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Netanyahu calls to ‘deepen roots’ through legal settlement in response to terror, says illegal land grabs ‘unacceptable’

PM appears willing to endure ire from US, as Biden administration reverses Trump settlement cooperation policy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, June 18, 2023. (Photo: Amit Shabi/POOL)

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israel Defense Forces were “changing the equation against the terrorists in Judea and Samaria” following the drone strike which killed three terrorists on their way to a shooting attack. 

Netanyahu repeated his previous statement that the correct response to terrorism is for Israel to “deepen our roots in the land.” He called for an increase in legal settlement activity. 

Despite this call for increased settlement, Netanyahu directly responded to the calls last week by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to “run to the hills, build settlements," calling the statement “harmful.”  

In his address to the cabinet, Netanyahu said, “Statements which call for the conquering of the territories are not acceptable. They undermine order in Judea and Samaria. Not only will we not support them, we will oppose them. These statements harm the work of settlement. They harm the national interests of Israel, and they have to stop now.” 

Ben Gvir, who was present at the cabinet meeting, later posted to social media that while he “appreciates and loves the prime minister, our governance problem does not begin with settlers in Judea and Samaria but with leniency towards rioters in the Golan Heights and the lack of enforcement in Rahat [a Bedouin city in southern Israel that saw recent violence] — I oppose selective enforcement.” 

Ben Gvir also said the “right-wing government must realize its vision of settlements in the territory of Judea and Samaria.” 

Netanyahu’s call for increased settlement activity in the territories of Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, comes amid U.S. opposition to such a measure. 

Following the announcement that Israel would build 1,000 new homes in the Eli settlement — a response to the terror attack which killed four people near that settlement — the U.S. State Department said it was “deeply troubled” by the decision. 

State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “As has been longstanding policy, the United States opposes such unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve and are an obstacle to peace.” 

White House National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby said on Friday that the Biden administration has been “clear and consistent that we do not support additional settlement activity.” 

The U.S. also reversed the previous policy under former U.S. President Donald Trump, which allowed cooperation on science and technology between U.S. institutions and Israeli institutions located in East Jerusalem or Judea and Samaria. 

According to the new guidelines, U.S. cooperation with Israeli institutions “in geographic areas which came under the administration of Israel after June 5, 1967, and which remain subject to final status negotiations, is inconsistent with US foreign policy.” 

While the State Department said there was a connection between the timing of the policy reversal and the Israeli government’s announcement of new settlement construction, the policy change was condemned by supporters of Israel. 

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted: “Make no mistake. The United States, by this action, is embracing the BDS Movement, violating a binding bilateral agreement with Israel, and creating a lose/lose dynamic whereby the people of the region — Israelis and Palestinians — will lose the most.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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