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No Reason To Participate In This Sham
Interview with Uri Ariel, president of the Beit Eil council,
and one of the heads of the Yesha council
By Shai Gefen


This week, Barak is preparing a critical withdrawal of over six percent from the “territories” in Yesha. How will this be done?

The withdrawal is supposed to take place in the south of Mt. Chevron and in the Shomron. An additional area will be to the east of Yerushalayim in the villages of Bitunia and Ovadia. This is one of the most severe withdrawals in the Yehuda-Shomron area. It endangers a number of settlements there.

I’m not even talking any more about the withdrawal itself, which regardless of its close proximity to existing settlements, is a terrible thing. What’s even worse is a withdrawal being done with nothing in exchange, just like that. Unfortunately, this has become the norm these days. When Arafat threatens, instead of dealing with him, we withdraw. Barak is constantly explaining how he isn’t capitulating and he isn’t being blackmailed. But the actions he is taking now are definitely a result of submission and withdrawal on all fronts.

What are the immediate ramifications the residents of those areas will experience?

There are areas in which the withdrawal will not directly affect the future of the settlements. Then there are areas which will be directly affected, such as the Bitunia alternate highway, which is near Ramalla. This road, which will be given to the Palestinians, is used by residents of Talmon, Dolav, Nachliel, and Choresh. They [the settlements] are right on the road.

Sometimes I try to get into Barak’s mindset in order to try and understand the strategy behind the actions he takes, but I remain unsuccessful. He is simply abandoning the security of our citizens, resulting in terrible tragedies, chalila. How does he have the guts to make these hasty moves? Does he think he can gamble with the lives of citizens?

The council of Yesha refused to meet with Barak regarding the withdrawals. You even refused to look at the maps. Why?

After the prime minister’s office closed the deal with Arafat, they invited us to Yerushalayim in order to look at maps. If they had called us before they came to an agreement about the area being given away, and given us the opportunity to influence the outcome, that would be one thing. But the sole purpose in our being invited to the prime minister’s office was for show. Barak wanted to make it seem as though even the Yesha council is a partner to the process. We will not go along with this, and have no reason to participate in this sham.

What are you planning to do?

There were demonstrations on a number of roads and the junctions to be given to the Palestinian Authority. Residents of the area will demonstrate outside the prime minister’s office asking him not to go forward with a plan that will endanger their lives. In addition, we are also taking the political route, so that we can influence various parties not to participate in this process.

In his defense, Barak claims that this withdrawal was signed at the Wye Accords by Netanyahu of the Right.

When the Wye Accords were being signed, Barak opposed them and said that Netanyahu was compromising and receiving nothing in exchange. What changed since then? Now Barak is doing exactly the same thing. He capitulates without receiving anything in return.

The biggest scandal of all is taking place here. The prime minister is bartering away the lives of his citizens, and it’s all due to fear of Arafat. This just doesn’t happen in any normal country!

What about Yerushalayim?

There is constant activity behind the scenes and the situation is quite grim. I must point out the great public opposition that has helped stop the withdrawal from Anata near Yerushalayim, but I don’t advise anyone to take it easy at this point. They are constantly devising new plans.

Do you know more of what has been going on in connection to Yerushalayim than what is generally known?

You don’t need to seek out secret intelligence. You just have to listen to what Efraim Sneh, Yossi Beilin, and Chaim Ramon say about the future of Yerushalayim. They say quite clearly that Abu-Dis, which is right near Yerushalyim, will be the center of the Palestinian state.

They are already talking about dividing Yerushalayim into sections.

Yes, that is Teddy Kollek’s old plan to divide Yerushalyim into quarters. That would mean not only giving Arafat Abu-Dis, but the Old City too! Minister Shlomo ben Ami spoke about this explicitly, and the assistant to the security minister even “bothered” to explain it. They say everything explicitly.

Many people thought that the withdrawals would take place in Yehuda and Shomron, but now the residents of Yerushalmi neighborhoods such as Reches Shuafat, Pisgat Ze’ev, and Neve Yaakov realize that the problem has reached their doorstep. Is it too late for them?

Concessions and withdrawals never end where originally planned. There is no end to capitulation – it leads to the lowest possible point. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s too late. We must work and with Hashem’s help, we will succeed.

We are talking about Yerushalayim, but apparently Barak is busy on all fronts: Yehuda-Shomron, Yerushalayim, and the Golan. What do you say about that?

Barak is trying to finish the political agreements, as he said, by September. He’s constantly busy with this. Even on the quiet days, it is not wise to assume that nothing is going on. Behind the scenes things are constantly going on, in the Golan and Yesha too. If Barak thinks it’s going to be quiet, boy is he ever wrong.

For now, it looks as though Barak has support. He has the religious parties in his coalition, including the Yisrael B’aliya party.

These parties have informed him that if he does something, they will leave the coalition that day. Clearly, they are not fully behind him when it comes to withdrawals. From a parliamentarian point of view, Barak is in bad shape. I won’t say he cannot prevail, but it would certainly be difficult for him. He himself said that this coalition would last until the accords, and then he would need another coalition.

Aren’t you afraid that those parties will remain in the coalition despite the return of territories?

I cannot speak for the parties, but in my estimation, they cannot remain in a coalition like this one, which is taking such a dangerous course. In my opinion, when it comes to the test they will abandon the coalition.

The Yesha council began a campaign called “Uprooting the Settlements Tears Apart the Nation.” Are you having an effect on public opinion?

