Settler leader resigns in row with Yesha council

By Jessica Elgot, January 11, 2010
Settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein has left the Yesha council

Settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein has left the Yesha council

Settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein has dramatically quit the Yesha Council after a row with chairman Danny Dayan.

Mr Wallerstein, 61 has served as director of the council, which is an umbrella organisation for the settler communities in West Bank, since 2008. But he has worked for settler communities for 35 years, working in the Ofra settlement, the Gush Emunim movement and the Binyamin regional council.

His resignation comes as the settler movement is facing a crucial battle against Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s settlement construction freeze.

Mr Wallerstein, seen as a moderate, has previously criticised attacks on Palestinian villages by Jewish extremists.

He also caused a split in the movement after he demanded condemnation of IDF soldiers who refused to follow orders to evacuate illegal settlements.

In his resignation letter, he wrote: "Following an internal conflict and quite a few difficulties, I decided to resign from my position in the Yesha Council, both as member of the secretariat and as director.

"I am doing this first and foremost in order to allow Danny Dayan to leave his sign and style on the Yesha Council's activity. It should be noted that the differences between us are more about quantity and timing and less about issues of essential content."
"I am well aware of the importance of this period in time and of the need to focus our power and efforts under a responsible leadership, in light of the orders threatening the settlement enterprise, and I am convinced there is no other body which can lead the extra-parliamentary struggle."

"I have no plans to stand idly and I will convey my opinion if allowed to do so, but I will not lash out against the Yesha Council in any event. I am certain that you will be able to complete the missions. “

Mr Dayan praised the leadership of Mr Wallerstein, but did not respond to allegations of a fallout.

He said: "Pinchas Wallerstein is a man who for more than 30 years has not only contributed, but strengthened the settlement in Judea and Samaria. I have a lot of appreciation and admiration towards him. I am certain that in spite of what he wrote, he will continue to be an integral part in the settlement's leadership and in the Yesha Council."
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer criticised Mr Wallerstein and said he had been a major force behind the illegal expansion of settlements.

He said: “Despite the attempt to portray him as a moderate man, Wallerstein is in fact one of the main initiators of illegal outposts in the territories, even on private Palestinian lands. If Wallerstein is considered moderate, the settlers' public image has become much more extreme in an alarming manner."

Last updated: 10:25am, January 12 2010