Netanyahu to head ministerial committee on ‘settlements’

Israel's ministers confirmed on Monday the establishment of a ministerial committee to oversee activities for Jewish settlements in national priority areas, the Gaza belt region and the periphery. 

The committee was formed as part of efforts to curb the coalition crisis which resulted after the eviction of some 200 Jews from two buildings in Hevron last week, and as per Article 77 of the government's May coalition agreements. 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will serve as committee chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) was appointed his fill-in. 

Jewish Home ministers Ayelet Shaked and Uri Ariel will also be part of the nascent ministerial committee. 

Authority over Judea and Samaria, however, will remain in the hands of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud), despite protests from the Jewish Home faction over his policies towards Jewish communities in the region. 

Ya'alon had been slated to head the special task force but later apparently refused, asserting, according to MK Bezelel Smotrich (Jewish Home), that such a committee was unnecessary. 

"Four-hundred thousand residents of Judea-Samaria are citizens who vote for the Knesset and it is proper that the body who manages their lives should be the Knesset and not just one person, the Defense Minister," Smotrich blasted. 

Both Smotrich and MK Oren Hazan (Likud), together with Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) had threatened late last week to buck coalition discipline and bring down the government, unless the Jews were returned to the buildings in Hevron. 

Hazan attempted on Monday to construe his threat as a way to "strengthen" the Prime Minister, to which Netanyahu responded, "I'm strong enough, thanks."


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