Gov't set to approve new ministerial settlement c'tee

C'tee will be chaired by Netanyahu, have authority to authorize W. Bank Jewish construction without a full cabinet decision.

Settlement Construction 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Settlement Construction 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The government on Sunday is set to approve the establishment of a committee on West Bank settlements that would remove the issue from the purview of the full cabinet and place it in the hands of 11 ministers.
It will deal with issues of policy, construction authorizations and demolitions, including the creation of new Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Creating the committee would amend a 1996 governmental decision, #150, taken during Binyamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister.
According to decision 150 the creation of new West Bank settlements must have the approval of the full cabinet.
An official cautioned on Thursday that just because the committee had the power to authorize new settlements, does not mean that it would do so.
The creation of the ministerial committee would, however, leave intact a portion of the 1996 decision, which states that the defense minister’s approval is required to allocate land or okay planning decisions for West Bank settlements.
The new committee would have the authority to formulate government policy with respect to unauthorized construction, both on state land and on private Palestinian property.
It would also formulate the principles and policy by which the state would respond to petitions to the High Court of Justice on land issues in the West Bank.
Committee decision would carry the weight of a cabinet vote. Ministers would not be able to appeal them.
The creation of the committee is a direct response to politicians who have longed wanted such a body.
Still, it fails to address one of their main demands, that Defense Minister Ehud Barak be stripped of his power with respect to the settlements.
Many right-wing politicians and activists blame their frustrations with respect to Netanyahu’s settlement policy on Barak.
It remains unclear if the committee would try to change the government’s policy that unauthorized Jewish construction on private Palestinian property must be removed.
The state based its response to the High Court petitions with regard to unauthorized outposts on this policy. Decisions by the court to mandate the demolition of Ulpana outpost by July 1 and Migron by August 1 were based in part on this policy.
Earlier this month, politicians tried to change the policy by bringing a private member’s bill to the Knesset plenum to retroactively legalize Jewish construction on private Palestinian property under certain conditions.
Netanyahu blocked the legislation but promised that he would create a ministerial settlement committee.
Netanyahu will head the panel. Other members will include Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Vice Premiers Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya’alon, Minister-without- Portfolio Bennie Begin, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz.