Report: PM Demands Israel Keep Beit El 'Bloc' in Deal
While nothing is official yet, the settlement framework being developed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is likely to include a mechanism for Israeli retention of the so-called “settlement blocs,” the areas where the large majority of Jewish communities are located in Judea and Samaria. Among the proposals that have been discussed to convince the Palestinian Authority to that possibility – considering the PA's demand that Israel completely withdraw to the 1948 armistice lines – are land swaps, handing over areas inside the 1948 armistice lines to the PA in exchange for the blocs.
In most discussions of the blocs, there are three that are generally mentioned – the Ariel bloc, which includes most of the towns of central Samaria; Maale Adumim bloc, encompassing eastern suburbs of Jerusalem; and the Gush Etzion bloc. But a report on Army Radio Thursday said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was demanding that Israel retain a fourth bloc – the area around Beit El, north of Jerusalem.
According to the report, Netanyahu told Kerry that Israel could not give up these areas, which played a major role in Jewish history. Shilo, for example, was the home of the temporary Sanctuary (mishkan) before the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Nabi Samuel is the burial place of the Prophet Samuel, and Beit El itself was the site of the famous dream of the Biblical Jacob, in which he saw angels ascending and descending from heaven.
In addition to demanding the fourth bloc, the report said, Netanyahu has nixed the idea of a “centimeter for centimeter” land swap, as the PA has demanded. At least part of the swap would come in the form of cash, or in the value of the land, cities, and industrial base that Israel would be surrendering to make the plan work.
The report said that PA negotiators have rejected both demands out of hand.