Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that his major opponent, Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz, would uproot 80,000-90,000 settlers from the West Bank if he becomes the premier after the April 9 election.
“I fear there is a real danger here,” Netanyahu said during a visit to the Shiloh settlement together with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Yesha Council head Hananel Dorani.
“[MK Yair] Lapid and Gantz are hostage to the idea that the only way to ensure the nation’s future is to [reduce its territory] by uprooting 80,000-90,000 Jews,” Netanyahu said of the top two Blue and White politicians.
“They want us to bow our heads and hope the Arabs grant us recognition,” the prime minister said.
This is the second time in 24 hours that Netanyahu has visited Judea and Samaria. On Monday, he stopped at the site of Sunday’s terrorist attack at the Ariel Junction that claimed the life of St.-Sgt. Gal Keidan from Beersheba and Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, 47, a father of 12 from the Eli settlement. Netanyahu also paid a visit to the Ettinger family.
“The shock is enormous. From what I have heard about Ahiad, he was an amazing person, a man of valor with nobility of soul. The pain over your loss is immense; I understand how deep it is. But I want you to know that it is a shock to the heart of the entire people,” Netanyahu told them.
Family members asked Netanyahu to enact the death penalty to ensure that terrorists who kill innocent people like Ettinger are not allowed to live. Netanyahu promised to make it legally easier to impose such a sentence.
Israeli military courts have the ability to impose a death sentence but rarely do. When they have done so, it has always been overturned by the High Court of Justice.
During Tuesday’s visit he met with over 15 settler leaders. He hammered on his well-worn campaign theme in which he paints Gantz as a left-wing politician.
The Blue and White Party’s platform, however, places Gantz in the Center-Right of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, failing to even mention a Palestinian state and hinting at the application of sovereignty for the blocs.
The party platform’s affirmative statement about the settlement blocs, and its pledge to only relinquish territory through a national referendum or a special vote of the Knesset, has opened Gantz up to criticism that he might evacuate isolated settlements.
Isolated settlements are loosely determined to be those communities outside the route of the security barrier.
Netanyahu also told the settlers that his governing policy was the opposite of Gantz and Lapid, in that he wants to come to the Arab nations from a place of strength.
“I am working on empowering Israel in the arena of security, economics and diplomacy,” he said.
Israel has strong ties with the international community, and from there it is branching out to the Arab world. “This will take time,” he said.
The choice before the voters in this election, Netanyahu said, is whether they want a country that he would lead from a place of strength, or one that would be led by Gantz and Lapid from a place of weakness.
“The choice here is very clear,” Netanyahu said.
But he went in and out of the West Bank without publicly pledging anything to the settler leaders, even though many of them have a long list of projects they would like to see him approve.
Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro already has plans in the works for an additional 16,000 housing units, which he said simply needs government support to advance. Shaviro needs that construction so his city’s population can grow from 20,000 to 100,000.
On Tuesday, the Ariel municipality held a ground-breaking ceremony for a new neighborhood of 839 homes, in what will be called Ariel South.
At the ceremony, Shaviro said that, “From here I call on the country’s leadership to approve additional master plans for Ariel, which today is situated on only a quarter of its municipal territory.
“We have detailed [building] plans that can be submitted today for more new neighborhoods, which double and even triple the number of residents in the city. Now is the time to do so,” he said.
Shaviro called on the government to annex Judea and Samaria, explaining that such a step would end the discriminatory legal treatment of its residents. It would also send a clear message to the Palestinians that the settlements would remain in the area forever, he said.
Absorption and Integration Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud) participated in the ceremony and spoke of Ariel’s importance to the country as a whole. As the former housing and construction minister, Gallant was involved in the approval of the Ariel South project. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also helped ensure that 770 of the housing units were included in an affordable housing program, which will make those homes available for young couples.
From Ariel, Gallant also traveled to Eli to visit the Ettinger family.
The third victim from the terror attack, 19-year-old soldier Alexander Dvorsky, regained consciousness at Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva on Tuesday, where he had been in critical condition. His situation is no longer life threatening.
While in Shiloh, Netanyahu and Huckabee visited the archaeological park, that exhibits remains from the biblical era, including where the tabernacle was housed when Shiloh was the first capital of Biblical Israel.
The park is on Israel’s list of National Heritage Sites and its visitor’s center is funded through that heritage program, which Netanyahu created.
“I am very excited to be here. I came here for the first time in 1967, right after the Six Day War, as a young soldier. I remember that during navigational exercises, I went to Tel Shiloh to see ancient Shiloh, the capital of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
“Here, it has revived. Under the heritage plan, we established a visitor center so that every Jew and every tourist in Israel can come and see our first capital. This is exciting. It attests to our link with the Land of Israel and to the great wonder of the revival of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Both he and Huckabee visited the museum, which is part of the park, and looked at ancient tiles and clay shards. They also planted trees at the site.
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