Construction in Har Homa 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hours after MKs threatened to turn their Knesset office into an impromptu
schoolroom Sunday, a top-level government meeting paved the way for 23 modular
structures to solve the anticipated classroom crisis among Jewish students in
West Bank schools.
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Less than one month before the beginning of the school
year, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was called in to coordinate among the
Defense Ministry, Justice Ministry and the Education Ministry to solve what was
about to become a crisis, with as many as 1,000 settler students left without
The move to add 23 modular classrooms to West Bank
settlements comes on the eve of an expected breakthrough in the peace process,
which could bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table for
the first time in over a year-and-a-half.
In advance of those talks,
Netanyahu is under pressure to extend the 10- month moratorium on new settlement
construction, which expires on September 26. Educational institutions are exempt
from the moratorium, which otherwise prohibits even new modular construction in
West Bank Jewish communities.
In a meeting of the Knesset Education
Committee earlier Sunday, Justice Ministry representatives said that they had
not permitted 23 modular structures to be placed at school sites because they
believed that they violated planning laws.
In addition, the
representatives claimed that they still needed the Defense Ministry to sign off
on approval documents. The Education Ministry, however, had already approved the
placement of the classrooms, after officially recognizing the need for them
around six months ago.
After the ministries all gathered around the prime
minister’s table, Netanyahu reportedly instructed Defense Minister Ehud Barak to
order the civil administration to approve the placement of the structures in
Eli, Ofra, Eilon Moreh, Itamar, Talmon-Neriya, Adam, Emmanuel and
During the Education Committee meeting, frustrated National Union
MKs Michael Ben-Ari and Arye Eldad threatened to offer their faction’s Knesset
offices for the students’ use and to offer personal instruction in tents placed
outside of the Knesset if no solution was found by the beginning of the school
year, set to start in September.
“After holding five separate meetings on
this subject, the committee demanded that the decision come at the
levels,” said Committee Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi).
am happy that intelligence won out and our request not to hold political
at our student’s expense was respected. It is unfortunate, however, that
demanded waiting till the last minute – so late, in fact, that it is not
clear that the classrooms will all be in place by the opening of the
The Knesset Lobby for the Land of Israel was quick to congratulate
the prime minister’s move.
“We congratulate the prime minister for his
personal involvement to solve the problem and we are happy that
triumphed over bureaucracy and that now the students of Judea and
be able to learn under the same conditions to which the rest of Israel’s
students are entitled,” said the lobby’s chairs – Eldad and coalition
Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) – in a statement.
“In the same spirit, a solution
also must be found for the preschoolers of Hebron,” they said.
Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said
issue of the classrooms had been held up for political reasons and not
ones. It’s a shame that the government had to wait until two weeks
school year started before it stopped playing politics on the backs of
children, the council said.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this