The Har Bracha settlement near Nablus must become a Jewish city in the West Bank, right-wing politicians and settlers said on Tuesday at the funeral of terrorism victim Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal.“Mr. Prime Minister, listen to us now,” Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said as he stood outside Yeshivat Har Bracha in the hilltop community of over 2,400 residents and delivered a eulogy for Ben-Gal, a teacher in the yeshiva who had lived in the community.“I call on you, Mr. Prime Minister, to announce today the transformation of the Har Bracha community into a city,” Dagan said.Such an act, he said, would be a sign of “determination” and would provide the “appropriate response to this terrible murder.”Samaria Regional Council spokeswoman Ester Allouch said the Civil Administration had already approved a master plan for 6,000 housing units in Har Bracha that is awaiting approval by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Dagan noted that Ben-Gal was the second man killed by terrorists in Samaria this month. On January 9, Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a father of six, was shot dead by Palestinians as he drove near his home in the Havat Gilad outpost, also located in the Nablus area. On Sunday, the cabinet at its regular weekly meeting authorized the creation of a new settlement in Samaria, either at the site of the Havat Gilad outpost or nearby.The vote was held in response to calls by Dagan and the Shevach family on the government to respond to terrorist attacks by strengthening Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.Only four West Bank settlements have the official status of a city; Modi’in Illit, Beitar Illit, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel. There are long-term plans to turn the Gevaot in the Etzion Bloc into a city.If Netanyahu accedes to Dagan’s demand, it would create a second Israeli city, after Ariel, in Samaria. Ariel, which Israel holds is a settlement bloc and will remain part of the country under any agreement, presents a logistical challenge to negotiators because it is 16 kilometers beyond the pre-1967 armistice line.Har Bracha is located 23 kilometers from the Green Line and is on Mount Gerizim, overlooking the Palestinian city of Nablus, which was built on the ruins of the biblical city of Shechem.More building there and in Judea and Samaria in general would send a strong message not just to terrorists, like the one who killed Ben-Gal, but to those who incite against Jews, including the “arch-terrorist Abu Mazan [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas],” Dagan said.“Here by the [death] bed of Rabbi Itamar we swear we will not break,” Dagan said.He also called on the government to improve security in Samaria, including restoring roadblocks that had been taken down as a humanitarian gesture to the Palestinians.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said, “We shouldn’t have to wait for someone to be killed to build Har Bracha or Havat Gilad or any other settlement.”It should be done simply because “the land of Israel is ours,” he said.Ariel dismissed the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, saying, “Between the Jordan [River] and the [Mediterranean] Sea there will be one sovereign state, the State of Israel whose capital is a united Jerusalem.“There won’t be any other sovereignty in this area. We must decree that the time has come for [Jewish] sovereignty [over Judea and Samaria],” Ariel said.At the bottom of Mount Gerizim, outside Nablus, a small group of extreme-right activists held a demonstration during the time of Ben-Gal’s funeral.They held signs that called for Arabs to be expelled and called for revenge. “Blood = Blood,” one of the signs read.
Scores attend funeral of terror victim Itamar Ben Gal in Har Bracha (Ehud Amiton/TPS)