Israel is making a statement against Palestinian terrorism by authorizing a new settlement in the Samaria region of the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting Jerusalem.
He spoke before the anticipated rare approval of a new West Bank settlement, already known as Havat Gilad.
It was illegally built as an outpost in 2002 in memory of Gilad Zar, who was killed by a Palestinian shooter in 2001 as he drove near the Samaria site.
Right-wing politicians and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan called to authorize Havat Gilad in the aftermath of the January 9 terrorist attack, in which Havat Gilad resident and father of six Rabbi Raziel Shevach was shot dead by Palestinians as he drove near his home.
“Today, the government will provide for the status of Havat Gilad in order to facilitate orderly life there,” Netanyahu said.
“For the murderers – exacting justice. To those who sanctify death, we will sanctify life,” Netanyahu said adding that, “This is the essence of the government’s policy.”
“A few minutes ago, I spoke with Yael, the widow of Rabbi Raziel Shevach. I told her that the entire nation and all members of Cabinet embrace her and the children in their time of grief; I also asked her to hug the children for us,” Netanyahu said.
“I told her that our policy is being carried out in two spheres. First, exacting justice. Yesterday our forces were again in action in an effort to apprehend the last of the assassins and their accomplices in the murder of Rabbi Shevach. We will not rest until we bring them to justice. And we will bring them all to justice,” Netanyahu said.
“Our second policy guideline is to strengthen settlement. Whoever thinks that through the reprehensible murder of a resident of Havat Gilad, a father of six, that he can break our spirit and weaken us, is making a bitter mistake,” Netanyahu said.
Authorizations of new settlements are rare and raise an outcry in the international community, which holds that Jewish communities in the West Bank, especially the creation of a settlement, are an obstacle to peace.
United States President Donald Trump, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, has not considered settlement building to be a stumbling block to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Last year, after Trump took office, the Israeli cabinet for the first time in more than 20 years approved an entirely new settlement, called Amihai, in the Binyamin region of Samaria.
During Netanyahu’s nearly nine years as head of government during his current, second, stretch in office, the cabinet has voted only once to convert outposts into settlements. In 2012, it authorized three outposts as settlements: Bruchin, Rehalim and Santana.
“This is an emotional moment for us, for the residents of Havat Gilad, for the cherished Shevach family, and for the State of Israel as a whole,” Dagan said already on Wednesday when he heard that the authorization vote had been placed on the cabinet’s schedule.
He thanked Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman as well as the ministers in the government.
“This is a true Zionist and moral step and a genuine and worthy response to terrorism,” Dagan said.
“The murderers and the enemies of Israel must know that they cannot succeed in weakening our hold on the land through criminal terrorism. The opposite is true, the people of Israel will live for eternity,” he said.
The left-wing group Peace Now called on the government not to approve a new settlement, warning it would be a “grave mistake.”
The approval, it said, would include a “building plan that will expand the outpost with the construction of dozens of additional housing units.”
The outpost is located 20 kilometers over the pre-1967 armistice line, and it would be an isolated settlement that would need to be evacuated in any final-status agreement for a two-state solution, Peace Now said.
Also, it is “wedged between Palestinian villages near Nablus,” the NGO added.
Peace Now also charged that only one of the dozens of land plots in the outpost is registered to settlers, and the remainder is private Palestinian property.
Approval by the cabinet, it said, “would set a precedent of legalizing an outpost on private Palestinian land, once considered unthinkable.”
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