YERUSHALAYIM - MKs and ministers on the right were congratulating each other after the Cabinet decided to freeze a plan that would have seen a major expansion of the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Kalkliya. Speaking to Army Radio Thursday, Housing Minister Yoav Galant said that the plan would have negatively affected demographics within Green-Line Israel. As much as Israel was willing to work with the PA to resolve its real estate problems, “the security of the country is more important. Kalkilya is located 900 meters from Kfar Sava.
“There is no reason to build 14,000 new homes in that city and bring a massive migration of PA Arabs from the mountainous areas around Shechem to Israel’s doorstep,” Galant said. “At the very least, it would create unnecessary tensions. Increasing the Palestinian population level along the coastal strip is a bad idea, although the idea of authorizing construction in the PA has merit.”
More blunt was Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who told Army Radio that the plan would have turned Kfar Sava into “a horrible place. This plan could have doubled the population of Kalkilya, and created a major Palestinian metropolitan area along Road 6, the main north-south artery in Israel. We have no national interest in creating a giant Palestinian metropolis along Road 6.”
The plan, which would have seen new construction that could have doubled the population of Kalkilya from its current level of 50,000, was frozen by the Cabinet after a long and contentious discussion, and will be discussed again when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu returns from a conference in Hungary. The plan to allow for the construction of as many as 14,000 homes in Kalkilya is part of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s “carrot and stick” policy, in which Palestinians are rewarded for keeping the peace.
The plan would double the municipal boundaries of Kalkilya – which Liberman intends to do by annexing land in Area C, under Israeli civilian and military control, to Kalkiya, which is part of PA-controlled Area A. According to sources, that transfer was one of the major reasons for the Cabinet decision. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan insisted that the Cabinet did not have the right to make a decision on the plan without a Knesset decision; according to Erdan, the Oslo Accords split Yehudah and Shomron into Areas A, B and C, and changing the status of those areas was essentially a change to the Accords, and needed to be approved by the Knesset.
Shomron Council head Yossi Dagan also praised the cabinet’s decision, and called on PM Netanyahu to “complete the action and take this plan off the agenda altogether. Instead we should be discussing increasing construction in Yerushalayim and in Yehudah and Shomron.”