I must say that there is a steady increase in the public’s agreement with this slogan, an agreement which also comes from those who do not support the Right. Baruch Hashem we’re getting through. The more the campaign is publicized and seen on the highways and cars, the more the consensus grows that uprooting settlements is the red line that may not be crossed.

Have you officially checked this out?

We are constantly keeping our hands on the pulse, testing the efficacy of the campaign with professional surveys. They show a continual increase in the public’s agreement with the message that we must not uproot settlements. Before we began the campaign, we found no significant difference between those who believed that uprooting settlements tears the nation apart and those who didn’t. But today we find an interesting shift even among those who support the withdrawal. Over 60% state that they consider dismantling settlements an event that will rip the nation apart, which they view as undesirable.

What other activities is the Yesha council planning in the near future?

We are planning a giant demonstration in Yerushalayim, but we haven’t finalized anything yet. We will not allow Barak to rest easily, considering what he’s been doing.

Some people have the impression that the Yesha council has been acting weakly in light of the circumstances.

The Yesha council has been doing quite well, though obviously we can always do more. I don’t deny that, though I think we have certainly woken up now.

Is the Yesha council in touch with the Golan settlements regarding your joint battle?

We are in contact, each time depending on what’s going on. We have joint discussions and work together, and I hope that this will lead to good results.

How do you feel at this difficult time? Do you despair?

I personally do not feel that way. I think we can make an impact and that we must make an impact, even under the circumstances. I don’t think we should despair. Baruch Hashem we have seen that our activities make a difference, and many plans in the works were foiled because of our protests. I don’t think despair helps anything or anyone. I don’t feel this way, and hope the same for others.

What’s happening these days in Yesha as far as construction goes?

In certain settlements there is construction going on. Then there are others the Barak government is hindering, particularly those near Yerushalayim such as Beitar, Maaleh Adumim, and Givat Ze’ev, which clearly shows you Barak’s plans for Yerushalayim.

What’s happening in your city, Beit Eil?

We are expanding and growing, accepting and absorbing new families. The changes aren’t monumental, but there is progress. The Maoz Tzur neighborhood will be populated by forty families by Shavuos.

What alternative is there, if somebody else gets into power – will it be any better?

First of all, we learned that there is the idea of sur mei’ra (turn away from evil). Terrible things are being done, and we must do all we can to stop it. We must stop the general sell-out of Eretz Yisroel. We don’t think about the alternatives and the political process. Barak’s course is destroying our security, and we must do all we can to stop this.

What message do you have for the public; how can they help?

We must continue working without making major statements. We must focus on action and not allow these “peace processes” to go through.

In the past, much was said about incitement in the Palestinian media. Has this improved?

Do you think they have become more Zionistic? Our problem is not with the Arabs, but with the Jews. The Arabs are simply looking at us and trying to follow our lead.

Are we at the point of no return?

I have no idea what will be or how it will work out. I can say that just as in the Six-Day War, none of us knew that by war’s end, Yerushalayim, the Kosel HaMaaravi and the Har HaBayis would be ours, because it wasn’t in the plans, but it happened. We have no way of knowing what will happen now. I know that Sh’chem and other places aren’t ours anymore, and I hope that tomorrow, in some way which I cannot begin to fathom, they will revert back to us.

Are you hinting at war?

It doesn’t sound good, but there’s definitely a possibility of war.

Do you have anything to say to Chassidei Chabad?

It’s no secret that Chabad was always the first when Jews were in danger. This is the motto of a Chabad education. We have always seen you in the forefront.

I call upon my Lubavitcher friends and say: this is an eis tzara, and Chabad must not sit with folded hands. We must all join the battle to save Eretz Yisroel and the Jewish people. The Rebbe’s opposition to withdrawals still rings in our ears, as well as his call for protests. I would like to hear more from the Lubavitcher Chassidim, and when this happens, there’s no question that the situation will look different.


Dangerous Withdrawal

The past week, the government approved the impending withdrawal from Yehuda and Shomron. This withdrawal consists of an additional six and one tenth percent. The areas included in this withdrawal will be designated Section A. 16 ministers supported the withdrawal, 6 opposed, and one abstained. The maps will be presented to the Knesset and the actual withdrawal will take place two days later.

Most of the withdrawal is in the area of Har Chevron and only a small part in Binyamin, as well as in northern Shomron in the Ganim and Kadim area. The ones most affected by this withdrawal are those living in Naguhot. The residents there will have to drive through Palestinian-governed territory in order to get home.

The most problematic aspect of the expected withdrawal is that in the area of Bitonia, the Israeli highway will be right up against Section A, without any security zone around it.

Naguhot will be the first settlement whose highway will traverse six kilometers of Palestinian-run territory. Commentators estimate that the settlement’s isolation is only Barak’s trial balloon. Barak wants to see how the public will react, and how things will work out. If Barak thinks it is working successfully, he will do the same to other settlements. In the past few days, the residents of Naguhot have been holding a round-the-clock protest opposite Barak’s home in Yerushalayim.

Another new aspect of the withdrawal is that near Chevron, part of the highway will be under Israeli authority and part under Palestinian authority. Protesting the impending withdrawal, there were demonstrations at eight junctions throughout Yehuda and Shomron. Certain junctions were closed and demonstrators, residents of the settlements, demanded alternative highways.


Sometimes I try to get into Barak’s mindset in order to try and understand the strategy behind the actions he takes, but I remain unsuccessful. He is simply abandoning the security of our citizens, resulting in terrible tragedies, chalila.






The Rebbe’s opposition to withdrawals still rings in our ears, as well as his call for protests.




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