(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset Land of Israel caucus on Thursday called on the security cabinet to rescind initial approvals for Palestinian construction projects in Area C of the West Bank that were granted earlier this month.
“We are appealing to the ministers of the security cabinet to correct this shameful decision,” the caucus said in a statement issued by its two chairmen, MKs Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi).
They noted that news of the decision broke in the midst of a battle by right-wing politicians to prevent the demolition of the Amona outpost and nine homes in the Ofra settlement and what they believe is a de facto freeze on the advancement of plans for new settler homes. They believe that the small amount of authorizations do little to meet the needs of many of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
“Such a decision violates the voters’ trust and harms the national interest,” said Kisch and Smotrich.
The security cabinet gave the approvals at an October 5 meeting. Its deliberations and decisions are generally kept secret, but on Thursday Haaretz reported on the approvals.
The go-ahead for the projects also comes at a time when Israel is under increasing international pressure to facilitate Palestinian development in Area C, after years in which very few approvals were given for Palestinian projects.
Sources in Jerusalem said the approval of some 10 projects was carried out within the framework of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s “carrot and stick” policy, whereby benefits will be given to areas where there is quiet.
One source said the projects include a hospital, soccer fields and a couple of factories. The list, he said, was drawn up by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
The source stressed that all the projects are in the economic and civil realm and none is for housing.
Liberman has the authority as defense minister to approve the plans, but brought them to the security cabinet because he was asked to do so. The projects have been discussed there in the past, the source said.
“If there is quiet, the projects will continue; if not they will be held up,” he added.
The source denied that approval of the master plans and granting of building permits for these projects were done secretly to deflect criticism from the Right.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) welcomed news of the approvals, which she said would contribute to Israel’s security, but added that they should have been granted openly. If the government had done so, it would have helped Israel advance its interests with countries in the region and the world, she said.
She charged that the matter was kept quiet for political reasons.
“The secrecy is out of fear of [Bayit Yehudi head and Education Minister Naftali] Bennett. The loss is ours,” she said.
Meretz Party head Zehava Gal- On said she was amazed that the meeting had been kept secret for so long from the “settler lobby” in the Knesset.
“These approvals, which come after years of neglect, are limited is scope and are far from meeting the needs of the Palestinians,” she said.
“Do not be fooled,” she added.
“This isn’t about helping the Palestinians, its about fighting terrorism.
Is that what Kisch and his friends are objecting to?” she asked.
The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria said that, unfortunately, they were “getting the stick” and the Palestinians were receiving the carrots.