Netanyahu to cede some West Bank settlement building powers

The complex process by which the PMO must issue at least four approvals if not more for every project, will now be reduced to a single approval at the start of the project.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu points to a map of the Jordan Valley (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu points to a map of the Jordan Valley
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER)

Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to transfer some of his powers to authorize settlement building to his coalition partners in the Religious Zionist Party, according to KAN news.

Israeli prime ministers in the past have kept tight control over the advancement and construction of settlement building, given its impact on the country's diplomatic relationships with the West, particularly with the United States.

The complex process by which the Prime Minister's Office must issue at least four approvals if not more for every project, will now be reduced to a single approval at the start of the project, KAN News stated. Some exceptions will be made for municipal projects.

After that initial approval, control over the project will pass to incoming Finance Minister and RZP head Bezalel Smotrich, who will also serve as a minister within the Defense Ministry.

He will have oversight of the IDF's Civil Administration, which governs civilian life in Area C of the West Bank, including construction.

 ITAMAR BEN-GVIR and Bezalel Smotrich attend an election campaign event, last month. Let’s see how Benjamin Netanyahu manages the conflict when Ben-Gvir sets the region on fire, says the writer (credit: FLASH90) ITAMAR BEN-GVIR and Bezalel Smotrich attend an election campaign event, last month. Let’s see how Benjamin Netanyahu manages the conflict when Ben-Gvir sets the region on fire, says the writer (credit: FLASH90)

Details regarding granting Smotrich expanded powers over settlement construction are expected to be part of the RZP's coalition agreement with the Likud, the full details of which will only be published when the government is sworn in.

But based on reports from the RZP, Netanyahu has agreed to a cabinet declaration within 60 days that West Bank outposts will be authorized.

Netanyahu has also said that he will advance policies that support the application of sovereignty of West Bank settlements. This will include ending the Civil Administration's power over Israeli civilian life in the West Bank to relevant government ministries, in a step that could be viewed as de facto annexation.

Likud MK dismisses coalition agreements, West Bank annexation

MK David Bitan (Likud) dismissed the significance of the coalition promises, noting that only some of them will be executed. 

"There are things that clearly won't happen, such as the issue of [applying sovereignty] in Judea and Samaria," Bitan said. 

"It won't happen during [US President Joe] Biden's tenure," Bitan said, adding that "it didn't even happen under [former President Donald] Trump."

There are things that are written but will never come to fruition, Bitan explained.

"The annexation that is referenced is just for voters so that it will be written down, but it's clear that it won't happen," Bitan stressed.

When it comes to settler construction in Judea and Samaria, he said, Smotrich can't have all the powers promised him. 

"You can't just build and do what you want [in the West Bank], especially in light of the existing administration in the US," he said.  

"Part of the construction in the settlements is done in coordination with the United States and Smotrich won't be able to change that," he said. 

The Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot said over the weekend talks were underway between Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia with respect to a normalization deal between the Jewish state and that Gulf country.

Such a deal would make Saudi Arabia the fifth Arab country to normalize ties with Israel under the auspices of the 2020 Abraham Accords.

The first four countries normalized ties with Israel in exchange for its suspension of plans to annex West Bank settlements. Netanyahu would similarly suspend plans for annexation in exchange for a Saudi deal as well, Yediot Ahronot said.