Judea and Samaria activist Yechiel Leiter is hoping to be a Likud Knesset member – but is facing a strong challenge from other elements in the pro-Land of Israel movement.
What has raised the ire of some Yesha (Judea and Samaria) opponents is his diplomatic plan that calls for immediate steps that will lead to the annexation of some 50% of Judea and Samaria. “There are those who fear talking about annexing 50%, because that means giving up the other 50%,” he told IsraelNationalNews.com. “But that’s not how I look at it. Annexation is a long process that means first building up strong support within Israel for the settlement enterprise and for these areas, making major changes in how these areas are regulated and governed, moving the checkpoints, which are not supposed to be border points - and only then will we be able to annex the areas. It also means offering Israeli citizenship to possibly 100,000 Arabs – though not 1.5 million… It could take 10 years, or even 25 years. Once that works, then we’ll take it from there.”
The former Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Education and top aide to both Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu has spent much of the past three decades working on behalf of a strong Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. He lived in Hevron for eight years, where he served as the head of the Jewish Community, and now lives in Eli in southern Shomron with his wife and eight children. As aide to then-Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, Leiter says, “there are countless number of buildings in Judea and Samaria that have my fingerprints on them.”
Leiter has plans for all but 11 Jewish towns, such as Yitzhar and Nachliel, which he admits might have to be given up. “But there are some elements within the Likud who are concentrating on that to accuse me of being a ‘so-called settler’ who wants to destroy communities in Judea and Samaria,” Leiter said, “despite all I have done and do to build up Yesha.”
Leiter’s plan - which he calls Hitgabshut [Blending Together], as opposed to the Hitnatkut [Disengagement] of Ariel Sharon and the Hitkansut [Inward Convergence] of Ehud Olmert - calls for a de-facto annexation of the Jordan Valley, the western Shomron, and other large areas of Judea and Samaria.
“If we don’t form our own borders,” Leiter says, “others will do it for us, such as with the Saudi plan, which calls for a return to the pre-1967 borders. If we continue along the path of negotiations without taking pre-emptive action, we will end up giving up 100% of the area. If I have to choose between receiving 0% and receiving 50%, I choose the latter.”
Unilateral Annexation, Not Withdrawal
Leiter does not negate a unilateral move by Israel – but it must be one of annexation, not of withdrawal. “The original Disengagement plan was supposed to also include annexation of parts of Yesha,” he says, “but that part was never done. The fact that the withdrawal part failed doesn’t mean that the plan’s other part, the annexation, would also have failed. We must unilaterally set borders from which we will not retreat in any future negotiations.”
“Unless the Jordan Valley is a sovereign part of Israel, it will become a newer and much longer version of the Philadelphi Route – along 200 kilometers of Israel’s eastern flank. Iranian weapons of all types will flow into Judea and Samaria with no interference.”
Leiter is confident that the world will accept his plan for Israel to determine its own borders “after an Israeli consensus is formed around it. Generally, whenever we agree on something among ourselves, we are able to explain that position to the outside world. We did not do that with the Bush administration. We did not take advantage of the neo-conservatives there.”
Primaries on Dec. 8
Leiter is among 146 candidates running for a spot on the Likud list of Knesset candidates. The primaries will be held on Dec. 8; every registered Likud member will be able to choose up to 10 candidate that s/he wishes to see running for Knesset on the Likud list.