Settler leader says Netanyahu and allies 'spitting on West Bank settlers'

Yesha Council chairman accuses conservative opposition lawmakers of harming Jewish settlers amid controversy over renewal of settler law; colleague claims whole issue is a spin

Alexandra Lukash|
A prominent settler leader on Wednesday slammed Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his conservative parliamentary bloc for their refusal to back a bill on the legal status of Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
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  • David Elhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council — an umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, said he believed the bill was too important to be used by the opposition as leverage to bring the government down.
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    מעלה אדומים התנחלויות התנחלות סיפוח
    מעלה אדומים התנחלויות התנחלות סיפוח
    West Bank settlement Ma'ale Adumim
    (Photo: AFP)
    "We're talking about a bill that must be kept out of political bickering," Elhayani told Ynet in an interview. "Ideology means little to Likud members."
    Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War but has never officially annexed the territory. Emergency regulations in place for decades apply parts of Israeli law to Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
    These regulations expire at the end of the month and if they are not renewed, that legal system will be thrown into question. It could also change the legal status of the 500,000 settlers living there.
    Elhayani is a member of the right-wing New Hope party, led by Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who also sponsored the bill that failed in Knesset. Sa'ar publicly stated that he will consider the governing coalition illegitimate if the bill falls through.
    However, some settler leaders consider the move to be a spin on behalf of the former Likud lawmaker to better his standing ahead of a potential election and wish to see the current government collapse and be replaced by a conservative one.
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    דוד אלחייני
    דוד אלחייני
    David Elhayani
    (Photo: Amit Shavi)
    "I don't agree with them," Elhayani said. "It's important to stress that most settler leaders in the West Bank called on the opposition to support the legislation, there are four leaders who oppose it.
    "There are right-wing opposition lawmakers who levy heavy pressure on settler leaders to abandon the principles on which they were elected because our job is to provide our residents with high quality of life. The Likud's appeals cause them to betray their position."
    The Yesha chairman further said that if the bill is not renewed in time, half a million Jewish settlers are headed toward chaos.
    "I don't see a way to convince Likud," he said. "They harm the settlements to advance their political interests and those of Netanyahu. I think that if there's someone who betrayed the trust of their constituents, it's Likud and Religious Zionist Party that are spitting on their West Bank settler voter base.
    "About 70% of West Bank settlers voted for the right, it's totally okay if many of them want to replace the government. This bill must be left out of political bickering and it has nothing to do with the fact I support Gideon Sa'ar… I need to look out solely for my people's interests without any other political considerations. This has nothing to do with whether I support or don't support the coalition, I'm talking about our quality of life and the fact that if this law doesn't pass we'll be in chaos."
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    שי אלון ראש מועצת בית אל
    שי אלון ראש מועצת בית אל
    Shai Alon
    Meanwhile, Shai Alon, head of the settlement Beit El in the central West Bank, thinks otherwise.
    "This government needs to go down… We disagree on saving this coalition that can't function and fails to pass legislation every other day, making it rely on the opposition. It's high time we put an end to this."
    Unlike Elhayani, Alon thinks failing to pass the bill wouldn't have a significant effect on settlers' everyday life.
    "No one has ever heard of this law," he said. "This is a campaign started by Gideon Sa'ar. His polling is abysmal so he sends Elhayani with a script. Sa'ar forgot about the settlements for an entire year but now he wants to stay afloat so he's piggybacking West Bank voters. If he thinks this coalition has no right to exist, go ahead then, you failed, go home!
    We look out for our people's future year-round. It's malarkey, they took the most esoteric matter and turned it into an election campaign for Gideon Sa'ar."
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