Netanyahu pledges to secure U.S. support not to evacuate settlements

“No settlement or settler will ever be uprooted from here,” Netanyahu said as he made a campaign stop in the Efrat settlement.

August 4, 2019 20:13
Netanyahu pledges to secure U.S. support not to evacuate settlements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Efrat settlement located in the Gush Etzion region just outside of Jerusalem. (photo credit: IGOR USDACHI)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Wednesday to secure US support to place West Bank settlements within Israel’s sovereign borders in any US-led peace deal with the Palestinians.

He spoke in advance of the arrival in Israel of Trump administration envoy Jared Kushner, who is spearheading that plan.

“No settlement or settler will ever be uprooted from here,” Netanyahu said, as he made a campaign stop in the Efrat settlement located in the Gush Etzion region just outside of Jerusalem.

His chief rival in the upcoming September 17 election, Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz, also did some old-fashioned shoe-leather politicking. Gantz took to the West Bank hilltops, driving up the long winding road to an overlook called Sartaba, which was the site of an ancient biblical fortress.

The former IDF chief of staff promised that the Jordan Valley would remain in Israeli hands and that he would not uproot any settlements there, explaining that it is vital to Israel’s security to hold on to the area.

“We know the Jordan Valley from our many years of service in the IDF – we know this region’s strategic importance,” Gantz said. “In every final arrangement, the Jordan Valley must and will be an inseparable part of the State of Israel. The valley is the eastern protective wall of the State of Israel. It will forever remain under our control. This is of immense strategic importance.”

“This is a crucial strategic area, which Israel needs, always needed, and will always need in the future,” he said. “If there were times that [only] an [IDF] division was able to maneuver in this area, now there are times that other jihadists or other elements or enemies might infiltrate this area.”

From where he stood, there was a commanding view of the region. Date orchards and a water reservoir dotted the valley below. He traveled with another leading member of his party, former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, as well as with MKs Yoaz Hendel, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Orna Barbivai, Alon Shuster and Zvi Hauser.

Netanyahu has often accused the Blue and White Party of wanting to form a left-wing coalition that would make dangerous territorial concessions. The Likud Party wasted no time in attacking Gantz.

“Benny Gantz is making widespread promises regarding the future of the Jordan Valley, but when he was the IDF chief of staff, he promoted plans for a full withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and he wanted to turn over the Jordan Valley to international forces,” the party said.

“These elections are between Prime Minister Netanyahu – who has demonstrated his capabilities to withstand pressure and maintain the Land of Israel – and Gantz-Lapid-Barak, who will give up our homeland, withdraw from settlements and endanger the country,” the Likud added.

But Gantz’s position on the Jordan Valley mirrors that of Netanyahu, who has also spoken of it as a vital security asset for Israel. Netanyahu has touted his record as a builder, and on the sandy Jordan Valley hilltop under a bright sun, Gantz pledged to develop the region for both the Israelis and the Palestinians living there.

“We will develop a national plan and allocate billions of shekels in the coming years for settlement, agriculture and commerce,” he said. “We will develop a comprehensive plan, which includes the establishment of an urban center in Ma’aleh Ephraim as well as the expansion of Route 90. Blue and White is committed to the residents of the Jordan Valley.”

A development plan for Palestinians in the area would be based on Israel’s security needs.

“Israeli and Palestinians will be able to enjoy this area,” Gantz said.

SHOULD HE beat Netanyahu in the elections, Gantz would bring formidable military experience to the position at a time when Iran is increasing its military efforts against Israel.

But in Efrat, Netanyahu said that what is needed at this critical juncture in Israeli history is an experienced prime minister who could withstand international pressure, particularly when it comes to the issue of leaving Judea and Samaria in Israeli hands.

“We have stood against extreme pressures and against an international front that is not easy,” Netanyahu said. “We succeeded because we worked and act wisely.”

To continue to achieve this kind of success, he said, two things are needed: “Experience, along with a real ability to influence public opinion in the United States.”

“That is why we have been able to successfully act... even when the [US] government was against us,” Netanyahu said. “One cannot lead the State of Israel, one cannot be prime minister, without the real power of American public opinion.”

Without the ability to influence public opinion and overcome any US opposition, “there will be concessions and there will be submissions,” the prime minister said. The Israeli Left holds that it’s necessary to make such concessions to secure international acceptance, he added.

Netanyahu warned that Yesh Atid Party head Yair Lapid wants to evacuate 80,000-90,000 settlers. He said he saw this as a sign of weakness, and added, “I don’t believe in weakness, I believe in power.” It is for this reason, he said, that he transformed Israel into a superpower.

In the next election, Netanyahu said, voters will have a choice between the Left’s road and “our road.” The only way to ensure a right-wing government is to vote for the Likud, the largest right-wing party, he said. As the head of the Likud, he said that if he receives the public’s trust, he would continue to secure a great future for the State of Israel.

Efrat Council head Oded Revivi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveil a plaque in Efrat. (IGOR USDACHI)

In Efrat, Netanyahu helped inaugurate a promenade and unveiled a plaque with his name on it.

“Efrat and Gush Etzion are the southern gateway of Jerusalem,” he said. “I had the great privilege to build up Judea and Samaria and [help] connect Gush Etzion to Jerusalem. I’m committed to this.”

Efrat Council head Oded Revivi showed the prime minister two new neighborhoods in Efrat that had been built during Netanyahu’s tenure in office, thanks to his approval. In total, Netanyahu is responsible for the construction of 1,057 units in Efrat. Families are already living in 600 of those homes. Plans have been advanced for 8,250 homes in Efrat. Once completed, those homes would transform Efrat into a city.

Revivi thanked Netanyahu for his contribution to the city and urged the public to give him another term in office.

“Vote for the largest right-wing party that supports settlements – the Likud,” Revivi said.

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