Netanyahu at Settlement Jubilee Ceremony: There Will Be No More Uprooting

The prime minister said that removing towns, be they Jewish or Arab, has only led to violence and terrorism, not peace

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech during a celebration of the 50 years of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, September 27, 2017.
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

Israel will not remove any more towns, be they Arab or Jewish, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced to applause Wednesday night at an event celebrating 50 years of Israeli control over the West Bank and Golan Heights.

"There will be no more uprooting of towns in the Land of Israel," Netanyahu said at the event in Gush Etzion, titled "50 Years of Settlement in Judea and Samaria." "It isn't just a question of the connection to the homeland, but before all that, it isn't the way to make peace. We won't uproot Jews or Arabs," he said.

"It wasn't peace that we got when we uprooted towns," the prime minister said. "It was terrorism and missiles that we got, and we won't repeat that. That was just the teaser to what is taking place now in the Middle East. Every territory that falls to extremist Islam becomes a base of destruction, of violence, of death, so we won't abandon our national home to danger."

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said at the event: "There are wise people in our country who have specialized in differentiating between this dream and that dream. Distinguishing between 'us' and 'you.' Either Amona or Dimona. Either Kiryat Arba or Kiryat Shmona. Either an investment in territory in the homeland to which we returned in '48 or that to which we returned in '67. There's no greater lie than that. Thousands of years of Jewish existence have proven again and again that there is only formula for victor: the formula of unity and connection."

Education Minister Naftali Bennett released a video for the event with soaring aerial shots of settlements and the countryside that he later shared on his Hebrew-language Facebook page. Quoting from and abridging from Ecclesiastes, he emphasized his position that the territories Israel still held since conquering them in 1967 were its property "by right and not by charity. As sons who returned to their own land and not as foreign invaders. Even if there's opposition in the world, we'll surmount it."

Even before it began, the event stirred debate following the Supreme Court's decision not to send a representative to the ceremony, explaining that the commemoration was too politically controversial. Supreme Court President Miriam Naor had announced her decision on Tuesday, and Wednesday she explained, "The court system avoids participating in any controversial public event, in particular when the entire stage is dedicated to one side."

The High Court backed up its president later that day when it rejected a petition by the right-wing Regavim nonprofit organization to reverse Naor’s decision or cancel the ceremony. "The decision not to take part  in the controversial event, which could be interpreted as having a political nature, is also necessary to protect the independent status of the judicial branch and to preserve the public's faith in the legal system,” Justice Uri Shoham wrote.

Cabinet ministers criticized the Supreme Court's position, claiming it proves the court is biased against settlers and the settlement enterprise. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked wrote a public letter in which she accused Naor of "unraveling the official nature of an event decided on by the government and created the semblance of a political event."

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the decision calls into question the top court's ability to rule impartially on issues pertaining to the West Bank."The decision by president Naor raises questions," he posted to his Facebook page, "and casts a heavy shadow regarding the court's ability to deal in an impartial manner with issues related to the West Bank when the court itself says these are political [issues]."

Culture Minister Miri Regev told the pro-government Israel Hayom newspaper that she was considering dropping the top court's judges from the list of officials invited to official events, which is usually the responsibility of the Israel Information Center in her ministry. 

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor
Ilya Melnikov

Regev opened the ceremony by commenting that Naor's decision provided support to the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions movement. "I respect her," Regev claimed, "but we're crossing a serious and dangerous red line here in Israeli democracy."

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said in response that from now on judges should not to be invited to official government events.