Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (center) at the Defense Ministry's Kirya complex in Tel Aviv, May 30, 2016.
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman produced a classified document to prove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provided incorrect information about the Security Cabinet’s decision to expand the Palestinian city of Kalkilya into Area C of the West Bank.
Right-wing politicians in the Likud and Bayit Yehudi parties have been up in arms about the plan since it was publicized last week, with two cabinet ministers denying it had ever been approved.
Netanyahu said it had been voted on at the Security Cabinet, but the massive scale of the Palestinian building had not been part of the discussion.
At a press conference in the Knesset on Monday, Liberman dismissed all such claims.
He produced a document from the Security Cabinet, where all proceedings and documents are supposed to be classified.
“I can say with responsibility that it was dealt with in the Security Cabinet,” Liberman said.
The document spoke of plans for up to 14,381 housing units for Kalkilya through the year 2035. Realistically, that would result in 43% of the permits being exercised, for a total of 6187 housing units built over many years, Liberman said.
“A minister asked in the meeting if there will be new construction. I made clear that there would be, and accordingly the Palestinians issued their requests.”
He chalked up the political storm that has arisen to an early jockeying for position in advance of primaries that are underway in a number of political parties.
The land in question is privately owned by Palestinians and cannot be used by Israelis for construction, Liberman said. He added that there are 220,000 Palestinians living in Area C and housing plans must be approved for them.
Liberman lashed out at what he saw as attacks by ministers and MKs in Bayit Yehudi, who he said blamed the Kalkilya plan on IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai.
“Ministers and MK have lost all restraint,” Liberman said. “In order to win votes in primaries, they are willing to publicly attack the IDF and its officers. It harms our security.
We don’t have another chief-of-staff or coordinator of government activities in the territories. They wear a uniform so they can’t respond. My job is to be the bullet- proof vest of the IDF.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a similar call during his Likud faction meeting at the Knesset.
“I ask you to stop attacking IDF officers,” he said. “IDF officers carry out policy. They don’t set policy. This is my request. If you have claims, turn to us, to the government, to the defense minister, the prime minister.
Don’t attack IDF officers.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), who was among the unnamed targets of both Netanyahu and Liberman, responded that he also “calls upon everyone, including the defense minister, to keep the IDF out of politics.”
Despite the emergence of Liberman’s document, Bennett said he was not aware of the Kalkilya plan being discussed in the cabinet.
He vowed to work to prevent “building a new Palestinian city on Road 6.”
Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi colleague, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, said he agreed that it was incorrect to blame IDF officers.
On Sunday, Netanyahu said the Kalkilya expansion plan would be returned to the Security Cabinet for another vote.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.