Settlement leader to members of Congress: Help me benefit both Jews and Arabs

Yisrael Gantz reviewed the problem of infrastructure development and spoke about the freezing of all projects, which leads to a severe shortage of the most humanitarian needs.

By Aryeh Savir/TPS

Members of Congress Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Marc Pocan (D-Wis.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), five Democratic members, met with Head of the Benyamin Regional Council Yisrael Gantz on Wednesday as part of their J Street-sponsored mission in Israel.

The five hold key positions in the House of Representatives are in Israel with the left-wing J Street. They toured Jerusalem and Ramallah and addressed issues related to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

They were in the Benyamin region on Wednesday for a dialogue with the head of the council, after their visit with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. They heard from Gantz an overview of the challenges in the area and were presented with facts, photos and data.

The meeting took place after Gantz returned from a visit to the US where he tightened ties with members of the House of Representatives.

In the conversation with the five representatives, he reviewed the problem of infrastructure development and spoke about the freezing of all projects, which leads to a severe shortage of the most humanitarian needs, such as the supply of water to Israeli and Arab residents.

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Gantz explained that “there is a severe shortage of road development here. No matter what the color of your car license plate, we all drive on dilapidated roads that have not been treated for 40 years.” Israelis and the residents of the Palestinian Authority have different-colored license plates.

He pointed out that “there are many accidents because the roads have not been adapted to the population’s size for three decades. There is no place in the world where the population has grown for three decades but the infrastructure growth has stood still, and the losers are the Jews and the Arabs who live here.”

“I deal a lot with road development and finding solutions to traffic challenges and I also benefit the Arabs, so why make it difficult for us?” he asked them.

Gantz also reviewed the environmental issues in the area and, in contrast to the PA’s false presentation at the climate conference in Glasgow, presented documentation of systemic pollution by the PA. Ganz showed photos and videos of the PA’s burning plastic, polluting streams and damaging the aquifer in the area.

He also said that following the murder of IDF soldier Yanai Weissman in a stabbing attack at Sha’ar Binyamin in February 2016, he decided to initiate the establishment of a medical center at Sha’ar Binyamin that would serve everyone.

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“I have to go raise money for it myself, because ‘it’s a sensitive matter,’” he said.

The Congress members expressed interest in these issues and asked about the coping and complexity of managing life in an area that they described in the conversation as “controversial.” Gantz replied that the big political questions do not connect or contradict the challenges of daily life, both for the Jews and of the Arabs, and “whoever wants to influence and benefit must know things from up close.”

“I’m here to develop the area. My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor, I feel I am her continuity here in this land in the heart of the Land of Israel,” he concluded.