On Sunday morning, Knesset members belonging to the Religious Zionism party toured western Samaria, focusing on areas in Area C (designated to remain in Israeli hands in the event of a partition) that are de facto being taken over by Palestinian Arabs. Accompanying them was Samaria Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan, who told the MKs about the efforts being made to counter Arab encroachments. Several community council heads also joined the tour, from the towns of Alei Zahav, Bruchin, Leshem, Barkan, and Kiryat Netafim, as did representatives from community land planning councils.
At the start of the tour, Dagan noted that Arab encroachment includes the paving of new roads, erection of buildings – illegally constructed – and other actions.
The Knesset members then visited State-owned lands near the industrial zone in Alei Zahav which Arabs have infiltrated, and were told about other infiltrations into the area around Bruchin. Local residents are waging a strenuous campaign against such takeover attempts.
“This area more than any other symbolizes the government’s abandonment of the land,” Dagan said. “Three months ago, I was here with a senior official in the Civil Administration; there were then 52 illegal buildings controlled by the Palestinian Authority – now there are 70. Not only that – they are planting here too, all financed by the European Union – and no one says a word in protest. A week and a half ago, some of the local Jewish residents came here to plant, in order to prevent any further encroachments by the Palestinian Authority – and they were issued with a military order forbidding them to access the land. They were also threatened with arrest. All of a sudden, there were military forces here!”
Dagan added, “We will never give up on this land. This is our land – we are responsible for it, on behalf of the Jewish People. If the government and other authorities are not fulfilling their obligations then we will be the ones to preserve this area. We will prevent this encroachment and put an end to this shameful situation.”
“I have been following the situation in the open lands in Judea and Samaria,” noted MK Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party, “since the time I spent with the Regavim organization. The struggle to maintain our hold on the land didn’t start yesterday – previous governments have also failed to deal with the situation adequately. However, there has been a dangerous escalation over the past few months, ever since the current government took power, and we must not let it go unanswered.
“[Defense Minister Benny] Gantz has given a green light to [PA head] Abu Mazen and to the European Union which is funding their strategic takeover – and we can see the dangerous outcome right before our eyes,” Smotrich continued. “The decision to establish a Lands Authority with representatives of the communities here was an important step to take in terms of taking responsibility, and all the efforts of the local residents, helped by Regavim, are also noteworthy. Nonetheless, the state must be the entity to provide a real solution. When, with G-d’s help, we return to power, we will have to take urgent and determined action in order to turn the clock back here and protect the land that belongs to the Jewish People and the State of Israel.”
MK Orit Strook added, “What we saw today in western Samaria is a public embarrassment for the State of Israel – it’s essentially a war being waged by just one side. Here we have true pioneers fighting for their land while the government has simply abandoned them – and meanwhile, the Palestinian ‘government’ is steaming ahead full-force. It’s a disgrace. The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee should be discussing this and they will do. We will not allow this abandonment of our land to continue.”
MK Simcha Rothman also spoke, noting that, “In Samaria in particular, but also in Judea, what we see is the Civil Administration systematically discriminating against Jews, enforcing the laws when it comes to Jewish residents and essentially aiding the Palestinians to consolidate their takeover of the land in Area C. Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett must decide whether they are working for the State of Israel or whether they are simply Abu Mazen’s building contractors.”
MK Ofir Sofer added, “This tour has been fascinating but also disturbing. We have seen the extent to which the Palestinians are consolidating their hold on the land here, how far they have encroached. It seems to me that the government really has no grasp of the extent of the problem here. This battle to hold onto Area C is one that we have to fight with all our might. It’s the battle for our borders.”