Israel has moved forward on plans for thousands of homes across Yehudah and Shomron, in the first such announcement since President Donald Trump expressed reservations about building in February.
An Israeli Defense Ministry committee responsible for construction in the region gave the green light to plans for around 3,000 homes at various stages of the approval process.
Construction is far from finalized, but it’s the first major approval of plans since Trump told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” while Washington tries to renew peace talks.
Netanyahu’s office wasn’t available for comment on whether the move was cleared with Washington beforehand.
While Washington signals go slow, Netanyahu has been under intense pressure from right-wing coalition partners to go faster.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s pace.
“If they wanted to increase the amount of building, they would have to have come out with a more serious campaign. These quotas are unacceptable. It is possible and imperative to build more,” Shaked said over Army Radio.
Shaked said that her Jewish Home party is doing what it can to accelerate the pace of building, but a wider effort will be needed.
“We meet with the relevant people, but if we want to increase [building] in a significant way, we have to wage a joint struggle which includes settler leaders, the Jewish Home, and officials from within Likud,” she added.
Nevertheless, the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, David Elhayani, told Arutz Sheva that he was favorably impressed by the meeting on Wednesday between leaders in Yehudah and Shomron and Netanyahu.
“If we look at all the issues raised there, it was a good meeting and most of the regional council heads expressed satisfaction with the developments in construction,” Elhayani said.
According to Elhayani, most of the participants were pleased with the meeting. “Except for Gush Etzion and Beit El, where there are specific problems, most of the mayors are satisfied with the pace of construction.”
So when I hear some of the council heads go out and criticize [Netanyahu], I am a little surprised. In the closed conversation, most of them spoke in praise of the prime minister and his steadfastness during the Obama era and how much he is making efforts to strengthen the settlements. I am very sorry that this is not reflected in the media.”
The announcement of construction made on Thursday was the subject of internal dispute within the Kulanu party, as well.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon was strongly opposed to the decision to publish the plans and asked his number two in Kulanu, Construction Minister Yoav Galant, to hold off, but to no avail, The Jerusalem Post reported, quoting sources close to Kahlon.
Kahlon’s camp said that the plans would yield little economic benefit for Ariel and Modi’in Illit, and was politically motivated, calculated to advance Galant’s plan to leave Kulanu for the Likud.
Galant has been quoting saying that he is indeed considering a move to Likud before the next election. A former IDF general, he would be seeking the Defense portfolio in the next government.