The Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs which will be empowered to authorize West Bank Jewish construction without a full cabinet decision, was scheduled to go before the cabinet for approval on Sunday, the Prime Minister's Office announced on Thursday.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to establish the committee last week, and will serve as its chairman. Settlers and right-wing politicians have long called for Netanyahu to create such a committee, which had existed under past governments.
The establishment of the committee came after the Knesset last week voted down a bill, at Netanyahu's urging, that would have retroactively legalized unauthorized West Bank outposts built on private Palestinian land, including the Ulpana outpost. Netanyahu's decision to oppose the bill was unpopular among the right flank of his coalition and he threatened to fire any ministers or deputy ministers who voted in favor of the bill. Several ministers were absent from the vote, but no ministers or deputy ministers defied Netanyahu and the bill fell 69-22.
According to the PMO, "the committee will have authority to formulate government policy regarding unregulated construction on state and private lands, including the main issues that have reached the courts. Committee decisions will have the status of cabinet decisions and ministers will be unable to appeal them."
In addition to Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Minister Benny Begin, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, Education Minister Gideon Saar and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan will also be members of the committee.
Following his refusal to support the bill retroactively legalizing outposts, Netanyahu announced the approval of 851 new settlement homes in the West Bank in addition to forming the ministerial committee on settlements.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Tuesday, slammed continued development of West Bank settlements as the “key and most serious concern” with respect to the peace process, in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Settlements “put current peace efforts at risk” and are illegal under international law, she said.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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