Israeli Building Plan Draws Ambivalent U.S. Response

A view of the Jewish community of Nokdim, in the Gush Etzion Regional Council, which has been slated to receive 146 new housing units.(Gershon Elinson/Flash90 )

An Israeli government decision to move forward on the construction of 1,292 homes in Yehudah and Shomron on Tuesday elicited an ambivalent response from Washington.

The building plan, approved at a meeting of the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee on Tuesday, includes hundreds of units located outside the main Israeli population blocs in Yehudah and Shomron.

According to The Times of Israel, 562 are located outside the “blocs,” including Nokdim (146 units), Rehelim (97), Tomer (55) and Maskiot (27). These are communities which are not usually assumed to be kept by Israel in a final status peace deal with the Palestinians.

Washington appeared to be flashing green and red lights at the same time. A statement released by the White House said, “President Trump has publicly and privately expressed his concerns regarding settlements, and the Administration has made clear that unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospect for peace. At the same time, the Administration recognizes that past demands for a settlement freeze have not helped advance peace talks.”

Meanwhile, the announcement drew unequivocal criticism from residents of the Netiv Haavot outpost, which is slated to be demolished by court order in March.

The new plan calls for 17 temporary homes (3 years) for the future evacuees, on the outskirts of Alon Shvut in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Yerushalayim.

The residents panned the decision as “insufficient.”

“We call upon Prime Minister Netanyahu, Education Minister Education Naftali Bennett, cabinet ministers and members of Knesset not to repeat the mistakes of the past in Migron, Amona, Ofra and Beit El and stop dragging their feet,” they said, referring to previous demolitions.

In addition, Netiv Haavot resident Ami Gvirtzman told, that during meetings with the prime minister, Netanyahu had promised him that replacement homes would be built in the same neighborhood within the Elazar community. “What was approved today is completely contrary to what we were told.”

Shomron Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan voiced dissatisfaction with the plan earlier this week: “We need to tell the truth. The emperor has no clothes,” Dagan said in a statement which accused Netanyahu of breaking previous promises of over 3,000 housing units.

“We are tired of thanking (this government) for every bone that it throws at us,” Dagan said. “The prime minister is missing a historic opportunity that won’t likely recur. There is currently a U.S. president who, even if he does not agree (with settlement building), will not condemn it to the extent that was done during the Obama era.”