In video, PM welcomes attendees at confab promoting Palestinian emigration

Ahead of vote on diplomatic plan that refuses Palestinians the right to vote, Netanyahu tells crowd at National Union conference he’s ‘pleased’ they’re discussing Israel’s future

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

As a right-wing nationalist conference convened Tuesday to adopt a diplomatic initiative encouraging Palestinian emigration from the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told attendees via video that he was “pleased” they were grappling with Israel’s future.

Netanyahu’s remarks came in the form of a pre-recorded clip that was played at the opening of the National Union party’s first diplomatic conference at the Leonardo Hotel in Jerusalem.

“I was pleased to hear that you are dedicating the discussions at this conference to the future of the Land of Israel,״ Netanyahu told the crowd in the video clip.

Netanyahu went on to boast of the state’s achievements over the past 70 years, adding, “We are building the land and we are settling it. In the mountains, in the valleys, in the Galilee, in the Negev, and yes, in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) as well. Because this is our land. The homeland of the Jewish people. The only land promised to our forefathers. We were given the right to settle here. And we must guard it with caution.”

“This is what we are doing,” he added, concluding with a biblical quote.

A faction within the nationalist Jewish Home Party, the National Union is represented in the Knesset by the Tekuma sub-faction’s Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel and deputy Knesset speaker Bezalel Smotrich, both of whom were in attendance on Tuesday.

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich addresses the National Union Conference in Jerusalem on September 12, 2017. (Credit: Hillel Meir and Or Alexenberg)

The roughly 100 National Union members present later voted unanimously to adopt Smotrich’s “One Hope” solution plan to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The “Victory Plan,” as he referred to it, encourages Palestinians living in the West Bank to emigrate to neighboring Arab states if they do not agree to “forgo their national aspirations and live as individuals in the Jewish state… without the right to vote in the Knesset.”

Palestinians who refuse to accept either of those options will “be dealt with by the security forces with a strong hand,” as security forces will be given greater liberties than they currently hold, according to Smotrich.

The Jewish Home lawmaker also addressed criticism that such a scenario could be classified as apartheid. “Lacking the full right to vote for national parliament does not mean apartheid rule; at most, it is a missing component in the basket of freedoms, or if we wish, a deficit in the democracy,” he said.

Using phrases borrowed from US President Donald Trump, Smotrich said his plan, which calls for Israeli annexation of the entire West Bank, “drain[ed] the swamp” of the current discourse on the conflict by “addressing its root causes.”

Netanyahu has publicly opposed both annexation and “transfer” efforts to relocate the Palestinians.

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