Settlers: We'll remember PM's readiness to cede W. Bank

Dayan says Netanyahu's words are "completely unacceptable," mark a "significant step backwards"; Karnei Shomron head: I'm worried.

Israeli flag flutters over settlement of Ofra 311 R (photo credit: Laszlo Balogh / Reuters)
Israeli flag flutters over settlement of Ofra 311 R
(photo credit: Laszlo Balogh / Reuters)
The thunderous applause Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received in Washington did not drown out what settlers consider to be one of the most dangerous lines in his speech: his clear willingness to cede some West Bank settlements.
Netanyahu is not the only prime minister to have spoken of painful compromises in the peace process.
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But Tuesday’s speech to the US Congress in Washington marked the first time that Netanyahu, who campaigned on a platform of preserving Judea and Samaria, has stated that Israel would relinquish some settlements.
“In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said during his speech.
He added, “I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.”
Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said that Netanyahu’s words were “completely unacceptable” and marked a “significant step backwards.”
The prime minister had said he would not discuss borders outside of the negotiations, and instead he has already begun to set the borders, in advance of talks, he said.
Dayan noted that Netanyahu also hinted that Israel would not remain in the Jordan Valley.
The significance of Netanyahu’s statements was not lost on the head of the Karnei Shomron settlement Herzl Ben-Ari, as he sat in the studio of a radio station and watched Netanyahu on television.
“I am very worried,” he later told The Jerusalem Post.
He acknowledged that Netanyahu’s speech was “brilliant,” particularly the parts about the dangers of Hamas, the unity of Jerusalem and the Jewish character of the State of Israel.
What will be remembered, he said, is that Israel is willing to make painful concessions and give up settlements.
Ben-Ari warned that it was one more step toward Israel’s destruction. In his Bar-Ilan speech in June 2009, Netanyahu recognized a twostate solution. In the Knesset last week he hinted that Israel would give up settlements beyond the blocs. Now he stated it more clearly, Ben-Ari said.
He was not swayed by Netanyahu’s pledge that Israel would not accept a return to the pre-1967 borders.
Netanyahu’s words brings Israel one step closer to the ’67 line, and soon that will be the border and Israel will not be able to defend itself, he added.
Although his settlement is located near the green-line and thus is likely to be retained in any final status agreement with the Palestinians, Ben-Ari said his concern was not for his own home, but for the future of the state.
“The question is, to whom are we making these painful concessions to and for what?” he asked.
Imagine, he said, that after hearing Netanyahu the Palestinian Authority decides not to unify with Hamas and a peace deal is concluded then with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
What would stop Hamas from taking over the new Palestinian state, just like it seized control of Gaza, Ben-Ari asked.
Dayan said that Netanyahu should have used the tremendous support he had in Congress to talk about the dangers of a Palestinian state, rather than pledge to recognize a state attained through a negotiated settlement.
When he spoke about a Palestinian state, the applause was not as strong, Dayan said.
“I think he would have received a standing ovation if he had said the truth, that a Palestinian state is not a solution to the conflict, but the prologue to a new confrontation,” Dayan said.
But Benny Kashriel, who heads the third-largest Jewish West Bank city, Ma’aleh Adumim, said he was impressed with the speech and its reception in the US.
As a long-time member of the Likud Central Committee, Kashriel said it was important for the prime minister’s party to give him a wide berth of support as he continues his diplomatic battle on the nation’s behalf.
Netanyahu emphasized the need for the PA to accept Israel as a homeland for the Jews and the need to keep Jerusalem unified, Kashriel said.
The statements about giving up land, however, pale in comparison to these two points, particularly given that the Palestinians have already rejected the offers that Netanyahu made to restart peace talks, Kashriel added.
What is important is that Netanyahu fulfill the statement he made last week, that Israel would retain the settlement blocs, Kashriel said.
Netanyahu must now turn his words into action and approve permits for new construction in those blocs, he said.
“We bless his words, but now we expect him to act,” Kashriel said.