netanyahu’s words to the Knesset ran counter to those he uttered after two Palestinians in March stabbed to death five members of the Fogel family in the Itamar settlement, which is located outside the settlement blocs.

At the time, Nachman said, Netanyahu stated: “They kill and we build.”

On Tuesday, Nachman called on Netanyahu to stay true to his words.

Naftali Bennett, who is the Director- General of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said that this is the time for Netanyahu to issue an ultimatum to the Palestinians and not offer concession.

He should warn that if the Palestinians continue to pursue unilateral statehood, Israel will annex the portion of the West Bank, known as Area C, which it controls and where its Jewish population lives.

There is no demographic issue, because the annexation plan would include 300,000 Jews and 10,000 Palestinians, Bennett said.

He added that it was gaining momentum.

“It’s time for Israel to take the initiative and pursue its own unilateral approach,” he said.

Council Chairman Dani Dayan said that Netanyahu should go one step further and declare that he no longer was under any obligation to recognize a Palestinian state in light of the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and the political warfare that the Palestinians were waging against Israel.

Israeli diplomacy has erred by trying to appease the international community and the Palestinians, Dayan said.

Like Kashriel, Dayan took Netanyahu’s statement about settlement blocs very seriously; whether the threat that underlined his words came to fruition or not.

“When a prime minister makes a statement, it is a political fact that leaves its mark on the political and diplomatic reality. We cannot underestimate the impact of a prime minister’s words,” he said.

But Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Lahiani said that he did not fear the implication in Netanyahu’s Knesset speech Monday that Israel would cede the settlements in his region.

It’s an accepted military principle in Israel that it would be dangerous to cede the Jordan Valley – particularly at time of regional upheavals when it is unclear what the future governmental make-up would be of any country that borders Israel,” he said.

The leader of a country often has to say certain things, so to know what is really going on, Lahiani said. “It is important to also listen to the people next to him. They say what he can not,” Lahiani said.

He added that he has a tape recording of Netanyahu from 10 years ago stating that the Jordan Valley would always remain under Israeli sovereignty.

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