A top Netanyahu aide told an audience of Christian media professionals that the presence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank was a positive step towards peace, and attempted to enlist their support against the boycott movement on Sunday.
"The return of Jews to Judea and Samaria is not a curse, it's a blessing for all the residents of the area," Reuven Azar, the deputy national security advisor for foreign policy who works for the Foreign Ministry, told participants at the Christian Media Summit on Sunday.
"Calling for their expulsion is a recipe for destruction and for chaos... Look what happened when we went out of Gaza," Azar continued. "Our presence in Judea and Samaria, and in Jerusalem brings stability... because we bring security by fighting the bad guys."
Reuven Azar made a case for economic peace, saying "communities in Judea and Samaria provide opportunities, and jobs," before enjoining participants to visit the industrial zone of Barkan, in the West Bank.
"The best paying jobs for Palestinians are in Barkan," the veteran diplomat, a former deputy head of mission in Washington, and economic adviser to the embassy in Cairo said.
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"People in this region are running away... to escape chaos, terror, corruption, lack of economic opportunity and lack of hope. However, whoever partners with us have hope and don't want to leave," Azar said, denying that Israel wanted to control the daily life of Palestinians, yet blasting the Palestinian leadership for being "corrupt, inefficient, and dysfunctional... and unable to cope with the threat of radical islam."
"We must partner in embracing our brothers and sisters who live in Judea and Samaria, and fight against those who claim their presence is illegal, or try to dehumanize them through different means," Azar said. "Help us to fight boycotts, they are not just, and they hurt us and they hurt our neighbors even more."
"The revival of the Jewish people in the land of Israel is a divine promise being fulfilled," Azar proclaimed. It is unknown whether he was simply referring to the Zionist idea of Jews returning to Israel, or the rather fringe Christian belief that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land will precede the second coming of Jesus Christ.
"It is a blessing for our people, our region, for the world. A force for good, a force for peace, prosperity and happiness," Azar concluded to nourished applause.
The Christian Media Summit is a yearly event organized by the Government Press Office, now in its third year. The 2019 edition, entitled "Between Jerusalem and the Golan: International Recognition," featured addresses by Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin and was attended by 150 journalists working for Christian media outlets from 30 different countries.
The summit has previously come under criticism by Christian leaders for attempting to whitewash Israeli actions in the West Bank. This year, it was held alongside the opening of an international media center at the Friends of Zion museum in Jerusalem. The center was created "to strengthen Israel's ties with the world and the struggle against pro-BDS organizations," a government statement said.
The U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, and influential pro-Netanyahu Christian Zionist Mike Evans, who founded the Friends of Zion Museum, also attended the event.