Members of the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus, led by co-chairs MK Yuli Edelstein, MK Limor Sohn–Har Melekh, and MK Simcha Rothman, on Thursday, toured the Binyamin Region on a fact-finding tour to survey recent government action to remedy years of damage to the environment by local Arabs.
MK Simcha Rothman said after the tour: “All of us had an opportunity to see the void of governance in real-time today. Illegal garbage dumps and illegal incinerators are polluting the environment we all share. Enforcement of environmental protection laws in Judea and Samaria is non-existent, and the fact is that what lies behind these ‘random incidents’ is a systematic, well-planned Palestinian Authority program to annex more and more of the territory of Judea and Samaria, to squash the Jewish communities and make life unlivable for Jews in this region, and to harm our ability to provide equal services and rights to all citizens. The citizens of the State of Israel who live in Judea and Samaria deserve all rights and services, they have a right to clean air, free of putrid smells. In a word: governance. In two words: governance and sovereignty.”
Binyamin Regional Council Head Yisrael Gantz and Regavim Movement Director General Meir Deutsch who hosted the MKs told them the current, right-wing government is making historic and long-awaited changes on the ground, and noted: “We look forward to improved law enforcement as well as accelerated development of Jewish settlement.”
Council Head Gantz updated the MKs on the challenges facing young Jewish communities, the erosion of sovereignty evidenced by environmental abuse, and illegal Arab construction, and stated: “This government is righting historic wrongs, making important changes for the benefit of Judea and Samaria, and we thank you and applaud you. But in addition, the government must take firm action against the Arabs’ destruction of the environment alongside their massive theft of land in strategic areas. In addition to law enforcement, the government must develop open spaces and expand Jewish settlements. This is a national imperative,” he said.
Meir Deutsch got the field tour going, telling the MKs, “We welcome you and congratulate you for joining us on this first field mission of the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus, exploring the remote hills of Binyamin that open up to the great expanse of the Judean Desert – a crucial strategic area for the State of Israel. I applaud your willingness to take a first-hand look at the challenges, of the battle for the open spaces of Judea and Samaria, and look forward to the success of your efforts to protect our national resources and expand the Jewish presence in Israel’s heartland.”
The tour included Minister of the Environment Idit Silman, MK Eti Atiyah, MK Tsega Melaku, MK Ohad Tal, MK Yitzhak Kroizer, MK Ariel Kalner, and MK Avichai Buaron, as well as Head of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities and of Gush Etzion Shlomo Ne’eman, and Director of the Yesha Council Sarah Liebman.
The tour made its way to Migron for a summary of environmental challenges in Judea and Samaria, presented by Raful Engel, Deputy Governor of Binyamin, and Chanan Greenwald, Director of “Green Now.” The tour then continued to the Malachei HaShalom Farm, stopping on route at the memorial to Shuli Har Melekh, where his widow, MK Limor Sohn–Har Melekh, shared the painful story of the terrorist attack in which her husband was murdered. The MKs were invited to an off-road drive on ATVs deep into the territory.
MK Edelstein said: “This Caucus field tour is particularly important after we passed the law repealing the disengagement, and we continue our efforts to support Jewish settlement throughout Judea and Samaria – for the security of the State of Israel as a whole. I want to thank the many MKs who joined us today for this important fact-finding tour, to see with their own eyes the stark contrast between the uplifting Jewish settlement enterprise that is making the wasteland bloom, and the Arab takeover that is causing severe environmental and security damage.”
MK Limor Sohn–Har Melekh said: “There is one goal shared by all the MKs who joined us for today’s tour of Binyamin – to promote Jewish settlement throughout the Land of Israel. We learned about the tremendous challenges these pioneers and their young communities are facing, and we will do everything in our power to solve problems and assist them. The members of the Caucus also got a glimpse of the massive Arab takeover of our national lands, and a first-hand look at the importance of action to block this phenomenon.”
In light of the recent passage of a landmark government decision on environmental protection in Judea and Samaria, Minister of Environment Idit Silman said, “Environmental damage in Judea and Samaria is extreme, and it impacts every one of us. Only two weeks ago I passed a precedent-setting government decision to erase the boundaries and combat illegal incineration operations that are causing massive pollution and to push back against the lack of governance in environmental matters in Judea and Samaria. My staff and I are completely dedicated to this issue, and I am happy that the members of the Land of Israel Caucus are focusing attention on this important issue.”