Settler groups are furious with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tonight after he reportedly said in a closed meeting that Israel “cannot develop the settlements further, but rather need to preserve what we have,” a comment they saw as dangerously close to agreeing to a freeze in expansion.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party denied that’s what he meant, and it’s more likely he meant opposition to seizing more Palestinian land for new outposts, not slowing the expansion of settlements that already exist, and which Israel intends to keep.
To the settler groups, that’s a distinction with little difference, however, and they are loudly declaring that if the Israeli government doesn’t expand deeper into the occupied West Bank it “loses its right to exist,” and insisting that seizing more land is the correct response to terrorism.
Placating the settler groups is likely to be hugely important to Netanyahu, whose far-right coalition enjoys the narrowest of majorities, and depends heavily on the support of pro-settler factions. At the same time, keeping the international community satisfied means making at least a token effort to restart the peace process, and they are seen as slowing construction at least somewhat to that end.