search

Settler leaders, bereaved families launch hunger strike over security funds

Protesters take drastic measure after Netanyahu fails to convene cabinet to approve NIS 800 million for infrastructure projects

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

Members of the Jewish Home party sit at a protest tent with Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan (3rd from R) outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on October 25, 2017. (Courtesy: Samaria Regional Council)
Members of the Jewish Home party sit at a protest tent with Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan (3rd from R) outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on October 25, 2017. (Courtesy: Samaria Regional Council)

A group of settler leaders and representatives of bereaved families on Saturday announced a hunger strike to demand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately transfer funds he pledged for West Bank security and infrastructure development.

“It should not have come to this,” said Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan in a statement declaring the drastic move. “Mr. Prime Minister, do the right thing… Give a real source of funding for the paving of the bypass roads and the means of security.”

Dagan, along with two West Bank local council heads, and representatives of families that lost relatives in terror attacks on roads beyond the Green Line, launched a tent protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on October 24.

In a meeting with settler leaders late last month, Netanyahu promised to earmark NIS 800 million ($228 million) for West Bank roads and infrastructure development. But Dagan and some of the more hawkish settler leaders have expressed incredulity at the prime minister’s promises and have refused to leave the protest tent until the funds are transferred.

The package would include bypass roads around Palestinian towns, additional cellphone towers to improve reception in rural areas, more streetlights on poorly lit roads, and the bolstering of armored buses that travel through the West Bank.

Yossi Dagan address a protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence demanding that funds be transferred for the paving of bypass roads in the West Bank on October 29, 2017. (Courtesy: Samaria Regional Council)

“After two weeks of sitting in front of your house, not only for our sake but for the sake of all the people of Israel, you did not even bother to come to hear our claims, which focus on the security of the citizens of this country and the prevention of the next terror attack,” the families of terror victims wrote the prime minister in a letter.

“We are forced to inform you of the intensification of our struggle, and that starting Sunday morning we will be beginning a hunger strike in front of your home,” they said.

The bereaved families’ representatives said the decision to hunger strike was made after Netanyahu failed to convene a cabinet meeting to discuss and approve the funding.

While Dagan’s substantial clout in the Likud Central Committee has led to visits by over a dozen lawmakers from the Likud, Jewish Home and Kulanu parties, the Samaria Regional Council chairman does not appear to have the backing of most settler leaders. Of the 24 local and regional council chairman in the West Bank, only two have joined Dagan outside Netanyahu’s residence.

Illustrative: Palestinian women from the Jalazoun refugee camp stand at a crossroad in the West Bank city of Ramallah with the Israeli settlement of Beit El seen behind them, on January 25, 2017. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Last week, former chairman of the Yesha settlement umbrella council Avi Roeh told The Times of Israel his organization was not taking part in the protests, saying he believed Netanyahu would honor his pledge.

Settlers say the roads, which would circumvent Palestinian population centers, are integral for their safety, citing terror attacks that have taken place on roads that run through Palestinian villages.

But opponents of the new roads say they are discriminatory: that bypass roads encourage the establishment of illegal outposts and are sometimes paved on private Palestinian land.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed