Friday, May 22, 2020

Trump peace plan drives wedge between leaders of settler movement - Efrat Forsher

by Efrat Forsher

Arguing that the plan will essentially kill the vision of Greater Israel, some members of the Yesha Council are trying to torpedo the plan; others insist compromise is necessary, and that this historic window of opportunity mustn't be missed.

Four months since the publication of US President Donald Trump's "deal of the century," a growing number of local council heads in Judea and Samaria are expressing their support for it, even amid harsh opposition to the plan from Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani, several council heads and other settlement representatives.

In an article to be released this weekend in local newspapers in Judean and Samaria, obtained by Israel Hayom, the local council heads of Efrat, Ariel, Oranit, Elkana, Har Adar, Givat Ze'ev, Alfei Menashe, and Megilot argue that the US plan represents a historic opportunity that must not be missed.

The Yesha Council, the umbrella organization of Jewish localities in Judea and Samaria, recently launched a campaign against the US plan, with the aim of pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley immediately and to eschew negotiations with the Palestinians. 

The Prime Minister's Office received a document detailing the Yesha Council's red lines and reservations about the plan, and the council is now weighing its next steps as it attempts to torpedo the plan's implementation in July. With that, it was clear from the outset that the council's position did not reflect a consensus within the settler community, and that the plan is supported by many. 

Left to right: Haim Mendel Shaked, Yossi Avrahami, Oded Ravivi, Assaf Mintzer‎‏ and Nir Bartal (Oren Ben Hakoon)
Immediately upon the conclusion of Trump's last speech, the rifts began to emerge. 

Elhayani's adamant opposition to the outline of the peace plan led to Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro's resignation from the Yesha Council. Efrat Mayor Oded Ravivi also disapproved of the Yesha Council's stance, and in recent months has been absent from council meetings. And he's not alone. The disagreements have created such a rift within the Yesha Council, perhaps the most severe in the body's history, that some officials are already warning that the council could disband as a result.

The article to be published this weekend was cosigned by eight local council heads, out of the 23 members of Yesha Council. Some are still undecided and others are staying silent on the matter, and they are not a negligible minority.

"We stand before a historic moment, one that will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria … now it's our turn, the leaders of the residents of Judea and Samaria, to say thank you for what we have, to welcome and adopt the deal of the century," the article said.

While essentially forgoing the vision of a Greater Israel, the eight local council heads wrote. "The deal of the century is a moment of test for the leadership of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria. It falls on the leadership to say yes or no to perpetuating the status quo … it is the leadership that must stand up and say that we cannot fulfill the whole dream here and now, but that we can certainly take strides toward achieving it. 

"That we oppose a Palestinian state, that we want more, but that we say yes to the deal of the century and want to ensure sovereignty and application of Israeli law wherever possible – without pause. There are defining moments, for which the consequences are of historic significance and impact the future almost irrevocably. We, the heads of the settlement community in Judea and Samaria, have arrived at such a moment."

Speaking to Israel Hayom, Ravivi said, "Those who right now are incapable of accepting an insurance policy for what we already have, are endangering the future of the settler enterprise. As someone who sees himself as part of all of Israel, I cannot disconnect myself from the need to take a broad look at things and consider all the factors. History has proven that those who always want everything are always left with nothing, and that those who are willing to make compromises – end up with more than they initially planned."

According to Shaviro, "The deal of the century allows us to apply Israeli law to the Jews living in Judea and Samaria and make them equal, in their rights and obligations, to all those living inside the Green Line. Sadly, some people in the Yesha Council are stuck with antiquated ideas, which won't get them anywhere. If it continues in this direction, I believe a large number of members will resign." 

Nir Bartal, the head of the Oranit local council, is concerned such a development could unfold. "There's a perceptual ideological split here. There are people who would rather perpetuate the status quo, just as long as the words 'Palestinian state' are not uttered, and instead pass up this historic window of opportunity.

"Most of the residents of Judea and Samaria didn't come here with ideological motives. These are people who want to build their homes and live their lives. They, and we, deserve not to be second-class citizens. This is the primary significance of applying sovereignty. This is an opportunity that might not repeat itself," said Bartal. 

Efrat Forsher


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