Likud Ministers Join Criticism of Qalqilya Building Plan

Qalqilya. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM - Likud ministers on Thursday joined the Jewish Home ministers and leaders of Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron in slamming a plan to build thousands of new homes in Qalqilya, an Arab town bordering Kfar Sava with a population of over 50,000. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said that the “Palestinian Authority continues to incite violence and terror against Israelis, and to violate all its obligations to Israel. As such, this decision must be reconsidered.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzippy Hotovely said that “it does not make sense that the Arabs of Qalqilya will have more rights than Jews. Adding thousands of homes to Qalqilya without a similar number for Jewish communities is harmful to Jewish settlement, as well as unfair. The government must expand construction in Jewish towns after the long building freeze. The number of homes that have been approved so far is not sufficient.”

The details of the plan were revealed on Channel Two on Wednesday night, with a report describing a plan proposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to allow for the construction of as many as 14,000 homes in Qalqilya. Part of Liberman’s “carrot and stick” policy, in which Palestinians are rewarded for keeping the peace, the plan will requiring doubling the municipal boundaries of Qalqilya – which Liberman intends to do by annexing land in Area C, under Israeli civilian and military control, to Qalqilya, which is part of PA-controlled Area A.

In response to the report, Jewish Home party leaders Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that “we have been and are opposed to the ‘carrot and stick’ policy, which we see as rewarding terror, and a way for Palestinians to take over Area C. What is even worse is the large number of homes authorized for Qalqilya, versus the small number authorized for housing in Jewish towns. Israel must advance the interests of Israelis in Yehudah and Shomron, not those of the Palestinians.”

In interviews on several media outlets Thursday morning, Liberman lashed out at the Jewish Home ministers, saying that they and everyone else had known about his plan for at least six months. “Raising this matter now, along with their complaints and demands, reminds us of the situation in 1992, when the right-wing Hatechiya party broke up the government of Yitzchak Shamir, a move that brought us the Oslo Accords.” The current government, said Liberman, “is the best one ever for settlement. Just during the first half of this year we authorized construction of thousands of homes. We have a balanced policy, taking into consideration both the needs of communities in Yehudah and Shomron, and Israel’s national and international political interests.”

In a statement Wednesday night, the Prime Minister’s Office dismissed complaints by the Jewish Home ministers. “The plan was presented to and approved by the Cabinet last year, and since then we have approved construction of over 10,000 homes in Jewish towns in Yehudah and Shomron. The issues raised by critics are incorrect, and even absurd,” the statement said.