Embattled leader of key settlements coordination group announces resignation

David Elhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council umbrella organization representing local authorities in West Bank settlements, announced on Sunday that he would step down after a tumultuous three-year term.

In his resignation letter on Sunday, Elhayani highlighted the “differences of opinion” that emerged during his leadership, but insisted that despite these issues and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dominated much of his time as president of Yesha, he was successful in advancing the interests of the colonies.

“I saw in my office a national mission of the first order, and I undertook it out of a deep faith in the importance of the settlements for the future of the State of Israel”, declared the outgoing president.

He also referred in his letter to “political developments and new elections” as his reasons for leaving, though it remains unclear whether he is seeking a Knesset run.

Elhayani was narrowly elected president of Yesha in November 2019, in a race in which he emerged as a compromise candidate, after two leading candidates left the elections at the last moment.

Although originally a member of the opposition Likud party and a close ally of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Elhayani switched allegiance to the rival right-wing New Hope party, formed by renegade Likud member Gideon Sa. ‘ar, ahead of the March 2021 elections.

(From LR) Shlomo Ne’eman, Chairman of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, Benjamin Netanyahu, then Prime Minister, and David Elhayani, Chairman of the Yesha Council, in front of a Gush Etzion lookout in the West Bank, November 19, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO )

The move has significantly weakened his standing among settlement residents and political leaders, who have traditionally aligned themselves with the right-wing religious party bloc led by Netanyahu.

Opposition to Elhayani continued to grow within the settlement movement from residents and local mayors and council leaders, creating a situation in which he lacked public and political support despite nominally being the figure of political prowess of the settlement movement.

Some settlement local councils failed to transfer needed budgets to Yesha as a result of these political disputes, while some mayors and local council chairmen publicly opposed him and called for his resignation.

Last month, dozens of local settler council members signed a letter calling on him to resign after he supported the government’s position on the settlement law, which contradicted that of many settler leaders, who adopted the position of the opposition led by Netanyahu.

This state of affairs eroded Elhayani’s authority and made his position untenable in the long run.

The process of selecting a new chairman of the Yesha Council will begin at the organization’s next general meeting, Elhayani said in his resignation letter.

He added that he would retain his post as head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, where he lives in the settlement of Argaman.

View of the Jewish settlement of Eli, in the West Bank, January 17, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat settlement, said Elhayani’s resignation was an opportunity for the settlement movement “to stop and think about where it wants to be in 10 or 20 years”, adding that the movement had “missed various opportunities to strengthen itself”. our [political] home and therefore Israel”, in the years following the Oslo peace process and the disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Revivi was a supporter of former US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which would have extended Israeli sovereignty to large areas of the West Bank, including Efrat, but would also call for the establishment of a Palestinian state, to which many Settler leaders within Yesha opposed it, including Elhayani himself.

Disagreements among West Bank settlement mayors over the Trump plan have created a new division in the Yesha Council and weakened Elhayani.

“I hope someone will come among us who knows how to think about what Judea and Samaria will look like in 2040…not someone who will focus on a vision that is not available at this time, but who will instead understand the need to settle in people’s hearts – not as a slogan, but as a real way of life,” Revivi said after Elhayani’s announcement, using the biblical term for the West Bank.

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Neeman praised Elhayani for “giving his soul for the settlements of Judea and Samaria”, and said that despite differences of opinion, he had always done what was right for him. the region.

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