Ariel mayor breaks with settler leaders, throws support behind Trump plan

Ariel is home to 20,000 residents, boasts the only Jewish university and medical school in the West Bank and aspires to one day open a hospital.

General view of Ariel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
General view of Ariel
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Ariel Mayor Eli Shviro quit the Yesha Council on Tuesday to protest its opposition to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
“This is the best plan that Israel has ever received – and the best plan that it could receive in this period,” Shivro told The Jerusalem Post, one of a number of media outlets he spoke with as he embarked on his own personal campaign on behalf of the plan.
Shviro specifically referenced the portion of the plan that spoke of America’s recognition that all West Bank settlements should be within sovereign Israel. No other peace plans had spoken of Israel retaining all the settlements.
Trump’s plan also allows, for the first time, for those settlements to be annexed to Israel – and agrees that this can happen in the early stages of the process.
“This is the first time in history that the US recognizes that the communities in Judea and Samaria should be part of Israel, not for security reason but because we are Jews living on our land,” said Shviro, who heads the fourth-largest West Bank settlement.
Ariel is home to 20,000 residents, boasts the only Jewish university and medical school in the West Bank and aspires to one day open a hospital.
It is considered to be located within a settlement bloc and therefore would have been expected to have been included in some of the past peace plans.
But a shadow of doubt over its future has always hung over the city, which was created in 1978. Its location is problematic: 16 km. east of the pre-1967 lines, deep in the heart of what would otherwise be a Palestinian state.
The building freezes it endured a decade ago, at a time when permits were handed out to the other three settler cities, also fueled speculation that the city’s days could be numbered.
Trump’s peace plan, dubbed the “Deal of the Century,” ensures Ariel’s future as a city within sovereign Israel.
The Yesha Council has opposed the plan because it allows for Israel to retain only 30% of the West Bank, rather than the full 60% of Area C that they had hoped would become part of sovereign Israel. The council also strongly objects to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Shviro said that he didn’t like the idea of a Palestinian state, but that it was unrealistic to imagine that its creation could be prevented.
‘It is difficult to accept a Palestine state,” Shviro said. “But I live here today in this reality, and we need to make concessions.”
The terms of Palestinian statehood as set out in the Trump plan allow for Israel’s security interests to be preserved, he said.
Under the terms of the plan, it will take four years for Palestinians to achieve statehood, the mayor of Ariel said.
The Palestinian Authority has to fight terrorism, and they have to stop payments to terrorists and their families, he said.
There are other positive aspects of the plan, he said. “It is the first one to speak of a united Jerusalem, and the first to say that people of all faiths can pray on the Temple Mount,” he said.
The only part of the plan Shviro strongly objected to was the idea of drawing the “Triangle” area, where Arab-Israelis live, out of sovereign Israel and placing it instead within the map of a future Palestinian state. Israel should be working to bring both Jewish- and Arab-Israelis closer, rather than planning to push them out of the state, he said.
Shviro said that Trump’s plan reminded him of the dawn of the creation of the State of Israel, when the UN put forward a partition plan that guaranteed a Jewish state and an Arab state in what had been Mandatory Palestine.
The Jews accepted the plan and the Arabs rejected it. Among those who supported that step was former Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion, who at the time chaired the Jewish Agency’s Executive Committee.
If Jews at the time had rejected the plan, “where would we be today?” Shviro asked. Opponents of the Trump peace plan should similarly understand how dangerous their rejection of it is, he said.
“Ben-Gurion was willing to compromise, and as a result of that compromise we have a state,” Shviro concluded.