Israel moved swiftly on Wednesday to take action on 73% of the list of 2,500 settler homes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman promised to advance and authorize, the nongovernmental group Peace Now reported.
“Today, implementation of the announcement has begun with the promotion of a total of 1,846 housing units,” it said.
The Housing Ministry approved tenders for 723 of the homes, including 552 in the Givat Ze’ev settlement, 90 in Ma’aleh Adumim, 78 in Alfei Menashe and 3 in Ariel.
It noted that the tenders would mostly likely be published in February and March.
Separately, it said the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Committee advanced plans for 1,123 units, including 839 units in the Ariel settlement, 20 in Beit El, 260 in Tzufin and four in Oranit.
The committee also took action on a project that had not been on Netanyahu and Liberman’s list: the advancement of plans to legalize the Horesh Yaron outpost, which houses an educational facility for teenagers. Located near the Talmon settlement, it was first built in 1996 with NIS 50,000 from the Construction Ministry.
Peace Now charged, “Netanyahu is taking advantage of the presidential transition in the United States in order to appease the settlers, a small minority of the Israeli public, and score political points with his right flank. Instead of jeopardizing the two-state solution, it is time for Netanyahu to take responsibility for the future of Israel by halting settlement construction and assuring the future of Israel as both Jewish and democratic.”
The United Nations and the European Union condemned Tuesday’s announcement at a time when the international community is taking a harsher stance against Israeli settlement activity.
The announcement comes as Netanyahu is under fire from right-wing lawmakers for not taking action to move forward an agenda to annex Ma’aleh Adumim and/or Gush Etzion in the first days of the Trump administration.
The list, which the right wing viewed as conservative, did little to earn Netanyahu points with the settler community, which noted that the plans on the list represent projects that were already in the pipe line and which in many cases had been advanced in the last year.
The list also focused for the most part on projects within the blocs, with the bulk of the building going to Ariel, the fourth-largest settlement in the West Bank, and Givat Ze’ev, which is the largest.
Even MK Bennie Begin (Likud), who does not always speak out, took to the airwaves on Wednesday to talk of his disappointment with the plans, which he said should also have included the isolated settlements.
“Numbers are not enough here,” he said in an interview with army radio.
Yigal Dilmoni, the deputy head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, said the plan did not even begin to address the needs of the Jewish residents of the West Bank.
“In the end, only a few hundred homes will be built and the rest will be advanced. It would be better if this announcement had not come out. The American government has changed and so should Israel’s policy,” Dilmoni said.
He called on Netanyahu to authorize all the plans that have been frozen and to issue tenders for building everywhere in Judea and Samaria, including outside the blocs and in the Jordan Valley.
The new Trump administration has been quiet on the issue of settlement construction, noting it wanted to wait until a meeting between the new president and Netanyahu that will likely be held in February.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer, however, spoke positively of Israel during Tuesday’s press conference in the White House, stating, “Israel continues to be a huge ally of the US. He [Trump] wants to grow closer with Israel to make sure that it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East.”
Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin