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Netanyahu calls Ben-Gvir’s Evyatar statement ‘unacceptable’

During a visit to the unauthorized outpost, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called for Israelis to "run to the hills, settle there."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Feb. 12, 2023. Photo by Amit Shabi/POOL.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Feb. 12, 2023. Photo by Amit Shabi/POOL.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reprimanded National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Sunday for encouraging Jews to come and settle the unauthorized outpost of Evyatar in Samaria.

Hundreds of Israeli Jews flocked to the outpost immediately following the deadly terrorist attack near Eli on June 20. During a visit to the site on Friday, Ben-Gvir said, “Run to the hills, settle there, we love you.”

The outpost had his “full and complete backing,” he said, “but I want much more from the settlement here. There should be a full settlement here—not only here, but in all the hills around us.”

In his address to the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said, “Calls to grab land illegally and actions of grabbing land illegally are unacceptable to me.”

Such statements and actions, he said, “undermine law and order in Judea and Samaria and must stop immediately. Not only will we not back such actions, our government will take strong action against them.”

Far from strengthening the settlement enterprise, such calls and actions actually harm it, he continued.

“I say this as someone who doubled settlement in Judea and Samaria despite great and unprecedented international pressure to carry out withdrawals that I have not carried out and will not carry out,” he said.

The appropriate response to terrorism is “to fight terrorists,” and “at the same time to deepen our roots in our country,” he added.

Israel was taking strong action on both counts, he said.

“We are eliminating terrorists in record numbers, and we are also building in our country on a large scale according to approved construction plans. I emphasize: approved.”

In response, Ben-Gvir tweeted: “I appreciate and love the prime minister, but the problem of our governance does not start with the settlers in Judea and Samaria, but with leniency toward the [Druze] rioters in the Golan Heights and the lack of strict enforcement in Rahat [a Bedouin city in the Negev]. I’m against selective enforcement.

“The right-wing government must realize its vision: settlement in the territories of Judea and Samaria, along with zero tolerance towards those who threaten that if we do not accede to their requests there will be war. Israel must not capitulate.”

Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks during a visit to Evyatar, June 23, 2023. Source: Twitter. :

During his visit to Evyatar on Friday, Ben-Gvir said, “The Land of Israel needs to be settled, and at the same time as the land is settled, a military operation must be launched, buildings taken down, terrorists eliminated, not one or two, but dozens and hundreds, and if necessary even thousands.”

This, he continued, was the only way to restore security to the area’s Jewish residents.

“And above all we will fulfill our great mission. The Land of Israel is for the people of Israel,” he said.

Evyatar comprises about 14 acres. It has been razed several times by the Israeli military since its founding in 2013 in response to the killing of Evyatar Borovsky that year at the Tapuach Junction, about a mile east of the site.

Its most recent iteration was established in May 2021 in response to two events that month—the launching by Hamas in the Gaza Strip of more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilian centers in the course of 11 days, and the terrorist murder of Yehuda Guetta. Guetta was shot at the Tapuach Junction and later died of his wounds.

The outpost was evacuated peacefully in July 2022 when an agreement was struck between the government and the 53 families who had settled there.

The government agreed that if in the final analysis the land was found to belong to the state, and was not privately owned, preparations for a permanent settlement would begin.

In the interim, it agreed to place a military post at the site to protect it.

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