Are Settlers Headed for Ugly Clash With President Trump?

Angry supporters of settlement project now say US peace plan is a trap; will the settlers cross the line by campaigning against President Trump in America?

White House
Settlers vs. White House (Photo: Skeeze/Pixabay)

Last week, right-wing activist Boaz Haetzni exploded in anger at the White House, charging that Trump’s recipe for peace is “toxic and dangerous.” The plan aims to “destroy the settlement project” and its architects “cunningly and wickedly” exploited the naivete of the settlers, he wrote.

This all-out assault, titled “The Poisoned Candy,” was published in leading pro-settler newspaper Makor Rishon to a wide audience. Such language and attitude would have been unthinkable just months ago.

Until recently, Israel’s West Bank settlers adored Donald Trump. They cheered him on as he moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israel’s control over the Golan Heights, and unveiled a pro-Israel peace plan. But this love affair is quickly turning sour.

Settlement fans are increasingly uneasy and frustrated. When Trump unveiled his peace initiative, they saw it as a green light for Israel to extend its rule in the West Bank. However, key settler leaders are now saying that some aspects of the plan are unacceptable, and dangerous.

The settlers fear that by annexing land as part of the plan, Israel will pave the way for the establishment of a Palestinian state. They also object to a secret US map that apparently envisions isolated settlement enclaves throughout the West Bank.

A few settler leaders still want to accept the US terms as is, but most are lashing out against it. And their rhetoric, initially respectful to Trump and his Administration, is increasingly becoming alarmed, bitter and offensive.

Settlers Say Trump Map ‘Absurd’

Veteran settler Avraham Shvut argued in a lecture that Trump’s peace plan is worse than the map of the Oslo process, which the settlers revile. Trump’s map and the concessions it entails are “totally absurd,” Shvut said. “Will anyone suggest that the US cede Texas to Mexico?”

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, is even blunter. The US is attempting to “dictate terms that are poisoned candy for the State of Israel,” Dagan told pro-settler website Arutz Sheva. Elsewhere, he accused the White House of “pressing the Israeli government into creating a terrorist state in the heart of the country.”

In recent days, Dagan is repeatedly urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex West Bank land even without US approval. “The Israeli public elected Netanyahu, not Trump,” Dagan says. He claims that the US President is unlikely to resist as not to anger his evangelical voter base.

Meanwhile, US officials are becoming fed up with the settlers’ complaints. Unnamed US sources told Makor Rishon that the behavior of the settlers is childish and foolish. “They’re idiots; it’s like a kindergarten,” the officials said, while stressing that the settlers are about to miss out on a unique opportunity.

Settlers Eye Trump’s Voter Base

Some settler leaders are trying to salvage the relationship with Trump. Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi has been on an op-ed spree, arguing everywhere that the Trump plan is good and that Israel must embrace it. Another settlement Mayor, Shai Alon, politely called for revisions to the plan while lauding the “very generous” Trump Administration.

But this may not be enough as the settler leadership takes the battle to the next level. The settlers will soon launch a US campaign against the peace plan among Trump’s supporters, Maariv daily reported Tuesday. If the settlers go through with their initiative, it could be one step too far.

The growing criticism against the Trump Administration, the calls to proceed with annexation without US approval, and blatant interference in domestic US politics could provoke serious backlash. President Trump, who faces major challenges at home as he seeks reelection, may lose his patience soon. If he does, the settlers will be in trouble.

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It now remains to be seen if the White House and the settler leadership can work out their differences. If not, the two sides are headed for what could be a very nasty confrontation.