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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
Likud ministers came out in favor of West Bank settlements when they showed their support for the Lobby for Greater Israel, which held its inaugural meeting Tuesday in a packed room in the Knesset.
“This kind of lobby should have been unnecessary,” said its co-chairman MK Arye Eldad (National Union).
“We could have expected that after disengagement [from Gaza and parts of northern Samaria in 2005] all talk of creating a Palestinian state would have been taken off the table and that no one would try to get rid of settlements.”
Instead, Eldad said, “We are once more hearing about a two-state solution and a [construction] freeze. I am certain that with this unity, we can save the Land of Israel.”
He added that the lobby’s task was to act as a protective wall against any threat to the settlements.
The lobby met in the midst of a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction. It also gathered one week after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made his first visit to the settlements since taking office last March. He planted trees in three settlement blocs that he said were an indisputable part of Israel – Ariel, Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim.
But lobby members said they wanted to hold onto all of Judea and Samaria.
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The lobby is composed of 39 MKs, including 12 from Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Other members came from Shas, Israel Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi, the National Union, United Torah Judaism and Kadima.
Ministers cannot be members of the lobby. But six Likud ministers, Gideon Sa’ar, Yisrael Katz, Limor Livnat, Silvan Shalom, Moshe Ya’alon and Yuli Edelstein, sent it letters of support.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, both of Likud, attended the meeting.
Begin went one step beyond the lobby’s formal platform when he said that the creation of a Palestinian state threatened Jewish security and rights to the Land of Israel.
Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, spoke of “days of confusion and disorientation, when... [Netanyahu] is planting trees and swearing allegiance to the very land on which [he] is preventing the construction of even one new home.”
He advised the lobby that its central role should be to replace that confusion with certainty regarding Israel’s eternal future in Judea and Samaria.
Construction, he said, must continue in Judea and Samaria. He added that schools should teach about the importance of settlements like Shilo, Beit El and Hebron.
Government Services Minister Michael Eitan (Likud) sent a letter to lobby co-chairman Ze’ev Elkin and Eldad, telling them that he formed a similar Knesset lobby 22 years ago, but that since then, the Likud and other parties had accepted the road map and the concept of territorial compromise.
He said the new lobby’s goal of keeping all of the Land of Israel contradicts the government’s policies and therefore he could not be a part of it.
“The direction in which you are leading the lobby is mistaken,” Eitan said. “I recommend that instead you draft a mission statement that could unify all the parties that support strengthening Israel’s hold over security areas and the settlement blocs, and helping all the residents of Judea and Samaria.”
Separately on Tuesday, Likud MK Danny Danon appealed to the party’s
internal court, asking it to force Netanyahu to convene the Likud
central committee to debate the West Bank housing-start moratorium.
Danon submitted the necessary signatures to convene the forum two
months ago, and the chairman of the central committee, Communications
Minister Moshe Kahlon, said there would be a meeting on January 28.
But Kahlon needs authorization from Netanyahu to schedule a meeting unless it is ordered by a court.
“The construction freeze goes against the policies of the Likud and I
am sure the central committee will give its uncompromising support to
the residents of Judea and Samaria,” Danon said. “It is unfortunate
that I have been forced to use legal means to enforce the Likud’s
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