Hunger-striking settlers burst into a Likud faction meeting yesterday, demanding better roads..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed to investing NIS 800 million in new, safer roads in the West Bank after settlers on a hunger strike burst into a Likud faction meeting Monday.
“We have a clear commitment to solve the problem of roads in Judea and Samaria bypassing [Palestinian villages], including lighting and other problems. We aren’t just talking, we’re doing,” Netanyahu stated.
However, the protesters said they have heard these promises before and will not end their hunger strike until an official government decision is authorized.
Netanyahu began his statements by talking about his trip to London, but Likud MK Oren Hazan, who joined the hunger strike Monday morning, walked in with Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and bereaved relatives of victims of terrorism who demanded that their issues be addressed.
The prime minister explained that he worked to get international opinion on their side as much as possible: “Notice that for the past year we weren’t criticized in the UN Security Council and we were almost never criticized in international forums about building in Judea and Samaria. That isn’t a coincidence, it’s a result of our preparing public opinion.”
The second thing Netanyahu said he did was to find a source of funding, and that he does not want to make a commitment without having the money.
The prime minister said he had just met with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and they are immediately setting aside NIS 200m. for paving roads that are already planned near Beit Arye and Kalandiya, and they plan to put another NIS 600m. toward roads and lighting in the West Bank in the 2019 budget.
“We are on our way,” Netanyahu promised. “This is important to all of us – the settlers, the Likud and all of Israel.”
Hadas Mizrahi, whose husband Baruch was shot in 2014 on a road near Hebron, described how, because of poor road conditions, she and her children waited for 20 minutes in the car with her dead husband before they got help.
“My husband was murdered because there was not enough lighting,” she said.
Adva Biton, whose four-year-old daughter Adele died from complications after a boulder was thrown at their car in 2013, said: “We want to move from promises to actions...The time has come that people who live in these areas can go home safely. What are we demanding? Lighting, cell phone service, safe roads. We are citizens of the State of Israel... We are here because we want to prevent the next tragedy. None of us want to see another bereaved family.”
Netanyahu told the families they can come to Likud faction meetings any week and talk to him.
“No one sitting at this table [of Likud MKs] does not share your pain. I remember what happened to you, to Baruch Mizrahi, to little Adele,” the prime minister stated. “You express your pain, and we will do what we can do to ensure there isn’t more pain. We will protect our roads and protect our citizens.
Earlier in the day, the hunger-striking protesters disrupted a Knesset Finance Committee meeting, calling for funding for new roads.
Likud MK Miki Zohar and Bayit Yehudi lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich said they will not allow any funding transfers in the committee until the matter of the roads is dealt with.
“These are people’s lives, it’s not a game,” Smotrich said. “As long as funding is stuck for half a million residents of Judea and Samaria, no budget will pass.”
Dagan told the committee: “I held in these hands the children of the Henkin family whose parents were murdered on a road that still has no lighting and no cell phone service.”
In 2015, Naama and Eitam Henkin were shot and killed by Palestinians, with their four children in the back seat, while driving in the Samaria region of the West Bank. Eitam was an American citizen.