Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said that Thursday’s march calling for more settlement building was meant to support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in peace talks with the Palestinians.
“We are coming to strengthen the prime minister in negotiations,” Ariel told Israel Radio Friday morning. “We are with the prime minister, there is no reason to worry.”
Ariel added that he had no time to deal with rumors that his party is going to leave the coalition.
Labor MK Nachman Shai responded that the march was meant to show “that the prime minister doesn’t have a coalition or a way to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.”
Shai likened the protesters to ship passengers boring holes in the hull of the craft in order to sink it. “But what are [Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi] Livni and [Finance Minister Yair] Lapid doing on that ship?” Shai asked, referring to heads of the left-wing Hatnua and centrist Yesh Atid parties.
Thousands of demonstrators took part Thursday in the march to the controversial E1 corridor — which links Jerusalem with Ma’ale Adumim to the east — in order to voice their opposition to the ongoing US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Several leading right-wing politicians addressed the gathering, including Ariel and Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud).
A pamphlet handed out to the protesters called on the government to “withstand pressure from foreign entities” — a reference to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace efforts — and to assert Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank by promoting widespread settlement construction.
“As a mighty nation that upholds fundamental principles and rights to build and to settle in their home country, we will not give in to any dictates — both from the United States and from the European Union,” read a poster distributed ahead of the march.
Ariel promised that Israel would continue construction plans in E1, and said that no peace deal would deter him from pursuing such plans.
“There is no authority for the Jewish people to give up any part of the Land of Israel,” Ariel said. “No waiver is binding, nor is it valid. Between the Jordan and the sea there will be only one country, the State of Israel,” he said.
Likud MKs Ze’ev Elkin and Danny Danon were also present at the march.
“We are here to tell the whole world that this is our land, and that we have the right to build here,” Elkin said.
“We were not elected to be Tzipi Livni and Zahava Gal-on’s contractors,” Danon added.
In November 2013, Netanyahu ordered a pullback of Housing Ministry plans to construct some 20,000 settlement units — an unprecedented number — including 1,200 homes in the E1 corridor.
Netanyahu had said the move to push forward tens of thousands of new units over the Green Line was a “meaningless step” that would create pointless tension with the international community.
According to Housing Ministry statistics published in November of last year, 7 percent of new Israeli construction sites erected in 2013 were located in the West Bank, and the number of building projects across the Green Line rose by nearly 130% compared to 2012.