(JTA) – Israel will not evacuate any more settlements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged.
“We are here to stay forever,” the prime minister said at an event in the northern West Bank settlement of Barkan commemorating the 50th anniversary of Israel’s settlement of the West Bank. “There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”
“This is the inheritance of our ancestors. This is our land.”
Netanyahu noted that the areas from which Israel has withdrawn its citizens have become launching grounds for rockets aimed at Israeli communities.
“Samaria is a strategic asset for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said, using the biblical term for the West Bank. “It is the key to our future. Because from these high hills, the heights of Mount Hatzor, we can see the entire country, from one side to the other.
“So we will not fold. We are guarding Samaria against those who want to uproot us. We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”
A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the statement by Netanyahu, The Associated Press reported. Nabil Abu Rdeneh also called on the United States “to deal with these provocations.”
An unnamed senior Trump administration official in an interview with the Jewish Insider news website refrained from criticizing Netanyahu for his vow on settlements.
“It is no secret what each side’s position is on this issue,” the official told the Jewish Insider. “Our focus is on continuing our conversations with both parties and regional leaders to work towards facilitating a deal that factors in all substantive issues.”
Netanyahu’s speech comes less than a week after he met with Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump on the Middle East, and a delegation of U.S. officials to discuss how to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
His visit to Barkan is the third at an official event in the West Bank in recent weeks. Earlier in August Netanyahu spoke at a ceremony establishing a new neighbourhood in Beitar Illit, and in June he addressed a ceremony inaugurating a new medical school at Ariel University.