The government on Sunday voted to remove the issue of West Bank settlements from its purview and instead handed the matter over to an 11-member ministerial committee, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said that the creation of the committee was a significant policy change.
It marks the first time in 16 years that the government has amended a 1996 decision, #150, made during Binyamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister. Decision 150 determined that the creation of new West Bank settlements must have the approval of the full government.
Now that power, as well as the ability to make decisions with regard to West Bank settlements on matters of policy and construction, has been moved to the ministerial committee.
The text of the decision was careful to clarify that the amendment left intact the portion of Decision 150 which states that the defense minister must also approve land allocation and planning for West Bank settlements.
Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and Government Services Minister Michael Eitan opposed the decision.
Vice Premier and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau, Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver and Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov abstained.
Netanyahu will head the committee. Other members will include Barak, Mofaz, Sa’ar, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Minister- without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz.
Peace Now opposed the creation of the committee. Yariv Oppenheimer, its executivedirector, warned that the committee would authorize illegal settlement building and empower settlers at Barak’s expense.
The committee is tasked with issues policy, construction authorizations and demolitions, including the creation of new Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
It would have the ability to formulate governmental policy with respect to unauthorized construction, both on state land and on private Palestinian property.
It would also formulate the principles and policy by which the state would respond to petitions to the High Court of Justice on land issues in the West Bank.
Committee decisions would carry the weight of a governmental vote. Ministers would not be able to appeal them.