Men work on the roof of a house under construction in the outpost of Havat Gilad, south of the West Bank city of Nablus, November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Nir Elias/File Photo.
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
The cabinet on Sunday authorized its second West Bank settlement since US President Donald Trump took office last January.
“This is a historic and emotional moment,” said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan.
He heard the news of the cabinet’s unanimous approval of the settlement in his region as he sat in the living room of the Shevach home in the Havat Gilad outpost.
Pressure mounted to build a new settlement in response to the January 9 terrorist attack, in which Havat Gilad resident and father of six Rabbi Raziel Shevach was shot dead by Palestinians as he drove near his home community.
Such approvals are rare and raise an outcry in the international community, which holds that Jewish communities in the West Bank are an obstacle to peace.
Trump, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, has not considered settlement building to be a stumbling block to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The March 2017 vote to create the Amihai settlement in the Binyamin region of the West Bank marked the first time in over 20 years that the cabinet had taken such a step.
Since Netanyahu entered office in 2009, the cabinet has voted only once to convert outposts into settlements. In 2012, it authorized three outposts as settlements: Bruchin, Rehalim and Santana.
Sunday’s decision differs from that one, because it speaks either of authorizing Havat Gilad or of creating a new settlement nearby on land that is either privately owned by Israelis or state land.
Israel buries Rabbi Raziel Shevach, January 10, 2018
The left-wing group Peace Now has warned that much of Havat Gilad, home to some 40 families, is located on private Palestinian property and that it would therefore be difficult to authorize construction there, even if the community is a legal settlement.
Sunday’s vote is just the first step on the road to the creation of a new settlement.
The proposal must return to the cabinet for another vote once a budget for the project is drafted. After that, master plans have to be drawn up and approved.
Prior to the vote Netanyahu said it was important to provide the Havat Gilad families with the option for a normalized life.
“A few minutes ago, I spoke with Yael, the widow of Rabbi Raziel Shevach. I told her that the entire nation and all Cabinet members embrace her and the children in their time of grief; I also asked her to hug the children for us,” Netanyahu said.
“I told her that our policy is being carried out in two spheres. First, to exact justice. Yesterday our forces were again in action in an effort to apprehend the last of the assassins and their accomplices in the murder of Rabbi Shevach. We will not rest until we bring them to justice. And we will bring them all to justice,” Netanyahu said.
“Our second policy guideline is to strengthen settlement. Whoever thinks, that through the reprehensible murder of a resident of Havat Gilad, a father of six, he can break our spirit and weaken us, is making a bitter mistake,” Netanyahu said.
The Palestinians and leftand center-Israeli politicians opposed the move.
“Netanyahu is trying to make facts on ground. All settlements in the West Bank, including in Jerusalem, are illegal,” said Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.
Hatenua Party head MK Tzipi Livni, who is also a former foreign minister, said the settlement’s approval provides incentive for people to continue to break building laws in the West Bank.
“The response to terrorism should be a determined military,” and not a decision to “surrender” to a minority within the government that is leading us to annexation and an Arab state,” she said.
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said the move was a “serious blow to the two-state solution.”
He added that those who would be harmed most are the Havat Gilad residents who will eventually have to evacuate the outpost.
But in Havat Gilad, residents burst into song and dance.
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev personally called Yael Shevach and Dagan from the cabinet meeting to tell them the news.
“I have no words to describe this moment. My pain is mixed with happiness,” Yael said.