The security cabinet meeting on plans to build thousands of housing units in Kalkilya in Area C, that part of the West bank under total Israeli control, ended late Wednesday night with no decision, and a pledge to keep discussing the issue.
A PMO statement issued after the meeting said that the cabinet will meet again in another 10 days to discuss the overall policy of building and planning in Area C.
The plan to build Palestinian housing units in Area C has been fiercely opposed by Bayit Yehudi and some government ministers on the grounds that it effectively transfers area under Israeli control to the Palestinians. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman supports the plan.
The PMO statement said that until further discussion in the Security Cabinet in 10 days, the National Security Council will delve deeper into the details of the plan with the ministers, and in the meantime the plan will not be advanced.
The Security Cabinet directed the attorney-general to formulate a position delineating the lines of authority in the West Bank between the government and the IDF. The IDF has supported the plan, while a large part of the security cabinet is opposed.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who has opposed the plan said, “It’s a first step in the right direction.”
Area C makes up 60% of the West Bank, includes all the settlements and military installations, and is under complete Israeli control. Area A, which makes up 18%, is under Palestinian control, and Area B, another 22%, is under Palestinian civilian control, but Israeli security administration.
Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman defended the plan.
“This program improves security, it is not a prize for terror,” said Liberman
as he stood on the outskirts of the Ma’aleh Shomron settlement, a short distance away from Kalkilya, with its population of 52,000.
Liberman visited the area to inaugurate a road that will help improve access between the settlement and the near - by outpost of El Matan.
Both he and Dagan pored over a map of the area that was laid out on a plastic folding table.
Liberman dismissed reports that 14,000 Palestinian units would be built as a result of the plan, explaining it would involve a maximum of 6,100 homes, which includes the authorization of 1,000 homes that had already been illegally built.
All the construction will occur on private Palestinian property that has never been used by Israelis, Liberman said, adding that it would happen slowly over two decades. “Each phase will be about 300 to 400 homes a year,” he said. “Let’s talk about the facts and stick with reality instead of slogans. The argument is not about Kalkilya, it is just the trigger. There is a debate within the Right – between those who are reasonable and serious and those who are messianic and populist,” he said.
Ayala Shapira, 14, who survived a nearby terrorist attack in December 2011 and for whom the new road is named, asked Liberman, “Why do the citizens of Israel have to work so hard to get permission to build, when we authorize thousands of homes for our enemies?” Still suffering from burns sustained in that attack, Shapira wore a gauze mask on her face and a wide-brimmed straw hat on her head.
The Kalkilya plan is part of a “carrot and stick” program – formulated with top IDF commanders and backed by the IDF chief of staff and the head of military intelligence – to reward those cities that have not engaged in terrorist activity, Liberman said.
“When we talk about security, let’s listen first to those who are responsible for security and not those who are always thinking about elections or primaries,” Liberman said.
But Dagan took issue with the description of Kalkilya as a city whose residents had not attacked Israelis, telling Liberman that it was a Palestinian terrorist from Kalkilya who had killed US army veteran Taylor Force, 29, in a stabbing attack on the Tel Aviv beachfront last year. He added that he had seen the plans and that it did allow for 14,000 units to be constructed.
The Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria is debating the Kalkilya plan, which received security cabinet approval last year.
But ministers who supported the plan, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have said they did not realize its scope. Under pressure from Bayit Yehudi party head Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu agreed to bring the plan back to the security cabinet.
The plan’s opponents have argued that any section of Area C in which urban Palestinian growth is allowed would inevitably become part of any future Palestinian state.
In addition, they have contended that the plan places the Palestinian homes close to the security barrier, a move that would endanger the Israelis on the other side of the barrier.