Settler Group Leader Resigns, Cites 'Political Developments' and New Election

David Elhayani, head of the Yesha Council, tells those within the organization who disagreed with him that 'I obeyed my conscience'

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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David Elhayani, then-head of the Yesha Council of settlements, at a protest outside the Prime Minister's Office in 2020.
David Elhayani, then-head of the Yesha Council of settlements, at a protest outside the Prime Minister's Office in 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

The chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements resigned on Sunday, citing “in Israel and the start of another election campaign” as his reason.

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But during his three years in office, David Elhayani had also had many disagreements with other members of the council, who viewed him as being too conciliatory, while they took a harsher tone against the Bennett-Lapid government.

He will remain head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council. The Yesha Council will meet in the coming weeks to set a date for electing its new chair.

Elhayani is a member of Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party, which he joined prior to the last election after years in Likud.

He responded to these disagreements in his resignation letter, writing, “I wholeheartedly obeyed my conscience in order to care for the future of the region and to protect the interests of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley.”

Elhayani is considered an anomaly on the Yesha Council, both because he is secular and because of several headline-grabbing statements he had made.

For instance, shortly before former U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, Elhayani told Haaretz that the plan showed that “Trump is no friend of Israel” – a comment that sparked denunciations from both within the Yesha Council and outside it, including from then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

More recently, a dispute with other council members flared over the government’s efforts to extend the regulations that apply Israeli law to Israeli settlers. Many council members, including Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan and Binyamin Regional Council Chairman Yisrael Gantz, deemed toppling the government more important than extending the regulations. Elhayani, though, wrote to the heads of all the rightist opposition parties urging them to support the government’s effort to extend the regulations.

Nevertheless, Elhayani did join the council’s statement that the Bennett-Lapid government “has no right to exist.” He also boycotted a planned meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

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