Building in the land of Israel
Building in the land of IsraelIsrael news photo: (file)

In an address to the Jewish Leadership faction of the Likud on Sunday night, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon expressed strong support for continued Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria. “Jews can and must live in every part of the land of Israel,” Yaalon said to applause.

Footage of the speech, captured on a participant's cellphone, was released Wednesday night.

Israelis have grown used to the idea that Arabs are allowed to live in all regions, while some areas are off-limits to Jews, Yaalon said. One example of this mindset is the term “illegal settlement,” used to refer to unauthorized Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, he explained.

“How do we give legitimacy to the idea that a Jew can't live anywhere in the land of Israel? The very use of the words 'illegal settlement' is extremely serious, and shows that we have given up territory, that our presence there is illegal,” he said.

While he promoted Jewish life throughout the land, Yaalon cautioned that all new building should take place with government approval. “A person cannot just go build wherever he wants,” he said, adding that the existence of illegal building in Arab and Bedouin communities does not justify illegal Jewish construction.

He criticized the government for terming building projects “illegal” simply because the authorization process regarding those areas was not yet complete. “Who paved those highways? Who laid the water pipes?” Yaalon asked, as proof of the government's involvement in building the so-called illegal communities.

Instead of agreeing to destroy unauthorized communities in response to lawsuits, he said, “The state needs to tell the Supreme Court, 'We need to finish the planning process, leave us alone until we complete the authorization.'”

Yaalon's remarks stood in contrast to government policy, which includes a freeze on new construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, in line with America's demands for a halt to building in those areas.

Netanyahu Censures Yaalon's Statements

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remarked Wednesday night that Yaalon’s calling Peace Now activists “a virus” is “unacceptable, not in their content and not in their style, and they do not represent the government’s position.”

Netanyahu requested that Yaalon personally meet with him. The Prime Minister’s Office stated, “Against the pluralism of Israeli public opinion, the Prime Minister believes that mutual respect and unity of the nation must be preserved. This is correct for all times, especially for this time.” Nonetheless, Yaalon doesn't express remorse for his statements.