"The Jewish people's right to settle anywhere in their historic land in undisputable," Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon said Wednesday, during a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the West Bank settlement of Eli, north of Ramallah.
Eli is home to some 700 families, both religious and secular. About 1,000 people gathered at the local amphitheater to celebrate the community's quarter-century mark, including Yesha Council's Danny Dayan and Pinchas Wallerstein and Zeev Hever of the Amana settlement movement.
"Eli has brought life to the Zionist vision and our generation's mission," said Yaalon, who was one of the evening's key speakers.
"It is time that the Israeli public understands what has really been going on here for the past decades… The one thing that's clear is that the continuing withdrawals have only whetted our neighbors' appetite, giving them the impression that what we have built here is temporal."
Wallerstein, who took the stage next, added: "If there is any settlement Israelis should salute – it's Eli. Every single Zionist revolution in the past 20 years has been implemented by the people of Eli. The entire concept of military prep school also originated in Eli."
Eli Secretary Sami Krasenti addressed the planned settlement freeze in his speech, saying "the issue of settlement freeze which we are hearing about in the news daily is another obstacle to understanding that we have to keep being here and living here."