Rivlin Appeals for End to Hunger Strike

Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan (center) at the protest tent of Yesha Council and Young Settlements Forum, demanding the government legalize outposts, outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin appealed to leaders of a hunger strike demanding normalization of illegal outpost communities to call off the strike, after the collapse of one of its members.

Rivlin on Sunday spoke by phone with Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan to inquire after his welfare and that of fellow protestors, following the collapse of Etay Zar over Shabbos. A Gilad Farm resident and well-known activist, Zar fainted and was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The president said to Dagan and to the other protestors, “I ask you to sit together and decide on the end of the hunger strike. I am very concerned for you. A hunger strike is always an extreme stand, and particularly so during corona. You are more vulnerable and in greater danger. Please, take good care of yourselves.

Dagan thanked the president for his call, but said he was sorry, he could not accede to the president’s request, saying, “We cannot stop the hunger strike and I cannot go back to my heated office and eat when some of our children in the settlements are at home in lockdown without electricity,” according to a statement released by the president’s office.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ indicated that he might ask the government to issue a declaration of intent to legalize 46 outposts within the coming days, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“We are currently in discussions with the Defense Ministry about the young settlements [outposts],” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting, although it has not met in close to a month due to the ongoing rift with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

One of the issues between them is Gantz’s objection to a declaration of intent to legalize the outposts.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu said that “I very much hope we can reach an agreement in the next day or two. The [matter] must be resolved,” he said. “There is no justification for this and it causes unnecessary suffering.”

“This is a humanitarian issue,” adding that these people “do not have [regulated] electricity and water.”

While the declaration, which already exists in draft form, would not immediately authorize the 46 fledgling communities, some of which have existed for more than two decades, it would make it possible for them to be treated in a de facto manner as if they were legalized.

To press their case, the protesters set up an encampment in front of the Prime Minister’s Office and held rallies both there and in front of Gantz’s home. The latest rally was on Sunday as the government met.

At the rally, Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shalom Neeman castigated Gantz for his obstructionism:

“After everything is ready, and everyone is ready, after the prime minister drafted a government resolution calling for the official authorization of the ‘young settlements’ and after the attorney-general approved it, there is just one person who isn’t ready to put the issue on the agenda, and that is Benny Gantz. Benny Gantz,” Neeman said. “We thought that you were everyone’s defense minister.”