At Dedication of West Bank School, Netanyahu Pleads the Fifth on Future of Settlements

Visiting Barkan settlement, Netanyahu dedicated an elementary school named after his father Benzion Netanyahu and avoided any clear statements on the peace process or the future of the settlements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited on Monday the settlement of Barkan in the West Bank, for the first time since the election and two days before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives for a visit in Israel.

Netanyahu, who visited Barkan for the dedication of an elementary school named after his father, Benzion Netanyahu, avoided making binding or clear statements regarding the peace process or the future of the settlements.

Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron Regional Council who is considered one of the leading extremists on the Yesha Council, praised Netanyahu by calling him the "best prime minister Israel has ever had," but immediately followed his statement by challenging the prime minister over settlement construction.

Mesika's remarks are indicative of the growing suspicions among the right that Netanyahu is planning to take diplomatic steps that could include evacuating or dismantling settlements.

"From your father, you draw the strength of mind necessary to be a powerful leader amongst the nations of the world," said Mesika to Netanyahu during the dedication ceremony. "I call on you strengthen the efforts to settle the land, like you promised before the elections. Don't give in to external or internal pressure. Heed your father's words. Peace is not uprooting children from their homes."

The school's principal also addressed Netanyahu during his visit, and posed a question for him while he met with the school's third graders. "We're residents of Samaria," she said. "How will your guarantee the continuation of Zionism here?"

Netanyahu did not engage in a discussion with Mesika or the principal, and made only general comments. "We will continue to develop our land," said Netanyahu. "Today, we're making our roots deeper."

Netanyahu chose instead to speak about different subjects. He declared that his government will continue to respond to every rocket attack from Gaza, and will not allow rockets to fall on southern Israel. "The Jews must defend themselves by their own strength," said Netanyahu.

Netanyahu also denounced "price tag' attacks" again, the same attacks that Mesika claims are actually perpetrated by Palestinians in order to incriminate settlers. "We cannot allow the law to unravel before us," Netanyahu said.

Journalists at the ceremony, who also had questions for Netanyahu, were ultimately disappointed as well. One journalist asked if the school would remain intact forever. "Keep trying," said Netanyahu before getting into his car for the return trip to Jerusalem.