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AIPAC annual conference to feature Israeli settler leader discussing the future of the West Bank

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For the first time in AIPAC’s history, the lobby group has invited a senior leader of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization of municipal councils of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, to speak at its annual convention in Washington, D.C. this month.

According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, AIPAC invited Oded Ravevi, Mayor of the illegal Efrat settlement and the Yesha Council’s foreign envoy, to take part in a panel discussion on “the future of Judea and Samaria.”

Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi (Photo: Oded Revivi Facebook)

“AIPAC has finally realized that they cannot ignore half-a-million people living in Judea and Samaria, who are becoming more and more attractive to the audience of AIPAC,” The Jerusalem Post quoted Revivi as saying.

AIPAC has traditionally refrained from establishing, or publicizing, official ties with the settlement movement, in efforts to maintain its image as an organization “committed to the two-state solution.”

Ravevi’s invitation to speak at AIPAC is largely being regarded as an official “warming of ties” between the lobby and the settler movement — a relationship that has long existed under wraps.

For years the Yesha Council has hosted several US delegations and AIPAC-led congressional trips in the occupied West Bank over the past few years, according to the Jerusalem Post.

“In many instances, the guests, among them members of Congress, met with Revivi, who garnered praise for his appearances and became a sought-after speaker,” Israel Hayom said of the trips hosted by the Yesha Council.

“He [Ravevi] believes that the success of some of the AIPAC delegations that visited Judea and Samaria helped sway the US group to bring him to Washington,” The Jerusalem Post said.

In response to criticisms following Ravevi’s invitation, AIPAC spokesman Marshall Whitman told the Times of Israel that the settler leader’s presence at the conference did not “mark a shift in their longstanding policy,” and that they remained committed to a two-state solution.

“At every policy conference, we have scores of speakers from across the political spectrum — including those with diverse views on settlements — and this year is no different,” Marshall told the Times of Israel, adding “we do not take a position on settlements.”

But in an interview with the Times of Israel, Ravevi reportedly casted doubt on AIPAC’s alleged support of the two-state solution, telling reporters that “when you get into discussions with them [AIPAC], they’re not that clear.”

As a major player in the settler movement in Israel, Mayor Revivi has been a feature of Israeli media for years, specifically for his preachings of “peace” with his Palestinian “neighbors,” and last year, when he invited Palestinians to Efrat for Sukkot celebrations.

The settlement of Efrat is situated south of Bethlehem, in the southern occupied West Bank, and is one of the larger settlements in the Gush Etzion Bloc. It is home to some 10,000 affluent Israeli settlers, including many Americans.

Efrat was built on the lands of several surrounding Palestinian villages, and is one of the more strategically located settlements in the southern West Bank that form a ring around the city of Bethlehem.

Despite his public calls for “peace” and “dialogue,”and comments supporting the dismantlement of the Separation Wall, Revivi is nevertheless living in the Palestinian territory illegally, and is a proponent of the settlements, which are regarded as a major obstacle to peace in the region.

In their report about Revivi’s upcoming debut at AIPAC, The Times of Israel said he was “staunchly opposed to Palestinian statehood.”

Last year, with his backing, the Efrat local council established a new illegal outpost on its outskirts in response to the killing of an American-Israeli settler. The outpost was established without any permits or approval from the Civil Administration.

Haaretz reported at the time that the head of the Efrat council posted a video clip on Facebook,  in which one of the settlers responsible for erecting the outpost can be heard saying: “Less than 24 hours after the murder of our friend Ari Fuld, the Efrat local council is offering a suitable Zionist response and building a new point of settlement in the Land of Israel – Givat Eitam – a strategic hill that connects the center of Gush Etzion to the eastern part.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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7 Responses

  1. eljay on March 12, 2019, 2:27 pm

    … In response to criticisms following Ravevi’s invitation, AIPAC spokesman Marshall Whitman told the Times of Israel that the settler leader’s presence at the conference did not “mark a shift in their longstanding policy,” and that they remained committed to a two-state solution. …

    Sure, he added, a Palestinian ‘state’ may be nothing more than the tiniest of pimples on the ample butt of a Greater – and, may I say, great – “Jewish State” but, dadgummit, we’ll have us a two-state solution worth celebrating!

    • Marnie on March 12, 2019, 11:13 pm

      Ben Gurion started the 2 state solution decades ago – the ‘state of israel’ for israelis and the ‘state of despair’ for palestinians.

      If aipac continues to be allowed this circus, it should have to be televised so all americans can watch their elected officials clown for the zionist enterprise and perform numerous acts of depravity for their real masters, not the ones naive enough to think these ass clowns are working for any american that voted for them.

  2. Kay24 on March 12, 2019, 7:49 pm

    The headlines should be “AIPAC finally shows they approve of Illegal settlements”.

  3. Misterioso on March 13, 2019, 8:48 am

    “From Israel’s ‘Jewish Power’ to AIPAC in America: Real and Manufactured Hate”

    Palestine Square, March 11, 2019 by Omar Baddar

    “’We won’t form a government with the Arab parties.’ These were the words of the centrist Yair Lapid who, along with Benny Gantz, is the lead challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli election on April 9, 2019. This is what is billed as the alternative to the even more racist and hardline leadership of Netanyahu, who made headlines this week by rebuffing an Israeli celebrity’s protest against racism by insisting that ‘Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People – and them alone.’ None of this new for Netanyahu, who warned his base in the 2015 election that ‘Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.’

