Photo: AFP
Israeli settlement
Photo: AFP

Slashing of West Bank home plans frustrate settlers

Settlers hopes dashed after expected construction of 4,000 housing units reduced by half; Minister Yisrael Katz: 'The return to the quotas system is wrong'; PMO: 'There’s no one who cares more about settlement than Netanyahu.'

Israeli settlers have learned that the Civil Administration's High Planning Council, which will convene this week—for the first time during Donald Trump's presidency—will not approve the construction of 4,000 housing units as originally planned, but only 2,291.



According to them, of the units that will be approved, only a few hundred are planned for immediate construction.


Construction in Ma'ale Adumim (File photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
Construction in Ma'ale Adumim (File photo: Reuters)

The settlers were optimistic after the meeting of the Security Cabinet that took place the day before Trump arrived in Israel, when Netanyahu informed its members that the planning council would convene in early June and approve the construction of thousands of housing units according to the agreed outline with the US government.


Government ministers said at the time that they were planning to approve the construction of 4,000 housing units. However, feelings were mixed among the settler leaders, at once rejoicing in the fact that the planning council had convened for the first time since Trump entered the White House after the government had repeatedly postponed such action, but lamenting the fact that the number of units would be significantly slashed.


At a meeting held Thursday night in the Prime Minister's Office, the list of planned housing units was significantly reduced, apparently out of fear of a confrontation with the Trump's administration, which is trying to jumpstart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.


While the move was met with anger by the settlers, they were not alone in their anger.


Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) urged the government to pursue a more liberal construction program in the West Bank. "The Likud government's construction policy should be very clear: free construction in Jerusalem and free construction in accordance with the needs of settlement in all of Judea and Samaria, in an orderly process," he said.  


Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)


"The return to the quotas system is wrong, morally unacceptable, and is similar to the British policy toward the Jewish community before the establishment of the State of Israel."


MK Betzalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) said in response that "Netanyahu has taken out most of the significant plans from the list. The bottom line: Only 410 units for immediate construction in all of Judea and Samaria, while for the Arabs they approved 20,000 (for construction)."


Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, also slammed Prime Minister Netanyahu for the decision: "The prime minister, supposedly of the right-wing, is once again freezing settlement in Judea and Samaria." Dagan then added that "If this freeze is approved, the Likud will have to consider nominating another candidate for prime minister (in the next election)."


MK Betzalel Smotrich (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
MK Betzalel Smotrich (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)


"I feel cheated," said Dagan in an interview with Ynet. "At a time like this, after eight years of this during Obama's era, there is no way to explain why the freeze should be continued. These numbers, and all the public relations around them, are no less than ridiculous and insulting."


Dagan added  that he reminded Netanyahu of why he was elected. "The public chose you to build in Judea and Samaria. We expect the policy to change and this is the time. Now this is the test," he continued. "Netanyahu told me that the council has grown very large and that there is demand. I told the prime minister; do not be offended, but the vast majority of construction in Judea and Samaria today is not due to this government, but because of the plans of Shamir and Begin 30 years ago. He was, in the end, very offended, but that's the truth."


Dagan also stressed that the time for excuses was over. "Today there is no Obama and no Hillary Clinton," he said. "Today there is an administration that opposes (the settlement), but is less opposed, and I say that even if there was an administration that opposed it (entirely), we still should confront (their objection), for it is in Israel's best interest. As a citizen of the state and as head of a regional council, I expect that my people will not be second-class citizens anymore."


Yossi Dagan
Yossi Dagan


Regarding Netanyahu's remarks last week that Israel has no open check from the American president, Dagan said "Trump will condemn, but less than Obama. We are a sovereign state, we have our own prime minister and it's time we stopped acting like servants. We are not serving the United States, and certainly not with a president whose entire immediate environment is almost entirely composed of Israeli supporters who will not let him confront the Israeli government as it was with Obama."


On the political ramifications that may occur following the anger on the right, the head of the Samaria Regional Council summed up that "if necessary, it will have political consequences. I hope it won't come to that because I really think that this is a good government and a good prime minister, but the statement today is a clear one. No more, we've had enough."


The Prime Minister's Office stated that "In recent months, thousands of housing units have been approved for construction in all of Judea and Samaria. There is no one who cares more about settlement than the prime minister."


(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)


פרסום ראשון: 06.04.17, 15:16
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