Several Zionist Union Lawmakers to Boycott Party Settlement Tour

Zionist Union is working to keep the large settlement blocs part of Israel in any agreement, according to a paper defining messages for tour

A Zionist Union faction meeting, Feb. 19, 2017.
Emil Salman

Some Zionist Union lawmakers are planning to boycott a trip planned by the party Thursday to the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim near Jerusalem and several others in Gush Etzion.

The tour is the first of a series to take Zionist Union lawmakers throughout the country to connect them with grassroots voters. The tour will begin in the morning at Ma’ale Adumim and then continue to the southern West Bank to Neve Daniel, Efrat, Tekoa, Kfar Etzion and other settlements in Gush Etzion.

An argument broke out over the tour Monday during a meeting of the party’s Knesset members. Party chairman Isaac Herzog tried to persuade his colleagues to come by saying: “We’ve got voters there.” One of the MKs responded: “Do you know how many voters we’ve got there?” MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin took Herzog’s side, saying: “We can’t boycott them. They are part of Israel and will remain so in an agreement.”

The MKs received a paper defining the messages of the tour. It noted that the goal was to strengthen the connection between the Zionist Union and Israeli society, including visits to public institutions and meetings with citizens all over the country.

One message was that the Zionist Union is working to keep the large settlement blocs part of Israel in any agreement, and that 85 percent of all Israelis living on the other side of the pre-1967 border lived in these areas, rather than in small, isolated settlements. “It is our obligation to give them security immediately and in the future,” the paper said.

Another message stated that Likud and Habayit Hayehudi’s insistence on holding onto isolated settlements was directly damaging to the residents of the large settlement blocs.

In terms of history, the paper reminded the MKs that the Labor Party (Zionist Union’s predecessor), had established the settlements in Gush Etzion and Ma’ale Adumim as part of the policy of ensuring Israel’s security and settling the land.

The paper stated that Zionist Union is the only party today with a clear message: To maintain Israel as a democratic and Jewish state, the only solution is to separate from the Palestinians, preferably by an agreement, while keeping the settlement blocs and maintaining Israel’s security.

The Zionist Union MKs on the party’s right flank who said they would be joining the tour were Nahmias-Verbin, Yoel Hasson and Eitan Broshi. Those farther left in the party who declined to participate were Yossi Yonah, Stav Shaffir, Merav Michaeli, Erel Margalit, Miki Rosenthal and Ksenia Svetlova.

Supporters of Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz were themselves divided over the tour. Yael Sinai, chairwoman of the youth branch of the party, opposed the tour while Broshi was in favor.  Broshi said at the meeting that Sinai was on the “lunatic fringe.”

Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) said that “there is great importance” in taking part in the tour.

“Israel’s security lines are determined by the settlement blocs, including Ma’aleh Adumim. The position of the Zionist Union is clear, and its voters support keeping these blocs in Israel’s hands,” he said. “In contrast to the Likud government, which is trying to turn Ma’aleh Adumim into an isolated settlement, shunned by the world just as the illegal outposts are, we recognize and wish to strengthen the settlement blocs as an inseparable part of Israel. Any attempt to compare these blocs to isolated settlements damages Israel and the efforts to attain the sought-after diplomatic solution.”