Settler leaders exited what they described as a “positive” meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday afternoon on the state of settlement construction, though they did not name any concrete gains.
The heads of West Bank regional councils had pushed for the sit-down in light of what they viewed as an insufficient number of construction projects advanced by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Speaking with The Times of Israel following the meeting, Samaria Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan described the session as “positive overall with a relaxed atmosphere… However, I will say definitively as a person who very much respects the prime minister, real change comes in actions, not words.”
Asked if anything tangible had been achieved by settlers in the sit-down, Gush Etzion Regional Council Chairman Shlomo Ne’eman admitted that no concessions were made in their favor but added, “we are expecting that there will be soon. I’m not sure if anything has changed from before the meeting, but what has changed is that we listened to him and he listened to us.”
Referring to the roughly 2,500 housing units that were advanced by the Defense Ministry body tasked with administering construction in the West Bank, Neeman said in a statement, “It’s preposterous that (among the 2,500) there is zero construction in Gush Etzion. I understand that there is international pressure to freeze construction, but the prime minister’s obligations are to the Israeli people.”
A statement from the settlers’ Yesha Council also recognized a “good meeting, with follow-ups scheduled,” but Director General Shilo Adler added that “the sit-down comes after a tense period that’s not over yet.” In addition, Yesha described “disappointment” with the lack of implementation of construction plans to date.
Among the plans advanced by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee on Tuesday and Wednesday were 102 housing units for the new settlement of Amichai built for evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost.
An Israeli government-sanctioned settlement would be the first official new settlement in a quarter of a century.
The approvals came as Israelis and Palestinians marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Also approved by the subcommittee were 839 and 603 housing units for the Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim settlements respectively.
In addition, the defense ministry body approved 255 housing units in the Kerem Re’im outpost near the settlement of Talmon, West of Ramallah.
Peace Now’s Lior Amichai criticized the last decision as sleight of hand by the government to retroactively legalize an illegal outpost.
“The Defense Ministry approved the planning of Kerem Re’im as a ‘neighborhood’ of Talmon when the two are considerably far away from one another,” he said. “This goes against the government’s agreement not to build outside of existing neighborhoods.”
For his part, Efrat mayor Oded Revivi said in a Wednesday statement that “the regional council heads expressed their unanimous support for the prime minister” and added that “there is no doubt that the change of government in the United States creates a new space for action by the government and we hope to soon see the results on the ground.”
Attempts to reach the Prime Minister’s Office for comment on the meeting were unsuccessful.