Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem July 30, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to visit the Betar Illit settlement on Thursday morning to attend a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the construction of 1,000 homes.
It will the first time since taking office in 2009 that Netanyahu visits the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city of over 50,000 people, located just outside of Jerusalem in the Gush Etzion region.
The visit also marks the first time in the last eight years that he has opened a new and large neighborhood in a settlement. The image of Netanyahu standing among the hilltops is expected to underscore the message he has persistently hammered to the right wing – that he is a builder of settlements.
“We welcome his arrival in Betar Illit as a sign of support,” said Yigal Dilmoni, deputy head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria.
“We hope that his coming will herald increased building in the haredi settlements and in settlement in general,” Dilmoni said.
He added that such building was possible now that US President Donald Trump is in office.
“With this new administration, we think that there is no stumbling block before Netanyahu,” Dilmoni said. “Make no mistake, we see this government as solely responsible for building.”
Betar Illit Mayor Meir Rubinstein added that “it is a very important visit.” The municipality has already begun preparations for the premier’s visit posting photos of the white tent it set up for the celebrations.
He said his city had previously received support from left-wing politicians such as former president Shimon Peres and centrist politicians such as MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union).
It is presumed the city will be part of Israel’s sovereign borders in any final-status agreement with the Palestinians for a two-state solution.
The city, the second largest in the West Bank, is in the midst of developing a new hilltop, for which infrastructure has already been completed.
The Construction Ministry has already marketed 208 homes and is expected to issue tenders for another 300 to 400 apartment units in the next few days, the municipality spokesman said.
The visit comes as Netanyahu is under investigation by police and under fire from right-wing politicians for not taking a strong enough stand in supporting the settlement enterprise.
At issue is a request by 15 families in Hebron to remain in a three-story apartment building for which they have registered a purchase claim. They moved into the structure without authorization last week after five years of attempting to validate the sale with the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria.
Representatives of the Beit El settlement are also demanding that Netanyahu make good on a pledge he made to them five years ago by marketing 300 new homes in their community.
Fifteen families in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost are demanding he provide them with housing in advance of the court-ordered demolition of their homes in March 2018.
Additionally, settlers believe Netanyahu can do more than he has done to advance building in Judea and Samaria.
In another step to solicit rightwing support, Netanyahu last week gave his support to a bill by Transportation Minister Israel Katz, that would place settlements like Betar Illit within newly expanded borders of a greater Jerusalem, a move that would be akin to annexation. Katz is expected to present his bill to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in the fall.
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