MK Daniel Ben-Simon, on the left-wing end of the left-wing Labor Party, visited several Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria on Thursday and expressed his admiration for them.
The tour was organized by MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home), who heads the Knesset Education Committee, of which Ben-Simon is a member. “MK Ben-Simon’s extremist left-wing views are well-known,” Orlev said, “and as far as he is concerned, construction in Jerusalem should be stopped, and the city should perhaps even be divided. But in terms of education, the debate must not come at the expense of the children, and that’s why I have arranged this tour.”
Ben-Simon was his usual candid self during the visit, which took place in Shilo, Eli, Migron and Ofra. He spoke with unbounded admiration for the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, but said he has an ideological debate with it and will do whatever he can to limit it.
“The Labor Party is the one that started these settlements,” he said. “We have the copyright on it. But now we are stuck with a situation in which we have to decide the future character and borders of the State, and I have now come to see this enterprise, which, by the way, is a phenomenal enterprise. I have nothing at all against the development and strength of the people here; I have an ideological argument with it. This argument must be carried out in a good spirit, in a Jewish spirit. We will have to decide, and whoever loses must accept the will of the majority. I say this out of ideological disagreement, but with tremendous admiration for what has been built here. I wish that even just a little of this strength and these ideals would be [found] in education, in building, on the other side of the Green Line – no one would be happier than me.”
Ben-Simon said that he hopes the construction freeze is extended beyond the ten-month deadline, and that if it is not, “the Labor Party will seriously have to consider whether to remain in the Netanyahu coalition.” He had strong criticism for Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, who he said is a “fig leaf” for the prime minister. Barak “will have to decide whether he is Netanyahu or Labor,” Ben-Simon said.
MK Ben-Simon stated his position on Jerusalem very clearly: “All construction beyond the Green Line – even in neighborhoods of Jerusalem – must be stopped, in order that we can get a diplomatic process with the Americans going.”
Yesha Council head Danny Dayan asked him frankly, “Why? I can’t understand you. If you simply want to do whatever possible to harm the settlers, I understand. But what diplomatic gain is there in such an approach?”
Ben-Simon, who had earlier said, “We are more on Obama’s side than on yours,” answered: “The fact that you are growing and thriving so beautifully is a large part of why I entered politics – in order to tone down this wild growth that is affecting all of our lives. It’s an ideological debate that one of us will win, and I hope it will be our side.”
Just two months ago, when he learned that the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria was continuing to grow at a much faster pace than that of the rest of Israel, MK Ben-Simon took a slightly different approach. "Which is it - a Palestinian state, or Jewish growth?" he asked. "It can't be both - and it looks like the Jewish growth is stronger on the ground than anything else. It could be that ‘two states for two people’ is no longer an idea that can be implemented on the ground – because the ground is already full!”
“We shouldn’t think that this entity [the Jewish presence in Yesha – ed.] will be neutralized and ended just by making declarations about ‘two states for two peoples,’” Ben-Simon said at the time. “It could very well be that such declarations are essentially not serious… Is the two-state plan for the division of the land that Binyamin Netanyahu has proposed real? Or is it the truly amazing and extraordinary Jewish development and growth that is real? If the latter, then it could be that the diplomatic story is over…”