Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with four West Bank council heads in his office on Wednesday, and stressed to them that "the settlement blocs are an inseparable part of Israel in all future negotiations with the Palestinians. The Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea are regions that are dear to my heart."
Present at the meeting were Alfei Menashe Council head Hasdai Eliezer, Megilot Council head Mutzi Dahman, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council David David Elhayani, and Oranit Council head Shumi Langer.
Barak gave his word that the appeals committee formed on Wednesday will provides responses to the residents within 14 days, and said that 40 inspectors have been recruited to enforce the construction freeze.
"Small changes like the installment of air conditioners, the construction of pergolas and technical infrastructure can be done with the authorization of the council heads. The communication and coordination with the United States is vital to Israel from a political and security point of view.
"I know that this is a difficult move, but it is necessary for the State of Israel today. Part of our responsibility as leaders of the State and leaders of the public is to act responsibility and uphold the government's decisions and the State's laws. The Leadership in Judea and Samaria is responsible, and I am certain it will operate within the frame of the law."
After leaving the meeting, Alfei Menashe head Hasdai Eliezer said, "We left with a very important statement that the settlement blocs are not up for negotiation. When you come without expectations, you don't leave disappointed."
Eliezer added that he felt he left the meeting with significant achievements for the public he represents. "The order does not differentiate between the construction of a pergola or a terrace, which has also been allegedly taken away from us, and he is returning these authorities to continue with normal life. We allegedly are not allowed to deal with infrastructure, to build sidewalks, roads, water facilities. They are giving the authority back to us sweepingly."
Hasdai voiced his concern to the defense minister over the recruitment of 40 construction inspectors: "For hundreds of thousands of Palestinians there is one inspector. The inspector should enforce in Area C."
He added that Barak ordered the formation of two teams that were dismantled during the tenure of former Defense Minister Amir Peretz – the "blue line" team, tasked with mapping and categorizing the land according to state land and private land owned by the Palestinians, and the "land review" team, tasked with examining which lands are not spoken for and transferring them to the authority of the State and ultimately to the adjacent communities.
According to Eliezer the defense minister also had calming words with regards to the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea: "He said they are very close to the Labor Party's heart, Mapai established the settlement in the valley."
Eliezer also critized the Likud party: "It followed Kadima and the Labor party to a debate over settlement blocs, there is no ideological difference today between Likud, Labor and Kadima. No difference."
"When you hear that these orders include Alfei Menashe, Oranit, Beit Aryeh, Givat Ze'ev and Ma'aleh Adumim, which are inalienable assets, it seems our place is not safe in public consciousness. When you hear the chairman of the Labor Party say they are not up for negotiation in any way, this is an important and essential message for the residents of those communities," he added.
Roni Sofer contributed to this report