Netanyahu to advance plans for 800 settler homes prior to Biden

"This is an irresponsible step," Yesh Atid Party head Yair Lapid charged, warning that Netanyahu was creating unnecessary tensions with Biden.

FILE PHOTO: General view shows houses in Shvut Rachel, a West Bank Jewish settlement located close to the Jewish settlement of Shilo, near Ramallah October 6, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
FILE PHOTO: General view shows houses in Shvut Rachel, a West Bank Jewish settlement located close to the Jewish settlement of Shilo, near Ramallah October 6, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to advance plans for 800 new West Bank settler homes, including the legalization of an outpost, prior to the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.
Within Israel, Netanyahu was pilloried by politicians across the political spectrum who felt he had not done enough for the settlements.
“This is an irresponsible step,” Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said, adding that Netanyahu was creating unnecessary tensions with Biden even before he entered the White House.
“The Biden administration has not yet taken office, and the government is already leading us into an unnecessary confrontation,” he said.
“The national interest must also be maintained during elections,” Lapid said. “A sane government does not start an unnecessary battle with a new American president.”
The left-wing group Peace Now said Netanyahu’s announcement sent a signal to the Biden administration that “Israel wants a confrontation.”
No date has been set for the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria to convene, but settlers expect it will meet next week.
“Netanyahu [on Monday] authorized that the construction of hundreds of housing units in Judea and Samaria be advanced,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement.
Among the plans are 100 new homes for the Tal Menashe settlement, where terrorism victim Esther Horgan had lived before she was killed while jogging in a forest near the community last month.
In addition, some 200 units would be for the Rehelim settlement and the outpost of Nofei Nehemia, the PMO said.
Rehelim is the home of Tura Winery, which exported its first consignment of olive oil to the United Arab Emirates this week. Advancement of plans for Nofei Nehemia will help legalize the outpost.
Plans would also be advanced for homes in the settlements of Beit El, Itamar, Shavei Shomron, Oranit, Karnei Shomron and Givat Ze’ev, as well as for structures in the Barkan Industrial Park.
The Right was concerned with Netanyahu’s failure to convene the government so that his ministers could issue a declaration of intent to legalize some 46 West Bank outposts.
Yamina Party chairman Naftali Bennett pledged to authorize the West Bank outposts should he be chosen prime minister in the March 13 election.
“Netanyahu, authorize the young settlements [outposts] now in these coming 10 days,” he said. “If you don’t do it, when I am the prime minister, I will do it.”
Bennett spoke during a visit to the protest encampment settlers and right-wing politicians set up outside the PMO.
Coalition chairman Miki Zohar (Likud) also visited the encampment, as did Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Gantz, Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shalom Ne’eman. Some eight settlers, including Yesha Council CEO Yigal Dilmoni, are conducting a hunger strike.
New Hope Party head Gideon Sa’ar sent Netanyahu a letter urging authorization of the outposts.
“For more than 20 years, the Israeli government has not completed the regulation procedures for dozens of communities in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” he wrote. “I call on you to rise above the disputes and regulate the status of these communities once and for all.”
Settlers and the Right became more incensed when they discovered that the Higher Planning Council is set to convene Sunday to advance plans for Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank. The move contradicts the Right’s battle to ensure that all of Area C will eventually become part of sovereign Israel. The Trump plan only promised Israel half of Area C and envisioned that the rest would become part of a future Palestinian state.
The right-wing NGO Regavim said: “Under consideration is illegal [Palestinian] construction in nature reserves, construction on state lands designated for Israeli communities, as well as a series of illegal schools that the Palestinian Authority classifies as ‘confrontation schools in the fight against settlements.’”
The projects “cover some 500 dunams (50 hectares) and hundreds of illegal structures, among them an illegal school built in the Nahal Makoch Nature Reserve in eastern Binyamin, an illegal village in northern Samaria dubbed ‘Daher al-Malek,’ built on state land slated for the growth of the Jewish community of Shaked,” it said.
The projects under debate also include “extensive illegal construction in the village of Walaja, adjacent to the Gush Etzion Tunnel Road, illegal projects in the village of Kisan in eastern Gush Etzion and more,” Regavim said.
MK Bezalel Smotrich, who is heading a new religious-Zionist party, said the citizens of Israel “deserve a different leadership” and a “real right-wing government” that will not turn a blind eye to years of “a hostile [Palestinian] takeover of its territories.”
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.