Settler leader bemoans ‘putsch’ as Kedumim mayor named Yesha chief

Settler leader bemoans ‘putsch’ as Kedumim mayor named Yesha chief

Hananel Dorani, who submitted candidacy hours before vote was to be held, gets nod to lead umbrella organization

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Kedumim Mayor Hananel Dorani (C) visits a the protest tent set up by Beit El residents outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 18, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Kedumim Mayor Hananel Dorani (C) visits a the protest tent set up by Beit El residents outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 18, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite submitting his candidacy just hours before the vote, Kedumim Local Council head Hananel Dorani was named the next chairman of the Yesha settlement umbrella council Thursday, capping a chaotic two-month election process that ended with some members questioning the group’s legitimacy.

While largely unknown to the greater public, Dorani has been the longest serving West Bank local council head in the Yesha Council, having taken over in 2007 as mayor of Kedumim, a religious settlement in the northern West Bank.

Dorani was active in protests against the 2005 pullout from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank. In solidarity with the evacuees, he moved with his family to one of those settlements, Homesh, prior to its razing.

The 50-year-old father of six is an accountant by trade and a lieutenant colonel in the reserves, and heads the Yesha Council’s security committee.

“Hananel is a man of action and truth, quietly and resolutely acting to strengthen the settlement movement. The Yesha Council leadership has chosen a worthy person to lead it,” said outgoing chairman Avi Roeh.

Yesha Council head Avi Roeh speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on March 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Dorani’s victory was guaranteed after the lone remaining candidate, Karnei Shomron Local Council chairman Yigal Lahav, took himself out of the running earlier Thursday morning.

In a bitter letter to Yesha members, Lahav blasted what he suggested was a last-minute plot by a number of West Bank council chairmen to prevent his election as chairman. He claimed that a group of opponents had pressured Dorani to submit his candidacy late Wednesday night, threatening to boycott the vote if Lahav remained the only candidate.

“I never could have imagined that the fear of the other” would lead to such actions by fellow Yesha members, Lahav wrote.

“In light of the sad reality I have encountered over the last two months [since Roeh’s resignation], culminating last night with my marginalization by some of the local council chairmen and continuing with the shameful and offensive statements that were made about me today, I have decided to remove myself from this organization, which does not respect the other or desire my presence,” he concluded.

Karnei Shomron Mayor Yigal Lahav (Karnei Shomron local council)

Speaking with The Times of Israel, Lahav declined to elaborate on the “offensive statements” made against him and did not expand on what he meant by “fear of the other,” but the Karnei Shomron mayor has been critical in the past of Yesha’s “inadequate’ representation of secular settlers.

Also bowing out of the race Wednesday morning was Efrat Local Council chairman and Yesha Foreign Envoy Oded Revivi. The fluent English speaker, who has ties in the Prime Minister’s Office, had been seen by many as the favorite. But a spokesman for Revivi told The Times of Israel that he had never officially submitted his candidacy and that while he had strongly considered running, Revivi ultimately decided against it Thursday morning.

Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the pro-settlements Yesha Council, at the Haaretz Peace Conference in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2017 (Tomer Appelbaum)

Beit Aryeh Local Council chairman Avi Naim released a fiery statement blasting Yesha’s handling of the election process. “Some of the [West Bank] council heads are not allowed to vote in these ‘elections’; some local council heads are boycotting the vote in protest of the candidates; other, more rebellious ones are submitting a new candidate at the crack of dawn out of fear of the two candidates remaining. This is how the body that is supposed to be representing the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria looks,” he said mockingly.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one regional council head confirmed Lahav’s version of events and referred to the manner in which Dorani was chosen as “nothing less than a putsch in the 90th minute.”

“I went to bed last night assuming we had two candidates – Yigal Lahav and Oded Revivi – and woke up to a completely different scenario,” he said.

The settler leader explained that a number of settler activists and NGOs had effected a “frantic” last-minute campaign, sending out hundreds of emails and WhatsApp messages that suggested that Lahav and Revivi were unfit to be the next leaders of Yesha due to their supposed support for a Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Yesha Council leaders at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 27, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Seen by The Times of Israel, one of those emails was titled “Is the Yesha Council for a Palestinian state?? Urgent,” and included links to articles and videos in which Revivi and Lahav are accused of promoting left-wing opinions.

“Revivi understood that his ‘supporters’ weren’t really with him,” the regional council head explained, suggesting that the smear “campaign” was the real reason Revivi – for whom he had intended to vote – decided to pull out of the running.

“Hananel [Dorani] was not elected!” he exclaimed. “The announcement that Yesha put out this morning was bogus. I’d expect them to approach the members and ask what they thought of the lone candidate before making the announcement.”

For his part, Dorani alluded to some of the recent quarrels in a video message after his election. “I call on my fellow local council chairmen to join together because only in this way can we succeed in bringing the settlement movement to its proper place,” he said.

Speaking with The Times of Israel, Yesha spokesman Yigal Dilmoni dismissed all claims of misconduct and said his organization “is looking ahead, not back.”

read more: