JERUSALEM, Israel - Palestinian claims that Jewish neighbors in Judea and Samaria harass olive pickers and destroy their groves are libelous, said the former head of the Yesha Council.
To prove the point, Benzi Lieberman, former chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip , accompanied a tree-clearing expert to a Palestinian olive grove allegedly destroyed by Jews.
"This expert, who didn't have any stake in either side of the dispute, saw the trees and determined they were most likely cut down by Arabs to maintain the grove, as is traditionally done," Lieberman said.
Palestinian farmers stage scenes of alleged destruction by Jewish citizens, he said.
"They benefit twice. Cutting the trees down benefits the groves, and they also benefit financially because the damage was supposedly caused by settlers," he said.
Lieberman accused left-wing activists of torpedoing an agreement between residents of the Jewish community of Itamar and Arab neighbors.
"Village representatives would have gone to the community and, along with Itamar residents, evaluated the crop's yield and determined the sum Palestinians would receive for the harvest," Lieberman said. "The extreme left prevented this," he said.
"If we don't' protect the individual rights of the Palestinians, our neighbors will break our hold and our roots in Judea and Samaria. We have an interest in maintaining what belongs to them and what belongs to us," Lieberman said.