PM: Ariel will remain under Israeli sovereignty

Netanyahu visits West Bank settlement of Rechilim, Ariel University, touting his record as a champion of the settlement movement.

Netanyahu visits newly-approved Rechilim settlement 370 (photo credit: Meir Berachia/Samaria Regional Council)
Netanyahu visits newly-approved Rechilim settlement 370
(photo credit: Meir Berachia/Samaria Regional Council)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday that the West Bank settlement of Ariel would always be part of Israel.
“Ariel will always remain under Israeli sovereignty,” he said to resounding applause in the small packed auditorium at Ariel University, located 16 kilometers over the pre-1967 lines.
With two weeks to go until the elections, Netanyahu braved the drenching rain to travel from Jerusalem to the West Bank’s Samaria region and tout his record as a champion of the settlement movement.
There, he visited two places that he helped legitimize during his premiership over the last four years: Ariel University, which received its long-sought accreditation as the country’s eighth university just last month; and Rechilim, one of three outposts legally recognized as settlements this year.
But it was only last week that the IDF established Rechilim’s official boundaries, which also include the outpost of Nofei Nehemia.
His visit comes as his Likud Beytenu list is losing support to the pro-settlement Bayit Yehudi Party, particularly among settlers.
Netanyahu said it had not been easy to gain accreditation for Ariel University because of the bureaucratic problems and the cartel that opposed it.
The accreditation “was not an act of charity,” he told the professors and students who had gathered to listen to him. “It was bestowed on merit.”
The international community, he continued, opposed Israel’s decision to grant university status to an institute of higher learning in Judea and Samaria.
“I would like to make it clear to the world: The danger to the world is not a university in Ariel. The danger to the world is not that Israel is building neighborhoods in its capital of Jerusalem,” he declared.
The government considers Ariel – first created in 1978 and now boasting a population of close to 18,000 – a settlement bloc that would remain part of Israel under any final status agreement with the Palestinians.
But in the last decade, the Palestinians have objected to its inclusion within Israel’s final borders, and have insisted that building there, including creating a university, threatens any two-state solution.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu rejected the assertion that settlement-building threatened peace.
“The danger is Iran, which is building nuclear weapons. The danger is Syria’s arsenals of chemical weapons,” he said.
“History will judge harshly those who equate democratic Israel, which is establishing a university, and dictatorial regimes that slaughter their people and which hold atomic weapons of mass destruction,” he continued, adding, “We remain faithful to our homeland. We will continue to defend our citizens, develop our country and build in our land.”
He thanked the city’s Mayor Ran Nahman, who was in the hospital and could not attend the Tuesday event honoring the university’s accreditation. Those present included Likud politicians such as Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin.
Netanyahu recalled how already in the 1980s, when he was the country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nahman had shown up at his New York office in sandals to talk about Ariel as a place that would be a city and have a university.
“I am proud of the fact that under my first premiership [1996-1999], Ariel in 1998 became a city,” said the prime minister, adding that “this was not by chance.”
He then traveled to nearby Rechilim, where he met with its residents, as well as Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika and his deputy Yossi Dagan.
Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat accompanied him as well.
“We are facing an attack on the settlement enterprise and against our existence in the State of Israel,” the prime minister said, adding that he had been able to withstand international pressure through strong support and stability within the country.
He urged Rechilim residents to support his party in the elections, noting that a vote for him was a vote for the settlement enterprise.
If the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list comes out of the elections as a strong, large party, it can secure the future of Judea and Samaria settlements, he said.
But if Likud Beytenu doesn’t get support, he continued, the government’s future will be in danger, as will that of the settlements.
Mesika thanked Netanyahu for correcting a historical injustice with regard to Rechilim.
Dagan added that its authorization as a settlement completed a legalization process that had begun in 1998, some six or seven years after families first moved to the community.