Settlement group to launch campaign aimed at toppling the government

Yesha Council of settler leaders accuses coalition of ‘freezing’ construction and ‘destroying’ homes in West Bank

Construction work in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank, on October 28, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Construction work in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank, on October 28, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Settler leaders are set to launch a campaign aimed at bringing down the governing coalition and forcing new elections, according to a Saturday report.

The Yesha Council, an umbrella organization of settler mayors, will announce the campaign on Sunday, Channel 12 reported.

The council said it was making the move due to the government’s “unprecedented” policy of “freezing” settlement construction and “destroying” settlement homes.

The tagline for the campaign is, “There is a freeze. There is no government.”

“The current government was established on the basis of maintaining the diplomatic status quo and continuing the construction in Judaea and Samaria like the previous government,” the campaign says, referring to the West Bank by its Biblical names. The previous government, under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was seen as being more amenable to the settlement movement, and also had more support from the Trump White House.

“In recent months, the current government has frozen construction, destroyed Jewish homes, and enabled illegal Arab control over Area C on the way to establishing a Palestinian state,” the campaign says. “The freeze government has no right to exist.”

The government has not officially frozen settlement construction, but has not been approving new settlements.

The current government is a motley coalition that spans the political spectrum, with right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab lawmakers. When it took power last year, the coalition decided to forgo dealing with more explosive political issues, such as the status of the West Bank, and focus on more pressing, everyday needs, such as dealing with the pandemic.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has a long history with the settlement movement. He led the Yesha Council from 2010 until 2012 before entering politics, and leads the right-wing Yamina party, which draws support from the settlement movement.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on March 20, 2022. (Marc Israel Sellem/pool/Flash90)

He has sought to placate both the US and settler leaders since taking office. Last year, the US reportedly leaned on Bennett to hold back on West Bank settlement construction, but he also told the Yesha Council that he pushed back against the White House on the issue.

Netanyahu reached an agreement on the matter with former US president Donald Trump, whose administration allowed for Israel to continue building in settlements across the West Bank, so long as the construction did not expand beyond communities’ “existing footprints.”

The new campaign to bring down the government comes after security forces razed several buildings in two illegal outposts in the central West Bank last week.

Over 400 Border Police officers, Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and Civil Administration officials destroyed some 20 structures in Maoz Esther and Givat Habaladim, located near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar. The two outposts are home to eight families in total.

The razing took place amid rising tensions, including an increase in settler violence in recent months against both Israeli forces and Palestinians.

The last time the Yesha Council launched a similar campaign was 15 years ago, Channel 12 said.

The head of the Yesha Council, David Elhayani, is affiliated with the right-wing New Hope party, which is a member of Bennett’s coalition.

Elhayani opposed Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank because it could have paved the way for a Palestinian state.

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