Binyamin Netanyahu (Image credit: Government Press Office of Israel)
At a rally of thousands of his supporters on Wednesday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sought to vie with the right-wing in appealing to Jews in Judea and Samaria, and simultaneously compete with his rivals on the left by reaching out to the poor.
But one short tweet blew up his attempts on both counts.
The rally was held to support the embattled prime minister, who is facing at least five corruption investigations centering on him or those closest to him. In his speech, Netanyahu said: "We are in Amona and also in Dimona,” as quoted by Channel 2 journalist Amit Segal on Twitter.
The quote is a response to Labor’s new chairman Avi Gabbay, who in his primaries campaign vowed to put “Dimona before Amona” – in other words, economically challenged “periphery” towns such as Dimona in the south before “isolated” Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria like Amona. Aside from reflecting Gabbay’s leftist socialist agenda to mobilize the poor working masses, his statement was also part of a gambit to woo Mizrahi Jewish voters through identity politics, as the “periphery” towns are largely Mizrahi.
And so Netanyahu sought to ingratiate himself on the left and right and fight for both voting bases.
There’s just one problem – in February, Netanyahu’s government razed Amona.
Nationalist ex-MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, who is chairman of the Otzma Yehudit party, honed in on this point in his terse riposte to Segal’s quote of Netanyahu on Twitter.
“If I were living in Dimona, I’d start to worry,” quipped Ben-Ari, commenting tongue-in-cheek that Dimona has reason to be alarmed if Netanyahu is likening its fate to that of Amona.
Netanyahu – who has admitted his governments have built far less in Judea and Samaria than their predecessors, and whose government continues to limit construction of its own volition – and his Jewish Home coalition partners promised to save Amona, and then went on to oversee its destruction.
The town was built in Samaria on government promises to legalize its status, which never panned out. Radical leftist organizations filed a case in the Supreme Court on behalf of a non-present alleged Arab “landowner,” whose name had been listed by Jordan on the land registry when it randomly parceled out territory during its illegal occupation.
The court ruled to destroy the whole town – even though only 2 dunams of unconnected lots were even being claimed – instead of ordering compensation as is standard practice. This constitutes Israeli enforcement of Palestinian Authority law, as the PA executes “owners” who sell land to Jews, or in this case accept compensation for land.
It has now been nearly 200 days since Netanyahu’s government destroyed Amona, and the town’s residents remain crammed into a youth hostel in nearby Ofra waiting for the new town that was promised by the prime minister.
As Ben-Ari noted, if Netanyahu considers Dimona similar to Amona, the Negev town’s residents indeed have cause for concern.