Yamina MK says he’ll hold up legislation from coalition members who ‘smear settlers’

In latest fallout from police minister’s statement on settler violence, Nir Orbach, who heads Knesset’s House Committee, warns he could block proposals from some lawmakers

Yamina MK Nir Orbach attends an Arrangements Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yamina MK Nir Orbach attends an Arrangements Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Right-wing coalition lawmaker Nir Orbach said Wednesday he will stall legislation in his committee from members of the government who speak out against settlers in the West Bank.

The statement was the latest fallout after Public Security Minister Omer Barlev announced that he had discussed “settler violence” with a visiting American diplomat earlier this week. The dustup has formed cracks in the diverse governing coalition as its right-wing flank has hurried to defend the settler movement.

Orbach is a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party and chairman of the Knesset’s House Committee, in charge of legislation pertaining to parliament itself.

“I’m following with concern the inciting messages by coalition members aimed at smearing and hurting the settler public at the same time terror is spreading throughout Judea and Samaria,” Orbach wrote in a letter to coalition whip Idit Silman, referring to the West Bank.

He said some statements had been used by foreign bodies and Palestinians to defame Israel.

As chairman of the House Committee, Orbach said: “Every law proposal that comes up from those Knesset members will not be advanced by the committee. As long as coalition members harm me and the public that I represent, I do not intend to support any initiative or legislation from them.”

It wasn’t clear which coalition members Orbach was referring to, besides Barlev.

Orbach wavered before joining the coalition ahead of the government’s formation earlier this year as he and other right-wing lawmakers came under heavy pressure to sink the emerging government.

The government’s right wing has accused Barlev — a member of the center-left Labor party — of generalizing the actions of a few extremists to condemn an entire community.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday tacitly joined those criticizing Barlev.

“Settlers in Judea and Samaria have suffered violence and terror, daily, for decades,” Bennett tweeted. “They are the defensive bulwark for all of us, and we must strengthen and support them, in words and actions.”

Other right-wing coalition members, and opposition lawmakers, criticized Barlev for the remarks.

On Tuesday morning, Barlev pushed back, saying his critics were having difficulty “looking in the mirror,” and that settler violence was becoming an issue on the international stage.

The Palestinian Authority praised Barlev on Wednesday, saying: “This recognition is an initial step in the right direction, but it is not enough.”

Barlev’s initial remark and the subsequent pushback follow a noted rise in violent attacks by Israeli extremists against Palestinians compared to previous years.

While no official figures have been released, the Shin Bet has reported a 50% rise in extremist Jewish attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank over the past year.

Pro-Palestinian rights groups say the assailants are rarely prosecuted, reporting that the vast majority of cases are closed without indictments.

According to a Wednesday report, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Barlev have agreed to draft hundreds of Israel Defense Forces soldiers into the police so that more police officers can be redirected to the West Bank and help combat extremist settler violence.

The IDF soldiers will perform routine, daily police tasks while the police officers will work in the West Bank against extremist settlers and on other problems there, Channel 13 reported, without giving further specifics.

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