Settlers warn of de-facto building freeze following annexation back-track

"We’re being played as if we were a chip on a backgammon board.”

A general view of the Givat Hamatos neighborhood is seen in east Jerusalem  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A general view of the Givat Hamatos neighborhood is seen in east Jerusalem
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Settlers warn of a de-facto freeze on Jewish building in the West Bank in light of the burgeoning peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and the resulting suspension of any annexation plan.
At issue in particular is the half-a-year hiatus of the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria, which last met in February during the third election cycle.
According to the Civil Administration, a date has been scheduled for the Council to debate an advance plans for settler homes.
“The [meeting’s] agenda has not yet been published. When a directive from the upper echelon is issued, it will be published on the planning administration’s website,” it said.
“Planning has been frozen,” Yesha Council head and Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “For half-a-year the council has not met. Each week, we're told it will meet next week. We’re being played as if we were a chip on a backgammon board.”
The Yesha Council spokesperson also released a statement of concern, stating: “The repeated postponement of a council meeting delays the development of the settlement.”
Elhayani is particularly concerned about the possibility of a silent freeze, given that just last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backtracked on his pledge to apply sovereignty to West Bank settlements. It was a promise that had been a cornerstone of his campaign during the last two election cycles.
The Higher Planning Council is expected to meet quarterly each year. Often those meetings take two days and include a large slate of projects adding up to over 1,000 homes. Occasionally other minor meetings are held for specific projects.
This year, in light of the third election cycle which ended in March, the council convened twice at the start of the year: once in January and again in February. The council at the time was under the purview of former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett who heads the Yamina party.
During those two meetings, plans for some 4,385 units were advanced. It was an unusually high number so early in the year.
In addition, at the February meeting plans were deposited for 3,196 settler homes for the controversial E1 project, which is slated to be developed in the undeveloped area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement just outside of Jerusalem. That project brought the number of plans advanced in 2020 up to 7,582, which was usually high for that time of year. According to the group 6,742 plans were advanced in 2016, 5,618 in 2018, and 8,457 in 2019.
Settlers are sensitive to the issue, because a freeze is rarely announced. Most of the time settler leaders understand that a freeze is underway either from private comments of officials or when approvals or meeting are delayed.
Elhayani had been led to believe that the Higher Planning Council would convene in August, and had earlier this month told the Post that he was confident it would meet. As of August 24th, Elhayani said, had been given no firm date to that effect.
Separately, albeit outside Elhayani’s purview, the tender for 1,077 Jewish homes for the Givat HaMatos housing project in east Jerusalem slated for publication at the start of August has yet to be posted, acceding to Peace Now.
In the absence of sovereignty settlers have said that now is the time for Netanyahu to build in the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria.
“In light of the announcement that sovereignty is no longer on the agenda for now, an appropriate Zionist response is required. We demand that the Prime Minister convene the Planning Council to approve plans, as well as to advance settlement [development] and construction in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” the Yesha Council said.