    “There are, however, occasions when the line is crossed, even by these skewed standards, as was the case with Netanyahu’s encouragement of Otzma Yehudit (the ‘Jewish Power’ party) to join forces with his right wing coalition. Otzma Yehudit is the modern incarnation of Kach, the party formed by notorious Rabbi Meir Kahane that was banned from the Israeli Knesset for its endorsement of ethnic cleansing and racist violence against Palestinians. Kahane’s most infamous follower was Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron and wounded more than a hundred others back in 1994. But here we are, 25 years after that massacre, and Israel’s prime minister is welcoming them back into the fold. The move was so grotesque that even the most prominent pro-Israel organization in the U.S., AIPAC, issued a rebuke of Otzma Yehudit.

    “But before you give AIPAC credit for discovering the line of minimal decency below which they would not sink, consider that Netanyahu, who is legitimizing this very openly vile and racist group, was still invited to address AIPAC’s upcoming policy conference. What this reveals is that AIPAC’s objections to anti-Palestinian racism and violence are hollow; a rhetorical fig leaf designed to give political cover for the politicians who continue to play ball with this powerful lobby, offering support for Israel’s most racist and destructive policies amid meaningless platitudes about peace, security, and democracy.

    “By contrast, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s legitimate objections to AIPAC’s activities and the pressure she’s under to toe a more pro-Israel line, are deliberately twisted into attacks on the American Jewish community and painted as bigotry. AIPAC itself joined the smearing of Ilhan Omar, despite the fact that her actual words, for anyone who bothered read them, only mentioned ‘allegiance’ in reference to the pressure she herself was under to support Israel. At no point did she ever question the allegiance of the American Jewish community. But the fact that AIPAC rode the smear wave demonstrates their willingness not just to tolerate real hate when it’s beneficial to their political agenda, but also their willingness to manufacture and weaponize false accusations of hate to serve that agenda.

    “Whoever wins the upcoming Israeli election, we can almost certainly expect Israel’s efforts to crush the Palestinian people, with the full backing of the Trump administration, to continue. From the suffocating siege and murder of journalists, medical personnel and children in Gaza, to the ever-expanding land-theft, illegal settlement-building, home demolitions, and full-fledged apartheid in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; to say nothing of the discrimination facing Palestinian citizens of Israel, or the misery of refugees in neighboring countries. These are policies that are popular across the political spectrum in Israel, as evident by their continuation under diverse Israeli administrations, including ‘liberal’ Labor party ones. The aggressiveness with which they are pursued may vary, but the fundamental policy of denying justice to Palestinians will continue, so long as the U.S. continues to offer unconditional military aid and diplomatic cover to Israel.

    “No American of conscience would ever support the racist violence Israel continuously imposes on the Palestinians, let alone the U.S. funding them with their hard-earned tax-dollars. This is precisely why silencing discussion on this topic is a leading priority for Israel’s lobby. This is the context in which the smears targeting Ilhan Omar should be understood: not just in their intended impact on her, but in the example they set for anyone else who may be thinking of discussing this issue more honestly. This is also why the Israel lobby is promoting bills that undermine the First Amendment rights of Americans in an effort to shield Israel from opposition.

    “But, the extent of the backlash against the smear targeting Ilhan Omar, including the fact that several leading presidential candidates came to her defense, highlights that an opportunity is ahead of us: Defenders of Israel’s malevolent policies are overreaching, and Americans are beginning to see through their disinformation. There is every reason to believe U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going to be a tough fight in the 2020 election, regardless of the outcome of Israeli elections, and that anti-Palestinian players in the U.S. political context will be more vicious and aggressive. But that itself is the most promising of signs. After all, a famous quote frequently attributed to Gandhi says: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’ Let’s get ready for this fight for justice.”

  4. iResistDe4iAm on March 13, 2019, 10:16 am

    “…building a new point of settlement in the Land of Israel – Givat Eitam – a strategic hill that connects the center of Gush Etzion to the eastern part.”

    Don’t they know that strategic hills within a “defense bulwark” will become the first targets in any future war?

    The late Ed Koch (former mayor of New York City) referred to settlements on the West Bank as a “defense bulwark” against “the Islamist armies” of no less than five nations…

    “You ask Israel to cease building settlements on the West Bank, which are intended not only to house Israelis, but to provide a defense bulwark when the Islamist armies of the surrounding states, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria – Assad or his opponents – and Iraq, again try militarily to crush Israel” ~ Ed Koch, 2013

    I hope that the 650,000 or so Jewish civilians living in illegal settlements have been told that they serve a dual purpose:
    1. to steal more Palestinian land for Israel; and
    2. to act as human shields or a defense bulwark against armies in a time of war.

  5. Citizen on March 13, 2019, 10:24 am

    How’s that alternate “congress folks take a trip to Israel’s OT” thing going?

  6. ckg on March 13, 2019, 3:36 pm

    The U.S. politicians who are confirmed so far are Schumer, McCarthy, Hoyer, and McConnell. No 2020 Presidential aspirants (yet).

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