De-facto freeze broken, IDF to approve new West Bank settler homes
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged last week to convene the council, which last met in February, but a date and a schedule for the meeting was only posted on Sunday night.
By TOVAH LAZAROFFUpdated: OCTOBER 5, 2020 20:26
The Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria is set to approve and advance new homes in at least 25 West Bank settlements on October 14, thereby breaking the eight month de facto freeze on such action.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged last week to convene the council, which last met in February, but a date and a schedule for the meeting was only posted on Sunday night.According to a calculation by the left-wing group Peace Now, the council is expected to debate projects for 4,430 units, of which 1,820 would be advanced and the remaining 2,610 would be approved.The two-day meeting will mark the first advancement of settlement activity since Israel signed normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Officials from both countries have stated that the normalization deals were based on an Israeli agreement to suspend its plans to annex portions of the West Bank.Settlement activity in the interim was not dealt with. But both opponents and proponents of settlements view such construction as a form of de facto annexation, in that they strengthen Israel’s hold on the territory.Under the Trump peace plan, Israel can eventually apply sovereignty to all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, but no date has been given for that application.In spite of this plan, Arab countries and the bulk of the international community have insisted that Israel must still evacuate all of its settlements and withdraw to pre-1967 lines.AdvertisementOn Sunday, Turkey’s foreign ministry condemned the pending settler building approvals, noting that such activity “indicates that Israel has not given up its annexation plans.”The ministry added that “it also shows that the allegations of some countries that they have prevented these annexation plans by signing normalization agreements with Israel are nothing but a deception.“We once again point out that we do not accept these illegal steps of Israel and call on the international community to resist against the attempts to undermine the rights of the Palestinian people and their aspiration for independence.”“The Palestinian territories belong to the Palestinian people,” the Turkish foreign ministry said. “We will not allow this fact to be forgotten. We will continue to stand side by side with our Palestinian brothers and defend the Palestinian cause.”Peace Now said, “far from a ‘settlement freeze’ the right has been complaining about,” next week’s council approvals would “prove that the settlement enterprise under Netanyahu is moving ahead at full steam toward solidifying the de facto annexation of the West Bank.”It added that the move would be the first “major demonstration of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s bowing to the ‘Greater Israel’ settlement agenda that would in reality bring about a permanent undemocratic one state reality.” The Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria is under the auspices of the Civil Administration, which, in turn is under the auspices of the IDF.This, said Peace Now, is a “strategic mistake” given that Israel’s “closest ally, the United States, may soon undergo a leadership change.”Peace Now called on Gantz, who has already given his support to the settlement activity, to veto the projects.According to Peace Now, the largest project on the council’s agenda is the Gush Etzion’s Har Gilo settlement, on whose behalf a project for 952 homes would be deposited. It’s a move that would likely triple the size of the small community of 1,568 residents, located just outside of Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.After that, a 629-unit project in the Eli settlement in the Binyamin region is scheduled for deposit, that would also expand the small community of 3,649 people.In addition, the council is expected to approve a 357-home project in the Adam settlement, 345 units in the Nili settlement and 346 homes in the Beit El settlement.
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