At West Bank Event, Netanyahu Promises No More Settlers, Arabs Will Be Evicted

Speaking at a Jewish settlement, Israeli Prime Minister lists his four principles regarding the future of the West Bank

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at an event marking the 40th anniversary of the Samaria regional council, Revava settlement, West Bank, July 10, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Wednesday that he will not allow evictions of any communities, presumably referring in part to the evacuation of West Bank settlements as part of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu made the statement at an event at the settlement of Revava marking the 40th anniversary of the Samaria regional council in the West Bank.

“I personally commit to this, and the commitment has no expiration date. We will not let any community or town in the Land of Israel be evicted, neither Jewish nor Arab. We don’t forcibly evict people. We’re done with this nonsense. Israel under my leadership will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said, referring to the 2005 evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

“I am guided by several principles when it comes to the West Bank,” he said. “The first – this is our homeland. The second – we will continue to build and develop it. Third – not one resident [settler] or community [settlement] will be uprooted in a political agreement. Fourth – the Israeli military and security forces will continue to rule the entire territory, up to the Jordan Valley. Fifth – I am working to get international ratification of these principles.”

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“Look at what we did in the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. To be continued,” he said, referring to two territories captured in the Six-Day War and later effectively annexed.

Later on Wednesday, Netanyahu spoke at the Egyptian national day celebration. "I've been to war, peace is better, we're looking forward to see what President Trump puts on the table and we will look at it with an open mind," Netanyahu said. 

Prior to last April’s general election, Netanyahu declared his intention to annex West Bank settlements. Asked in a Channel 12 interview whether Israel will annex the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, the prime minister replied: “Who said we’re not going to do it?”

Netanyahu said Israeli sovereignty will be gradually applied to territories in the West Bank, adding that he has discussed the matter with the U.S. administration to seek its recognition for the move. In March, President Donald Trump ordered the State Department to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights.

Netanyahu’s remark regarding a refusal to evict Arab communities may run counter to pending plans to evacuate the unauthorized Bedouin West Bank village of Khan Al-Ahmar. In the past, Netanyahu has stated that the evacuation would take place “soon,” but later suspended it.

Khan Al-Ahmar has been the focus of international attention, including warnings that its destruction would constitute a war crime.

The government has notified the High Court of Justice, which ruled that the evacuation would be legal, that the move will take place after December, due to the upcoming September 17 election. A security official told Haaretz that the U.S. administration has also asked to hold off until after its proposed peace plan is released.