Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri urged Israeli Jews to keep building across Judea and Samaria Wednesday, to establish facts on the ground until negotiations are settled with the Palestinian Authority.
In a visit with Gush Etzion Regional Council Director Davidi Perl, Deri stressed the importance of the region's development. Perl presented plans to develop further hareidi villages in the area - specifically Maale Amos and Meitzad - and Deri asked about the yeshivas (Torah academies) in the region.
Deri argued that as long as there is no concrete direction for negotiations with the Palestinians it is necessary to increase building in all the land of Israel and strengthen the grip of a clear objective facts on the ground.
Deri also visited Ma'ale Amos, where he used to live and serve as a community board member. Deri met with Maale Amos's leaders and advised them on the community's construction and development, even promising to build a yeshiva or Kollel in the village to bring more hareidi families. As of now, the village has roughly 60 families; new expansion plans help to bring up the final number to 350.
At the end of the visit, Perl declared that "The Gush Etzion Regional Council is proud of its unique combination that exists here; that we have representatives from every sector of Israel."
He continued, "We are pleased that the hareidi population finds itself with us. We encourage and want to absorb, expand and strengthen the hareidi communities in Gush Etzion." Perl and the MK also agreed that the partnership between Shas and the Gush Etzion Regional Council, of which Deri was once a member, should be strengthened.
Deri's public support of the Judea and Samaria building comes just days after a phone call with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, where the MK was invited to a meeting in Ramallah. Deri reportedly told Abbas that "Israel is a people who want peace, but the PA has an obligation to prove its seriousness for true peace," and the two agreed to keep in contact.
The PA has called for Israel to withdraw from the region several times. Just this week, Abbas threatened to leave peace talks if more building tenders were issued for the region, after rumors swirled that tenders to build over 20,000 homes in Judea and Samaria were never actually cancelled.
Deri's calls to establish a greater Jewish presence in the region not only contradict his call with Abbas, but also come on the heels of remarks by former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin that the building rate is becoming too high to use eviction as leverage in negotiations. US Secretary of State John Kerry is due back in Israel in the upcoming days to facilitate more negotiations.