Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to allow the Civil Administration to approve the construction of more than 3,800 housing units in the settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, in isolated settlements and in the Jewish community of Hebron.
This follows an agreement in principle with the Americans that Israel would approve massive construction in the territories once every three to four months instead of once every few weeks. The meaning of the agreement is that Washington will not condemn Israel in the wake of decisions on construction in the territories, and that the US administration no longer distinguishes between the settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.
“In the Obama administration there was a great drying up and we were condemned for any construction in the settlements,” political sources explained yesterday. “After the Trump administration came into being, there were clear criteria for building that the Americans did not oppose, such as canceling the distinction between settlement blocs and isolated settlements and that the Americans no longer view the settlements as stumbling blocks to peace,” he said.
The settler leaders reacted cautiously to Netanyahu’s decision. “I congratulate the prime minister on the intention to approve construction plans in Har Hebron, and we will be happy to welcome the implementation of the plans as soon as possible,” said Har Hebron Regional Council Chairman Yochai Damari. The Jewish community in Hebron said that “the approval of construction in Hebron is also a necessary step and an essential Zionist step in the face of the murderous and provocative conduct of the Palestinian Authority in Hebron.”
On the other hand, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, opposed the plan because it does not include the construction of a new industrial zone in Samaria and the extensive paving of bypass roads. “The reports on the building permits prove that there is no news in terms of settlement except for spins and recycling, and every unit published by the Prime Minister’s Bureau is counted at least five times in the area itself,” Dagan added. In response, a political source said: “Dagan is a provocateur who likes protests without taking into account the overall picture … Our interest is to approve a huge number of housing units with one pulse, and Dagan is liable to endanger the achievements of the prime minister.”
Yoel Hasson, Chairman of the Machane Tzioni Party fears “The government’s decision to build mainly in the isolated settlements endangers our continued hold on the settlement blocs,”, adding, “When connecting Negahot to Gush Etzion we lose Gush Etzion. This is political building and it is doubtful if it will be realized”.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)