Bennett cut down on settler housing plans to appease US, coalition members

Right-wing coalition members are under pressure to resign, particularly over issues relating to Judea and Samaria.

 Shomron regional council head Yossi Dagan speaking in a protest against the government plan to cut down the number of new housing units planned to be built on the West Bank, outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, May 8, 2022. (photo credit: SAMARIA REGIONAL COUNCIL)
Shomron regional council head Yossi Dagan speaking in a protest against the government plan to cut down the number of new housing units planned to be built on the West Bank, outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, May 8, 2022.
(photo credit: SAMARIA REGIONAL COUNCIL)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had intended to advance plans for a larger number of settler homes, but reduced that number to 3,988 units to appease the United States and coalition members, a senior diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

“We did reduce the number of housing units, not just because of the US but also because of the coalition,” the source said.

The “US conveyed [that settlement construction] was something they didn’t want” and that the Biden administration “opposed it,” the source explained.

“We told them it needed to happen especially in light of the coalition” and the fact that there is a “diverse government.”

Right-wing coalition members are under pressure to resign, particularly over issues relating to Judea and Samaria.

Right-wing activist protest against the government plan to cut down the number of new housing units planned to be built on the West Bank, outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, May 8, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)Right-wing activist protest against the government plan to cut down the number of new housing units planned to be built on the West Bank, outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, May 8, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

MK Idit Silman (Yamina) caved in to such pressure last month. Her resignation from the coalition caused it to drop from 61 to 60 Knesset members, thereby robbing it of its majority in the 120-member parliament.

But the move did little to appease right-wing politicians in the opposition, which rallied Sunday to replace the government despite the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria’s meeting to approve and advance plans for settler homes this Thursday.

“We came here today to say to this failed government that you have no legitimacy,” MK Uriel Busso (Shas) said at a rally in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, which was held during the government’s weekly meeting.

“You have no support in the Knesset; you have no support among the people. You have to go home today,” he said.

The Right has claimed that Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz froze plans for at least 1,800-2,000 more settler homes.

It also fears that Gantz plans to simultaneously advance plans for Palestinian homes in Area C of the West Bank, which they believe should be within Israel’s final borders. Area C is now under both IDF military and civilian control.

This government is selling out the Jewish state, Busso said.

“In order to approve some housing units, the Palestinians also must be given [housing] approvals.”

He then attacked the custodial relationship of the Hashemite Kingdom to the Temple Mount.

“In order for us to receive the Western Wall, we must coordinate security with the Hashemite Kingdom,” Busso said.

“To what lengths will we go here?” he asked.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan asked: “Why do we have to come here like beggars?”

He noted that removal of the settler building plans came just when Israel had withstood a number of Palestinian terror attacks, including one on Thursday in Elad that claimed three lives.

Instead of holding the Palestinian Authority accountable, Dagan said, “construction is being curbed in the settlements.”

“Are we animals that need to be restrained?” he asked.

“We are citizens of this country and it’s time for you [the government] to internalize this,” Dagan said, warning that “we will replace you.”

MK Orit Struck (Religious Zionist Party) warned:”Do not make the advancement of a Palestinian state a condition for this construction.”

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman said he understood that settler housing plans have been frozen to ensure that US President Joe Biden sticks to his scheduled plan to visit Israel this summer.

Ne’eman said it was not worth constraining settlement activity just to ensure a Biden visit.

“I say: Biden, do not come! Stay where you are. We have our own government,” Ne’eman said.

He called on Bennett to “stop bowing to the United States. We returned to Jerusalem, we returned to Gush Etzion, we returned to Samaria to stay forever!”

To protest the freeze on the additional 1,800-2,000 housing plans, Samaria Regional Council employees also held a strike on Sunday.

The US State Department said on Friday that it opposed advancement of the settler housing plans, which it said harmed prospects for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It made this statement even though there is no peace process on the table.

Israel told the US about the council meeting before setting a date and publishing the agenda.