Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has given the green light for the construction of thousands of new homes in Yehudah and Shomron – many of them in “isolated” settlements, as well as in Chevron, outside of the settlement blocs that Israel has declared it would keep in a final status settlement with the Palestinians. Channel Two on Monday reported that Netanyahu had given his approval for the construction of 3,800 homes, and government officials confirmed this in interviews in Israeli media on Tuesday.
The decision comes after Netanyahu came to an agreement on the construction with American officials. The official construction process will begin next week, at a meeting of the Civil Administration’s Executive Planning Council, which is responsible for building plans in Yehudah and Shomron. Among the projects to be approved: Construction of 129 homes in Avnei Chefetz, in northern Shomron; 300 homes in Beit El, north of Yerushalayim; 158 in Kfar Etzion; 102 in towns in the southern Chevron Hills; 206 in Tekoa, at the eastern end of Gush Etzion; 97 in Rechalim, near the central Shomron city of Ariel; and 48 in Maale Michmash, north of Yerushalayim. In addition, after allowing construction of four buildings in the past 20 years in the Jewish area of Chevron, the planning board next week will authorize construction of 30 new apartments.
Settlement leaders expressed cautious optimism over the plan. “I congratulate the Prime Minister for his plan, especially the plan to build in the Chevron Hills region,” said Yochai Damari, head of the Chevron Hills Regional Council. “We will be very happy to congratulate him as well when the building actually starts.” A spokesperson for the Chevron Jewish Community said that “the building authorization was certainly necessary, and an elementary response on our part to the murderous actions of the Palestinian Authority.”
With that, Yossi Dagan, head of the Shomron Regional Council, said that the plan was “incomplete,” because it did not include funding for construction of a promised industrial zone in Shomron, nor did it include money for bypass roads to ease traffic in the region. “The fact that this is being reported widely lends me to believe that it is another round of spin,” Dagan said in a statement. “Each housing unit that is approved by the Civil Authority gets counted for these announcements at least five times.” In response to Dagan’s criticism, a senior government official told Channel Two that “Dagan is a provocateur who likes to protest without looking at the whole picture. It is in our interest to authorize large numbers of home in one shot. Dagan is liable to endanger the achievements made by the Prime Minister.”
Commenting on the plan, Zionist Camp whip MK Yoel Hasson said in a statement that “the government’s decision to build mostly in isolated settlements endangers our hold on the settlement blocs. When you connect an isolated place like Negohot (in the south Chevron Hills) with Gush Etzion you lose the latter. This is political construction, and there is great doubt of whether it will actually take place.”