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US invited leaders of Jewish only settlement group to Vice President’s speech

January 22, 2018 at 4:41 pm

US Vice President Mike Pence (L) meets with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (R) during his visit in Jerusalem on 22 January 2018 [Haim Zach/GPO/Anadolu Agency]

The US embassy extended its invitation to a speech today by Vice President Mike Pence at the Israeli Knesset to leaders of Israeli settlers belonging to messianic and religious extremist groups.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that a spokesman for the organization that lobbies on behalf of settlements, which are illegal under international law, confirmed that the leaders of the settler’s movement received personal invitations from the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

The spokesperson for the Yesh Council -successor to Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”)-confirmed that the chair of the umbrella organization for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the director of its foreign desk received invitations to the Knesset event from the US embassy.

Founded in the 1970s, the Yesh Council was formed to promote exclusively-Jewish settlements in the West Bank. They espouse a similar ideology to the Gush Emunim, whose leaders are widely portrayed as messianic, fundamentalist, theocratic, and right-wing.

Read: PLO calls for Arab countries to boycott US over Jerusalem decision

Gush Emunim believed that the coming of the messiah can be hastened through Jewish settlement on land they believe God has allotted to the Jewish people as set forth in the Hebrew Bible.

The Yesha Council also serves as the political arm of the settler movement. They have been given a green light by David Friedman, who was appointed as US ambassador to Israel by President Trump last year. Friedman is a staunch supporter of the settler movement. The former bankruptcy lawyer is well-known for making incendiary remarks and holding contentious views that are at odds with longstanding US policy on Israeli and Palestine. He has previously served as president of an organization that fundraises in the US for the settlement of Beit El. Trump himself is said to have donated to Beit El.

Describing the sympathetic attitude of the current US administration to the activities of the illegal settlers, leaders of the Jewish-only settlements said that “in general, there is a much better atmosphere these days.”