More than one dozen heads of West Bank settlement councils boycotted a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, after he refused to invite two senior settler leaders.
Both the head of Jordan Valley Regional Council David Elhayani, who is also the head of the Yesha Council of Settlers, and the chair of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan have spoken out against American policy in the Middle East.
Elhayani has publicly criticized Netanyahu’s cooperation with U.S. President Donald Trump, whom the Yesha leader claims is not a friend of Israel.
Dagan meanwhile has repeatedly attacked Trump’s self-styled "deal of the century” plan for Middle East peace, which includes provisions for a Palestinian state, saying it could lead to "the establishment of a Palestinian terrorist state in the heart of the country."
"We are trying to unite our forces,” wrote one of the council leaders in a group correspondence with his colleagues.
“I am aware that there are statements for and against certain issues. But this is a festive gathering designed to honor the prime minister and the American ambassador [to Israel David Friedman], certainly not to go against them. Even with my wish to take part in the meeting, without everyone being invited, I do not see myself there."
The meeting was due to take place during a signing ceremony at Ariel University for agreements extending Israeli-American scientific research cooperation to the West Bank and Golan Heights.
Another prominent council leader wrote: “I was very hurt that some of us were not invited, and especially the chairman of the Yesha Council who is our official representative in all negotiations. We must stand up for our rights, and therefore I will not be attending to the meeting."
Despite the ban, several council members did choose to meet with Netanyahu at the event, including the mayors of the settlements of Beitar Illit, Modi'in Illit and Efrat.
"Not everyone understands that we are in the middle of navigation," Netanyahu told the settlement leaders.
“You can see that we know how to navigate and progress to our desired destination. It's important you explain this to your friends, I need your help," he said.
A senior settlement official said in response: "It is amazing how the prime minister on one hand signs international agreements such as a normalization agreement with Sudan, while on the other acts in such a petty manner that serves to only embarrass both himself and the residents of the West Bank.”