The left is recruiting the media to oust my government, PM tells settler leaders

Netanyahu warns West Bank council heads that if the left is victorious, all his hard work getting Washington to agree to recent settlement expansion will be ‘immediately reversed’

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets settler leaders in Jerusalem, December 26, 2018 (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets settler leaders in Jerusalem, December 26, 2018 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accused the left of recruiting the media to its cause in the upcoming elections, warning that Israeli presence in the West Bank would be “immediately reversed” if the effort were successful.

“In the upcoming election campaign, we will see an attempt by the left to oust us from power by mobilizing the media and other institutions,” the prime minister said in a meeting with Israeli West Bank council chairmen at his Jerusalem office.

“They must not succeed. If, God forbid, they do, there will be a clear danger to the settlement project,” the prime minister claimed.

“It’s a battle over our homes,” he continued. “The fate of the state and the settlement enterprise are not to be taken for granted. We’ve had to work hard in our dealings with the current American administration to bring the great achievements we’ve brought on behalf of the settlement enterprise.”

“All this is not guaranteed. Because later on, under a leftist government, everything will be reversed immediately,” he concluded.

While Netanyahu told the settler leaders that a left-wing government would dismantle settlements, the orders to evacuate Israeli communities beyond the Green Line over the past half a century have been given by Likud-led governments.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, a group of three hawkish West Bank council chairmen announced that they would be boycotting the session over what they argued was Netanyahu’s refusal to take seriously their demands for an increase in settlement construction and the reinstitution of West Bank roadblocks in response to the latest spate of Palestinian violence.

In a letter to the 20 other Israeli council chairmen in the West Bank, Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, Binyamin Regional Council chairman Yisrael Gantz and Kiryat Arba Regional Council chairman Eliyahu Libman said they would skip the Wednesday morning meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, asserting that Netanyahu was “giving them the runaround” with “false promises regarding security and because he has not done enough to develop settlements.”

For its part, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying the meeting “would be held as planned with the heads of local authorities interested in discussing ways to strengthen their communities.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (5th from top left) meets with settler leaders in his office on December 26, 2018. (Courtesy)

As the meeting was still taking place, a Likud spokesman released a statement quoting a remark made by David Elhayani in which the Jordan Valley Regional Council chairman came to the prime minister’s defense and lambasted the boycotting council chairmen.

“In the elections, we must tell our residents the truth: the settlement project is flourishing, and that is only because of you. We, as public leaders, denounce those who chose not to come here today, When we need something we are able to reach you and your people directly on the phone. Therefore there is no reason to threaten you — neither with the blood of terror victims nor with extortion,” Elhayani is quoted as saying.

Last week, Elhayahi accused fellow settler leaders of “dancing on the blood” of terror victims in order to push an agenda benefiting settlements.

“We have all the reasons during the rest of the year to protest the government’s neglect of Judea and Samaria [West Bank] residents, but to do so while people are still burying their loved ones is immoral,” he told The Times of Israel.

At the conclusion of Sunday’s meeting, the Yesha settlement umbrella council released a statement saying the council heads thanked Netanyahu “for his efforts to promote their movement in recent years.”

The umbrella body said it raised their urgent needs with the prime minister, namely outpost legalization and the “restoration of security” to settlers.

The Prime Minister instructed his staff to advance the issues raised… and to hold an additional working meeting (with the settler leaders) for monitoring and implementation (of their requests) in the near future,” the Yesha Council’s statement concluded.

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