Naftali Bennett
Naftali BennettIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (Shomron) that are found to have been built on privately owned Arab land should be destroyed, Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party head Naftali Bennett said Thursday, in an interview with Channel 2 to be aired later in the evening.

“They should be removed like a home built on private land in [the Israeli city of] Raanana would be removed,” he opined.

The issue of Israeli communities on private Arab land is controversial. The Jordanian government rewarded its residents with land parcels in Judea and Samaria during its 19-year rule in the area, but much of the land was wilderness that was never used in the decades that followed, leading some nationalist Jews to argue that there is no real ownership.

In addition, in some recent cases Israeli communities have been demolished when Arab ownership of the land was partial or even completely unproven.

Bennett’s statement may have been directed at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is expected to soon be choosing coalition partners. The stance voiced by Bennett dovetails with the Prime Minister’s views, and is similar to opinions held by some Likud MKs.

Bennett made a second controversial statement as well, declaring that the next government should focus on social welfare, not security. “The security threat is less critical,” he reportedly said, adding that it would be possible for the government to cut the Defense Ministry’s budget in order to free up money for addressing social issues.

The Otzma Leyisrael party responded to Bennett’s statements, accusing the Bayit Yehudi leader of “turning left” and “revealing that his opinions are similar to those of the Likud.”

“Otzma Leyisrael knows that land disputes need to be solved in the spirit of the Levy Report, and not by destroying communities and expelling Jews,” the party said, referring to the Levy Report’s suggestion that land disputes involving long-standing Israeli communities be solved by compensating Arab owners.