Bennett doubles down on Palestinian demolitions

Palestinians warn they may ask ICC to accelerate probe on settlements.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and Kobi Eliraz (photo credit: Courtesy)
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and Kobi Eliraz
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Pursuant to his pledge to eradicate illegal Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday appointed Kobi Eliraz to head a task force to accomplish that goal.
“The territorial future of the Land of Israel is at stake,” he said, calling Eliraz a “bulldozer.”
Unfortunately, the Palestinians have been able to take over our territory without any interference, Bennett said.
“The State of Israel has simply not been up to the task of stopping them,” he said, adding: “We are changing direction and embarking on a battle that Israel must win... The defense establishment will fight for this territory, and it is essential for someone to lead this campaign.”
Eliraz is a resident of the Eli settlement. He spent four years as the Defense Ministry adviser on settlement affairs under the last three defense ministers prior to Bennett. He thanked Bennett for the opportunity to head such an important and challenging task.
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman welcomed the appointment, saying a real battle is being waged that will determine the country’s and the settlements’ fate for future generations. “There can be no concession and no retreats,” he said.
The right-wing NGO Regavim also welcomed the appointment. It has long warned the Palestinian Authority is deliberately seizing control of Area C of the West Bank by placing illegal construction in key sites to ensure a de facto Palestinian state in Area C. Many on the Israeli Right, including Bennett, say Area C should be part of Israel’s final borders.
The Israeli Left, many of whom support the placement of Area C within the borders of a future Palestinian state, have argued that illegal Palestinian building there is the direct result of Israel’s policy of not granting them enough building permits.
According to the left-wing group B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, the IDF during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure has demolished 1,385 Palestinian residential units.
On Wednesday, Bennett told the Kohelet Policy Forum that as defense minister he planned to work toward the application of Israeli sovereignty over Area C. It is a move that can not happen until a new government is in place. But Bennett said he already planed to act as if the territory was part of Israel.
The PA and several Palestinian factions on Thursday condemned Bennett’s remarks, warning that the annexation of any part of the West Bank to Israel would be considered a war crime.
PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said the “occupation government knows very well that any step to annex lands from the occupied West Bank and its natural resources and wealth is a war crime.”
Statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bennett in recent days “reflect the continuation of the occupation government in imposing a fait accompli policy and exercising the arrogance of force to seize more Palestinian lands,” he said.
The statements and policies of the Israeli government would prompt the Palestinians to increase demands of the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to accelerate the opening of the settlement file as the most prominent in the cases submitted to the court,” Milhem said.
The PA government has taken upon itself the task of “supporting Palestinians living in areas adjacent to settlements, land reclamation projects and launching various development projects,” he said.
Milhem repeated the PA government’s invitation to Palestinian university graduates to go to the Jordan Valley and for opening the doors of investment in front of them.
In July 2019, the PA government, in response to Israeli talk about applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, announced it would no longer recognize the classifications of areas in the West Bank that divide administrative and security control between the PA and Israel.
The Palestinian ruling Fatah faction also strongly condemned Bennett’s statements, calling them “a kind of madness and political recklessness.”
A Fatah spokesman in Ramallah said Bennett’s statements were part of the preelection campaign in Israel.
He warned that the policies of the Israeli government would “lead to more tensions and destruction in the region.”