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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
An interministerial committee meeting to formulate guidelines for building in the West Bank failed Tuesday to reach a decision, with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman debating whether a failure to stop illegal building in the Negev was relevant to the issue.
Lieberman said the committee was not treating illegal building in the Jewish and Arab sectors on both sides of the Green Line equally, with 66 percent of illegal building in Area C in the West Bank taking place in the Palestinian sector, and "tens of thousands of cases" occurring in the Negev.
Livni said that was irrelevant.
"The reason for the establishment of this committee was to give tools for the implementation of government policy, as opposed to the wink that existed in the past regarding illegal building," she said.
"I also believe that we have to give an immediate and comprehensive answer to this. However, I don't accept using the fact that the law is not implemented in one place as an excuse for not implementing in another," Livni said.
She said it was important to recognize that all decisions regarding building in Judea and Samaria had both a "technical-legal" aspect and a "clearly diplomatic" one.
Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who heads the committee, said the purpose of the attempt to come up with building regulations was so that construction would be done in a transparent manner and in accordance with government decisions and policy. He said he hoped guidelines would be drawn up within a month and brought to the cabinet for approval.
Ramon said his goal was to ensure that government policy on building in the West Bank would be carried out, and that any time construction had diplomatic ramifications it would be subject to government approval.
In addition to Ramon, Livni and Lieberman, Pensioners' Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Cohen were also present. Talia Sasson, who wrote a report for the government on unauthorized settlement outposts in 2005, and representatives from both the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and Peace Now also attended the meeting.
In a related development, the EU issued a statement Tuesday noting "with concern that the Israeli government has authorized the construction of 307 dwellings in the Har Homa settlement in east Jerusalem. The EU considers that this initiative might undermine ongoing efforts in the search for peace and confidence building between the parties, especially at this point in time."
"The EU urges Israel to honor the commitments under the road map and to avoid activities that could prejudge a final status agreement on Jerusalem or undermine progress towards this goal," the statement said.
Israel does not believe the road map prohibits building in Jerusalem.
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