The conditions suffered by Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank are “shameful and a disgrace to the State of Israel and to the security establishment,” Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said Friday.
Ariel, best known for his fiery right-wing rhetoric and his insistence on Jewish rights to the Temple Mount, told Tel Aviv Radio on Friday morning that Israel must take steps to improve the economic well-being of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including the long-disputed construction of a Gaza port.
He said Palestinians should not be forced to pass checkpoints inside the West Bank and that conditions at checkpoints to Israel must be improved.
“Go and see how they stand and wait to enter Israel at the checkpoints. It’s shameful and a disgrace to the State of Israel and to the security establishment. People stand there in terrible conditions: in the summer heat, in the winter rains.” He added that workers often arrived before dawn and waited for hours without shade or water. “Why can’t we fix this?” he said.
Ariel said Gazans deserved a port for the import and export of goods and said this could be achieved with “one hundred percent security.” He called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop “considering” it and simply carry it out. “We’ve been considering for 47 years. They have no international ports. Why shouldn’t they have a port?”
He added that Israel should provide water and cooking gas to Palestinian towns, saying “We are responsible for the region.”
Ariel is a former settler leader who represents the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party. He has repeatedly stated his wish to reinstate Jewish prayers at the Temple Mount. He visited the contested compound on several occasions including a visit this past September that was followed by days of Palestinian rioting, as tensions over the status of the site escalated.