Avigdor Liberman. .
(photo credit: GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE)
Israel doesn’t need permission from Washington to build homes in West Bank settlements, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Wednesday, adding that plans for several thousand units could be advanced in two weeks.
“We didn’t ask for a green light, and we won’t ask for a green light [from the US].
We will act according to Israeli interests,” Liberman said in an interview with Army Radio.
He dismissed reports that there is a policy of constrained settlement building, noting that such construction occurs according to the market. “There is no constraint,” he said.
To prove his point, he gave some details of what would happen when the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria meets on June 7, saying, “I assume we will speak of several thousand units.”
He did not specify if the houses would be within the settlement blocs or outside of them, noting that such a designation is not helpful.
“If there is a great need for housing in [the settlement blocs] of Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim, then we will need to [build homes] there,” Liberman said.
By that same criterion, he added, settler homes could be built in smaller settlements such as the South Hebron Hills or his home community of Nokdim in Gush Etzion.
His comments followed US President Donald Trump’s departure from Israel.
During his two days in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories, Trump did not mention the word “settlements” or publicly ask Israel to hold back on Jewish building over the pre-1967 lines.
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Sources told The Jerusalem Post they believe that plans for 600 homes in the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement would soon be furthered. Construction has dropped significantly under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eight-year tenure.
The sources added that they do not believe that the Trump administration objects to building in Ma’aleh Adumim, which has a population of 38,000. It is the third-largest West Bank settlement and is considered a bloc.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now speculated that plans for 250 homes in the Kerem Rei’m outpost could be approved or advanced shortly, making it a new neighborhood of the Talmon settlement.
According to Peace Now, the Defense Ministry has promoted plans for the outpost since 2013, and a Civil Administration committee dismissed objections to the plans earlier this month.
During their joint press appearance at the White House in February, Trump asked Netanyahu to constrain settlement building. A joint Israel-US committee was set up to create an understanding with regard to settlement construction, but no conclusions were reached.
The security cabinet, however, did announce that Israel would try as much as possible not to build new neighborhoods.
In the past Liberman has spoken out about building in the settlement blocs and not outside of them, but he no longer appears to be bound by that constraint.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) called on Netanyahu to build everywhere in Judea and Samaria, in an interview with Army Radio.
Building in our land should be a natural thing,” he said. “No one makes a big deal about building in Bat Yam or Ashdod. The same thing has to happen in Gilo and in Judea and Samaria.
“I told President Trump that we are the indigenous people in this land,” Bennett added. “None of the listeners believe that Ma’aleh Adumim will be part of a Palestinian state, so there is no reason to prevent building there.”