(JTA) – At a controversial event in the West Bank marking 50 years of settlements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel will not uproot any Jews or Arabs from their land.
Thousands attended the event Wednesday night in a field outside Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, but many officials boycotted the ceremony, including left-wing politicians and ambassadors to Israel from several countries. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, did not attend.
It was the first state-funded event held in the West Bank, according to the Yesha Council, which advocates for settlements.
“We have brought about magnificent settlement in Judea and Samaria that we are maintaining and strengthening – responsibly, wisely and persistently,” Netanyahu said. “Settlement is important to you my friends. It is no less important to me and therefore, I tell you clearly and before anything: There will be no more uprooting of communities in the Land of Israel!”
“It is not just a question of links to the homeland, though it is certainly that, but first of all, that is not the way to make peace. We will uproot neither Jews nor Arabs. We did not receive peace; we received terror and missiles! We will not go back to this,” he said, referring to Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
The president of Israel’s Supreme Court, Miriam Naor, ordered justices not to attend the ceremony, citing its political nature.
Members of the Peace Now organization protested outside the event, calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank. Evacuees of illegal outposts also demonstrated, demanding the government legalize outlying settlements and outposts.
In addition to speeches, the event featured music, dancers and fireworks.