Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu meet at the Trump tower.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his strongest statement in years on Monday in favor of construction in Judea and Samaria, giving hope to settler leaders that massive construction will begin when Donald Trump replaces Barack Obama as president of the United States.
Netanyahu told 60 Minutes last week that he was looking forward to working with Trump on a two-state solution.
But sources close to the prime minister said that neither Netanyahu nor the incoming president see West Bank construction as a hindrance to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting on Monday, Netanyahu boasted of the success of the deal reached with residents of Amona that will allow more than half of them to remain on the hilltop in a different location. He told the faction that Amona was just the beginning.
“We will continue to strengthen and develop settlements, and I want to make clear: There is not, nor will there be, a government that gives more support to settling and cares more about settling than this government we in the Likud lead,” he said. “This will continue.”
Netanyahu is expected to be questioned about his plans for the Trump era and his support for increased West Bank construction on Tuesday when he meets with the foreign media at a pre-Hanukka event organized by the Government Press Office.
Sources in Bayit Yehudi said the party was preparing a list of what it will demand from Netanyahu after Trump is sworn in on January 20. The sources said the party views the election of a president unopposed to settlement construction and the appointment of settlement-supporting David Friedman as ambassador as a game changer.
“There is a unique window of opportunity now thanks to the changes in America, the weakening of Europe and the disintegration of the Muslim world,” Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett told The Jerusalem Post at the Knesset on Monday.
Bennett said the list included applying Israeli sovereignty to Area C in Judea and Samaria gradually, starting with Ma’aleh Adumim, as well as steps to “naturalize life in Judea and Samaria.”
Sources in Likud and Bayit Yehudi said the settlement regulation bill that would sanction some 4,000 homes built on privately owned Palestinian land would not be brought to its final readings until after Trump takes office.
While there was some doubt last week about whether the bill’s legislation could be delayed, following the deal reached with Amona residents, its postponement is seen as guaranteed. Likud sources said it also helped that the chairman of the committee legislating the bill, Bayit Yehudi MK Nisan Slomiansky, has suspended himself from committee work in the Knesset while he is fighting sexual harassment charges.
Head of the Shomron Regional Council Yossi Dagan, who attended Trump’s victory party in New York, said he had high hopes for both Trump and Netanyahu.
“Trump will never be more Zionist than the prime minister of Israel,” Dagan said.
“The ball is in the prime minister’s court. It’s a great opportunity after the Obama years. I expect him to build and build a lot. But then again, I think he should have built during Obama’s term, too.”
Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu promised Amona residents that if the High Court does not agree to delay the evacuation of the outpost, a new settlement will be built for them.
Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni lashed out at Netanyahu for cutting funding across the board from cabinet ministries, in part to fund the deal with the residents of Amona.
“When billions are taken out of the public’s pockets from the health, education, transportation and public security budgets to pay the violators of the law in Amona, it means the government thinks Israelis are suckers,” Livni said. “When Israel pays each Amona family a million shekels to keep the law, it can’t be understood any other way.”
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