Officials Promise Cell Coverage in Yehudah and Shomron

General view of the Samaria settlement of Ariel, on January 17, 2014. Photo by Flash 90.
General view of the Shomron community of Ariel. (Flash90)

Although it was supposed to have been implemented a long time ago, full-range cellular phone service will “definitely” be coming to Yehudah and Shomron within the coming two years,” the Communication Ministry promised on Tuesday. “It is a complicated problem and it takes time and effort to accomplish this, and it will cost about NIS 40 million. We hope this will solve the matter,” said Ran Sheetrit, an attorney for the Ministry.

Sheetrit made the comments at a meeting of the Knesset Committee for Social Equality and Just Distribution of Resources, which discussed the discrimination in services experienced by residents of Yehudah and Shomron. The cellphone service issue has long been a complaint of residents, and took on a tragic aspect in 2014; with better service, authorities could have more easily traced the whereabouts of Israeli teens Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach, Hy”d, who were kidnapped by Hamas in June 2014 and eventually murdered.

The incident led directly to Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s last major battle with Hamas. After the war, numerous government panels recommended that cellular infrastructure in Yehudah and Shomron be upgraded immediately, to enable drivers or hikers to immediately report problems, security or otherwise. There are many black spots in the region where cell service is unavailable, and the objective of the plan was to significantly increase the service infrastructure to enable anyone anywhere to communicate.

“This is a very complicated issue from the security standpoint,” said Koby Eliraz, a Deputy Minister for settlement matters in the Defense Ministry. “Because this appears to be defense related, it is assumed that the Ministry will contribute. But there are many settlements where residents opposed setting up antennas. The establishment of the network is a procedural matter which requires approval by authorities, much of which has come only in the past month. The more this process is examined and evaluated, the more concrete the answers will have to be.”