In a statement made on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against attempts by settlers in the West Bank to illegally seize land, emphasizing that such actions would not benefit but rather harm the cause of settlement enterprise.

This declaration follows a recent visit to an unauthorized outpost by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, in which he encouraged settlers to stake more claims to territory with his endorsement.

Consequences of Unauthorized Settlement

“Illegal land grabs and calls for such actions are unacceptable. They undermine law and order in Judea and Samaria and must cease immediately,” said Netanyahu in his opening address at a cabinet meeting, using a traditional term for the West Bank. He further stressed that such actions would meet firm opposition from the government.

Far from being conducive to settlement growth, Netanyahu argued that these activities could actually be detrimental to it. “These actions compromise the vital interests of the State of Israel and they must be halted without delay,” he added.

Response to Recent Terrorism

In light of the recent terrorist attack at a gas station near the Eli settlement in the West Bank, where four Israelis lost their lives, Netanyahu re-emphasized his long-standing position: combating terrorism while simultaneously strengthening the nation’s foothold. “Our approach has been to fight the terrorists while also deepening our roots in our country,” he stated.

With that in mind, the Prime Minister pointed out that they have been targeting a record number of terrorists and concurrently building across the country based on approved construction plans, emphasizing that the plans were indeed approved. This statement comes even as he failed to acknowledge the consecutive days of settler rampages in Palestinian towns following the attack in Eli. This led to a joint statement by security chiefs labeling the violence as “nationalist terror in the full sense of the term.”

The United States’ Position

In response to the comments made by Ben Gvir, the spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, John Kirby, reiterated the US’s clear and consistent stance against additional settlement activity in a briefing last Friday. “Our policy with respect to settlements has not changed and will not change,” he emphasized. He affirmed that these sentiments had been directly communicated to Israeli government officials.

IDF’s New Formula for Terror

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out a drone strike for the first time in over 15 years in the West Bank against a cell of Palestinian gunmen who had attacked security forces. Prime Minister Netanyahu described this as a new formula in combating terror.

In recent battles with the Gaza Strip, “we changed the equation,” Netanyahu stated, referencing the subduing of Hamas in 2021 and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad earlier this year. He continued, “Last week, we changed the equation again, this time against the terrorists in Judea and Samaria. The IDF and the security forces used a UAV to target terrorists in Jenin and this a sign of what is to come.”

Tensions within the Coalition

There are indications of increasing tension within the coalition, specifically between Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit and other parties. This tension has led to Ben Gvir being deliberately excluded from high-level security assessments post-Eli attack, even though the National Security Ministry portfolio includes police oversight. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, and the heads of the IDF and Shin Bet security service were among those who attended the security consultation with Netanyahu.

Two coalition members, who requested anonymity, criticized Ben Gvir for his call for a widespread military operation in the West Bank in response to the shooting. One labeled him as the government’s “weak link”.