Based on his and most media analyses of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech to the Knesset Monday, National Union chairman MK Ya'akov Katz (Ketzaleh) on Tuesday said that the Prime Minister is talking about negotiations on removal of over 120,000 Jews from their homes.
Speaking to the Knesset, Ketzaleh said that based on the content of Netanyahu's policy statement at the opening of the Knesset's summer session Monday, the fact that the Prime Minister mentioned the need for “painful concessions” along with Israel's desire to keep the “settlement blocs,” clearly implied holding on to the second while giving up the first.
While Netanyahu did not actually say specifically that Jews living outside the settlement blocs, or anywhere else, would be expelled from their homes – and, in fact, according to news reports Monday night, sent reassuring messages to right wing Mks who were taken aback by his speech that he meant that there would be no negotiations whatsoever on the settlement blocs – Ketzaleh claimed that the Prime Minister's intentions were very clear.
“This is a very specific plan that will be remembered for an eternal condemnation among the Jewish people, with the head of the Likud drawing up a list of who will be expelled and who will not,” he said.
The “settlement blocs,” as popularly defined, center on three areas – Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, and the city of Ariel in central Samaria. These blocs contain numerous communities located in close proximity to each other, with major roads leading to the center of the country or to Jerusalem. Most of the blocs are either fully, or partially, within the security fence.
There are, however, numerous other blocs that Netanyahu apparently plans to give away, Ketzaleh told Mks.
On the “keep” list Ketzaleh distributed to Mks are most of the towns in Gush Etzion, the Eztion bloc south of Jerusalem, including communities like Efrat, Alon Shvut, Rosh Tzurim, Elazar, Neve Daniel, Har Gilo, and others along Road 60 north of Hevron. Altogether, nearly 20,000 Jews live in these communities.
Also to remain under Israeli control are the city of Maale Adumim and its surrounding communities of Kfar Adumim, Mitzpe Yericho, Keidar, and Kfar Adumim, where over 40,000 Jews live.
The same applies to the Kiryat Sefer (Modiin Illit) bloc, which includes Kiryat Sefer, Hashmonaim, and Matityahu. Over 50,000 Jews live in these communities, nearly all of them in Kiryat Sefer itself.
Most of these communities (except Ariel) are in close proximity to the 1948 border, Ketzaleh says, so Netanyahu hopes to make a deal to exchange land with the PA that would allow Israel to remain in these blocs.
A bigger problem is the city of Ariel and its surrounding communities – Barkan, Alei Zahav, Peduel, and Revava, and the communities closer to the 1948 border along Road 5, including Elkana, Sha'arei Tikvah, and Kiryat Netafim. The city of Ariel itself has some 20,000 residents, and even more important, it has the Barkan Industrial Zone, which is a major industrial facility that would be extremely expensive and impractical to move.
So, if Netanyahu has his way, Ariel and the towns to the west – those mentioned above, as well as the border communities of Oranit and Alfei Menashe – will remain under Israeli control. Altogether, some 47,000 Jews live in that area . The Palestinian Authority has stated numerous times that it would never agree to allowing Ariel, nearly 30 kilometers away from the green line, to remain under Israeli control.
Not as fortunate are the towns to the north of Ariel that, until now, were considered to be part of the “Ariel bloc,” including Karnei Shomron, Emanuel, Yakir, Nofim and Kedumim – all of which, incidentally, are already, or are slated to be, inside the security fence – but are to be eliminated if that is what Netanyahu's speech entails.
The same goes for the communities further north and east, including Shavei Shomron, Einav, Avnei Hefetz, Tapuach, Salit, Migdalim, Itamar, Elon Moreh, Har Bracha, and Yitzhar, which will also be cleared of Jews under the plan, Ketzaleh says. Also out of the blocs is the community of Tzofim; although it is very close to the 1948 border, but its proximity to the Arab city of Kalkilya makes it problematic. Altogether some 30,000 Jews live in these communities, with the largest of them Karnei Shomron, with over 7,000 residents.
Also negotiable according to one interpretation of the PM's speech, but expendable according to Ketsale and others' interpretations, are the communities of the Binyamin bloc, “the back of the mountain” (Gav Hahar) communities, north of Jerusalem hugging Road 60. Eli, not far from Itamar, is one, along with nearly all the towns north of Jerusalem – including Shilo, Beit El, Ofra, Psagot, Ma'ale Levonah, and others.
From many of these communities, one can see the vulnerable, densely populated Tel Aviv area. They are literally a rocket's throw from the coast of Israel, which, from Netanya eastward, is only 70 km wide with Samaria and only 15 km wide without it.
Surprisingly, Ketzaleh claims, the Prime Minister also left out communities very close to Jerusalem which, for years, were considered “untouchable,” including Kochav Ya'akov, Mevo Horon, Givat Ze'ev, Beit Horon, Givon, Kochav Hashachar, Ma'ale Michmash, Geva Binyamin, and Har Adar. Also to be abandoned are the towns of the Talmon bloc, north of Kiryat Sefer, including Talmon, Nili, Nachliel, Na'aleh, Beit Aryeh, and others. Ketzaleh reported that over 67,000 Jews live in these towns.
Also excluded from the blocs are all the Har Hevron communities, including Kiryat Arba, Susia, Otniel, Negohot, Carmei Tsur, the historic city of Hevron's Jewish community, Beit Hagai, Maale Hever and others. Over 14,600 Jews live in these communities. The same fate awaits Jews living in the “east Etzion bloc,” including Tekoa, Nokdim, Ma'ale Amos, and the extremely isolated Asfar, on the edge of the Judean desert.
Also troubling to many MKs on the right was Netanyahu's pointed omission of the Jordan Valley as an important area that would remain under Israeli control. While the IDF would have to remain there for defensive purposes, Netanyahu said, MKs said that the speech marks the first time Netanyahu failed to mention a continued Israeli civil presence in the Jordan Valley – leading Ketzaleh, as well as many other rightwing Mks, to conclude that Netanyahu had crossed another “red line.” Some 7,000 Jews live in nearly 30 communities in the Valley – and they, too, said Ketzaleh, will find themselves homeless, if Netanyahu means to hold on to only the "blocs".