Yossi Dagan in Congress in Washington
Yossi Dagan in Congress in Washingtonspokesperson

Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan responded this morning (Thursday) to reports that the Biden Administration sent a message to the Bennett government demanding that construction in Judea and Samaria be reduced.

Dagan clarified that a freeze or "restraint" against construction - in the words of the American pressure, will end the term of the current government: "Construction in Israel and of course in Judea and Samaria is only in the hands of the Israeli government, and not in the hands of any foreign government. They will end the government's tenure. Freezing or 'restraining' construction will end the government's tenure."

"The ball has always been in Jerusalem, never in Washington," Dagan stressed. "The one who decides is Naftali Bennett - and not John Biden. Just as I said during previous governments - I will say this clearly even now, the ball is in Jerusalem, not in Washington or anywhere else."

"The prime minister has the privilege and the historic opportunity to build the Land of Israel everywhere - certainly in Samaria and Judea, and the people expect him to do so without headlines. The responsibility to act in a Zionist manner is on him and the government. The public in Israel will not accept laundered concepts such as 'restraint' - which are in fact a freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria. A freeze is a clear statement and act of harming the continuation of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria.

"Freezing construction, in any wording or term, has one meaning - the end of the government's existence." he said.

Dagan called on Prime Minister Bennett and the government ministers to make it clear that the plans to expand localities and industrial areas would be fully approved: "Settlement in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria cannot be the disfavored stepson of any government. Any government that takes us back to the days of the freeze will not have a moral or political right to exist."

"The public in the State of Israel will not be harmed by the continued development of settlement. This is our country, and we are building ourselves. It is ours. No country in the world has another government that tells it when and how many units to build. Families, parents and children, who have chosen to have a stake in building their homes in Judea and Samaria, also deserve certainty. As we have known how to fight in the past and as we have fought to this day during every freeze, so we will fight with all our might at every step of harm to the development of the settlements. The citizens of Israel want the development of Judea and Samaria.

The head of the Samaria Regional Council added: "It has widespread public support in all parts of the people and I call on the Prime Minister to order the convening of the planning committee as soon as possible, and to approve all the construction plans awaiting the committee's approval. All of them."

The Biden Administration sent a quiet message to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office requesting that new construction be curbed in Jewish localities in Judea and Samaria.

According to a report by Barak Ravid on the Walla news site, the issue of construction in Judea and Samaria has the potential to become a hotbed for tension between Israel and the United States, but both the White House and the Prime Minister's Office want to avoid this and are trying to reach understandings through quiet channels.

US chargé d’affaires in Jerusalem Michael Ratney called senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office last week and said the Biden administration would like to see restraint or reduction in new planning and construction in the settlements. Ratney also expressed concern over Israeli construction in the strategically important E1 area between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim.

According to the report, in the six weeks since Bennett returned from Washington, no date has been set for the convening of the Civil Administration's Supreme Planning Council to approve the promotion of construction plans in the settlements. A senior Israeli official said that "there is a great deal of sensitivity at the moment with the Americans when it comes to settlements. That is why the promotion of new construction is delayed."

Yesha Council chairman David Elhayani responded to the report and said: "The Biden Administration should not interfere in the internal affairs of the State of Israel. President Biden knows that damage to settlement building in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley means the fall of the current government."

Elhayani stressed: "We will not tolerate this gross American intervention, and we will not give up on the continuation of construction as it has been in recent years. We expect Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to reject this demand outright."

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked ruled out talks on Palestinian statehood, both during Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s term, as well as after Yair Lapid rotates in as premier.

Speaking with the UAE-based news outlet The National, Shaked said that “he Israeli government won’t deliberate on the establishment of a Palestinian state under the present government of Bennett or Lapid when he comes into office under the rotational agreement.”

“There is a consensus among the parties [in the government] not to get involved in the issue, which could cause an internal rift.”

“We believe in economic peace as a means of improving Palestinians lives and to create cooperative industrial zones. But not a state with an army, absolutely not.”

Shaked pushed back on the description of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria as being “illegal settlements,” calling the area “disputed territory”.

The Interior Minister also slammed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as “hypocritical”.

“They’re anti-Semitic by opposing Israel’s right to exist. BDS is the new form of anti-Semitism.”