September 26, 2023

‘This government is better for the Jews than it is for the Arabs.’

Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are exhilarated by a resounding right-wing election triumph, with the bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu winning some 64 seats.

The November 1 ballot saw the far-right Religious Zionism party, a hard-line settler party, soar to third place in parliament, positioning it as a potential powerful partner in Netanyahu’s likely coalition. The party is led by Bezalel Smotrich, with Jewish Power head Itamar Ben-Gvir as second-in-command, both live in settlements themselves.

Netanyahu started coalition negotiations on Sunday, and the process could take weeks. But among the West Bank settlers, hopes are already high for budgets, construction and infrastructure to keep their enterprise thriving.

“Our expectations are great,” Daniella Weiss, a veteran settler, told Reuters. “This government is better for the Jews than it is for the Arabs. That’s the name of the game.”

Weiss described the election results as a revolution. “As a person heading a settlement movement, it’s a victory,” she said. “I have no doubt there will be acceleration in development of the settlements.”

This is despite the fact that Israeli settlement building in the West Bank skyrocketed under the government of former prime minister Naftali Bennett. Settlement watchdog Peace Now reported in June a 62 percent jump in construction starts in settlements under the previous administration.

Israeli settlements — communities consisting primarily of Jewish Israelis built in the territory Israel has held since the 1967 war — are considered illegal under international law.

However, Israel disputes the illegality of West Bank settlements and cites Biblical and historical ties to the area, which it calls by its Biblical name – Judea and Samaria.

Settlements such as Bet El and Efrat saw the majority of their votes go to the Religious Zionism party, which advocates for the annexation of settlements. Netanyahu pledged in 2020 to annex the West Bank before dropping it in return for normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain under the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords.

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