Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s policy of limiting Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria is “unacceptable” and harmful to Israel’s presence in the region, Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan warned.

Bennett told the New York Times in an interview published Tuesday ahead of his visit to Washington that his government’s policy is to expand existing Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, but only in a limited fashion.

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“Israel will continue the standard policy of natural growth,” Bennett said.

Responding to the statements, Dagan stated Wednesday that Bennett “said some things that are important and some of them are unacceptable in any way.”

“The statement that a terrorist [Palestinian] state will not be established in the heart of the country is an important statement, as is the statement that this government will not resolve the ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict,’” he said, decrying “the messianic attempts” that have been made in the past to try to reach solutions through land-for-peace deals that ended in terrorism and have not proven themselves.

Bennett said in the interview that his government “will neither annex nor form a Palestinian state, everyone gets that.”

“At the same time, the statement that Bennet will not seek sovereignty [in Judea and Samaria] is a statement that is not acceptable, as is the statement about restricting construction in accordance with natural growth,” he stressed.

Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria “is a moral necessity and duty of every prime minister in Israel,” he stressed.

Yisrael Ganz, head of the Binyamin Council, said Bennett’s policy is “a heavy blow” to the Israeli communities.

“This statement by the prime minister is very serious and explains why he is freezing 4,000 ready construction plans” in Judea and Samaria, he said.

Member of Knesset Michal Waldiger, of the Religious Zionist Party, said that Israeli construction in accordance with “natural growth” means “neglecting the development and growth” of Israel’s presence in the area.

“It is unfortunate to hear a prime minister who expresses himself in this way, twice as unfortunate when it comes from a prime minister who was previously the director-general of the Yesha Council and recognizes the critical need for the development of Judea and Samaria for the security of the State of Israel.”

In Ra’anana, where Bennett lives, “the development is not according to natural growth, and so it should be in Judea and Samaria,” she said.

Judea and Samaria is home to over half a million Israelis.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.